The Most Important Speed Quality

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Over the last few days I have been reading up on some of Cal Dietz’s work on Triphasic Training.

I am still waiting to buy the book titled with the same phrase but that’s a post Christmas shopping task.

I must say that I feel like a complete idiot when reading some of the books that other coaches are putting out there but this one in particular got me thinking.

The idea of training the eccentric (lowering), isometric (hold at bottom position), and then concentric (rising) actions of lifts is something that only a select few are doing.

The premise is also simple. In order for athletes to become more explosive on the field, court, and ice, they must be able to absorb and redirect force efficiently. The eccentric and isometric phases are important for the absorption of these forces.

It also got me thinking to observations I made when I was a new coach at Evolution.

Most athletes are terrible at slowing down and changing direction even if they can get going very quickly.

This was most noticeable with some sprinters/soccer players that we had in the classes. Asking them to perform a Nebraska drill was very difficult for them.

They could get going quickly in the 10 yard sprint but not decelerate and turn around. This was due to a lack of eccentric strength in the lower body.

The ability to decelerate the body properly is the most important speed quality.

There are many qualities that are affected by being able to decelerate the body and generate force in the opposite direction.

  1. Change of direction

Change of direction, or agility, is most athletes limiting factor. Even the ones that can really sprint fast are often poor at slowing down and reversing their direction.

Most athletes are dominant through their quads. Running is a quad dominant movement. Over time the quads become highly developed and the rest of the body falls behind.

The hamstrings and glutes never get the attention they need to decelerate the body. Being able to sink the hips, bend the knees, and lower the body is determined by the ability of the posterior chain to absorb the forces of sprinting and change direction.

  1. Sprinting

Running or sprinting is a plyometric activity. Every step is like a small jump. Whenever we take a stride during a sprint, the body must absorb the impact of the leg and quickly drive the knee back up in the opposite direction. This is similar to a spring.

legbounds

The body utilizes the stretch reflex and stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) to accomplish those two things. A plyometric activity has an eccentric lowering phase, followed by a short isometric at the bottom, and lastly ends with a concentric propelling action.

Eccentric training allows the body to absorb force more easily during the lowering phase, store the energy in the SSC, and create a greater concentric action.

  1. Strength

Eccentric training not only trains the SSC to absorb more force, but it puts more force onto the muscles themselves. People have been known to be really sore from eccentric resistance training.

Training the body to handle higher loads during the lowering portion of a movement is important for strength development for the same stretch reflex training listed above. More force absorption will allow more weight to be lifted back up.

Eccentric training can also help with depth in the squat, for example. When the weight gets heavier, people lose depth. This is because their body cannot support the load being put upon it, eccentrically.

Training this quality will make them stronger during the lowering phase and will be able to redirect the force back up.

 

Improving eccentric strength is going to yield a lot of benefits to speed and strength development.  Being able to load the hips, stop moving, and reverse direction is an important skill that most people forget about. 

A lot of kids and parents want to get faster but they are only thinking about straight line acceleration. Changing direction can be more important in a game situation. It should also be noted that most non-contact injuries occur when decelerating. 

A good speed program will have a focus on deceleration and being able to absorb force. This ability is going to give athlete’s an edge in their sport because they will be quicker when agility is needed.

I look forward to reading more into “Triphasic Training” and seeing how to complement speed and strength work to better help athletes.