By now, many of you have heard me say that yes, speed is something many are born with. Everyone can be taught to run faster!
But, here's the problem... during the developmental stage for most young athletes, bad habits are not only formed by repeating the same movements over and over, but reinforced by parents and sports coaches who mistakenly confuse "hustle" or "mental toughness" with tight or weak muscles, or lack of strength in certain areas.
Here are 5 common limiting factors we see in athletes of all levels everyday. 1) Improper Starting Position. Sometimes athletes will line up in an upright stance and put one foot right on the line. That's good. But, they will then have the same side arm out front. If they start in 3 point stance or track position, the rear foot is usually so far back, that their first step is only 4 to 6 inches in front of the start line. 2) Improper Running Mechanics. Here's a biggie. Just because as human beings we learn to run soon after learning to walk, does not mean we've got it down pat. Most of us have some sort of mechanical problem which prevents our bodies from moving as efficiently as possible. Arms and knees cross our bodies making us move side to side as we're running. Some athletes lean too far for forward which prevents the knees from getting up higher. Some lean too far back, which prevents them from generating enough power to go faster. 3) Low Knee Drive.The lack of hip strength prevents us from getting our knees up so we can cover more ground with each step. We try to run faster by really reaching out farther with each step, which places so much stress on our hamstrings, we tend to injure them frequently. 4) Running Flat Footed. I believe training myths have created this one. The mechanics of efficient long-distance running are entirely different from sprint mechanics. With long distance running, athletes should run on their entire foot, whereby the heel strikes the ground first and advances to the front of the foot with the push-off. In sprinting though, the heel should barely touch the ground, and you want to run on the balls or front half of the foot. 5) General Strength. Now of course, most young athletes have not really done any strength training. Partly because of societal myths about lifting weights at a young age and stunting their growth plates, and partly because we tend to wait until kids are in high school to start addressing the issue. Either way, by the time we get them in high school, their hips and lateral thighs are so weak that lifting their knees up high is tough. Moving in one direction, and then changing directions happens slowly because of that lack of hip strength. Shoulders are weak, so driving the arm backwards to produce speed also prevents them from running faster.
By Paul T. Mitchell III
Paul Mitchell is the owner and Lead Sports Performance Coach at Playmaker Strength & Conditioning, LLC.
Paul holds certifications as a C.S.C.S *D, Fly Solo Mentor, Sports Performance Coach, Speed, Agility & Quickness Trainer, and Metabolic Specialist. He has been training athletes for over 15 years, and brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of speed enhancement and development, plyometrics, and in teaching Olympic lifting techniques.
Please visit: http://www.realplaymaker.com for more information on Playmaker Strength & Conditioning, trainings, or if you have a question or comment.