Necessity of track workouts for very short distances

If the sport (or the position within the sport) being played involves only very short sprints (short acceleration work within a 10-15m distance), such as in football, is strength work in the gym sufficient for speed training purposes?

For example, if an athlete were to focus his training on the olympic lifts, basic limit strength lifts, medball and various plyometrics, is there any benefit in doing track work for such short distances, since strength is the major factor speed within initial acceleration? This is assuming the athlete’s sprinting technique is at least adequate (no major technical errors that need to be corrected).

Will the ‘specific’ carry-over for on-field speed not occur during when the athlete actually plays the game (or during training)?

Well, I know many people on this board believe that having intense olympics lifts will make you a beast up to 60m, but I beleive it doesn’t. In sports that require agility I would say transfer would be minimal in the aspect of learning how to shift weight and handling sheer forces about the knee and ankle joints. No amount of olympic lifting can match the speed nor coordination required to fire the muscles except doing the activity itself.

I do however believe the transfer would be high say, in the first two steps coming out of the blocks or in standing long jumps and vertical two legged jumps. These more closely match the efforts made in the gym.

Coomon sense comes into play too. If you had to train for an obstacle coarse that was cut into 15-40m bouts of various speed/agility/and explosiveness efforts, would you just train to be explosive? It really doesnt make sense to me. If it worked they wouldn’t woory about various cone drills, plyos, and tactical training in the NFL.

The bottom line is you have to train in what you want to perform. Thats all that will give you confidence in competition atmospheres. There is more that goes into the little bag of athletic tricks than olympic lifting :slight_smile:

There has been much discussion about this over at the elitefts Q and A. What I have gleaned is —
Certain Coaches utilize the Parisi method, and they claim that the dynamic nature of that method prepares the body very well for sport (read; first step and acceleration). Nonetheless, Coach H and Others utilize a very basic short sprint training program 1-3 times a week in the offseason to maintain specificity. Both seem to have plenty of empirical evidence that their espoused methods produce lower forties and better players.

Speed/acceleration/agility are all skills. Although gym work may improve any one of these qualities by giving you more strength and power, practicing the skills alone will also yield improvements. That is you will get better and faster merely by working on your technique in, say a 40 yard dash. In training to improve any ability you should work on all methods and fitness qualities that impact on that ability.

Depends on the athlete. For strength to have such a dominating immediate effect like that then the sprinting (or whatever the specific task) motor qualities have to be well developed to begin with and they (the athlete) have to have a well developed nervous system. The guys accomplishing this task are working with upper level athletes who inherently transfer strength into relative power very efficiently. Try doing that with a bunch of typical high school kids and it won’t work for all because most of them can’t even walk properly. But plyos, med ball etc. yeah if you add certain variations of those in then you can pretty much make anybody faster over short distances without ever sprinting.

I agree with Kelly.

You must first assess the level of physical preparedness, both general and special, before you make the determination as to whether strength training alone will yield benefits in short sprint performance.

Keep in mind that there is, generally, an inverse relationship with respect to how much time one must spend strength training vs sprinting. This primarily holds true for younger athletes.

A naturally fast athlete who lacks limit strength, must prioritize strength training over speed work.

A strong athlete who lacks speed must prioritize speed work over strength training.

In neither case will the secondary skill be neglected, whether it be speed or strength, it must be maintained or even developed, just to not as great a degree as the primary objective.

In order to prioritize a certain motor ability while maintaining other abilities, all of which are specific to developing the sport skill, you may utilize Conjugate/concurrent sequencing.

Lastly, as everyone has eluded to, there is a difference between short sprint performance and having the skills developed to exhibit specific sporting skills within the parameters of short distances.

Thus, for field athltes, agility drills and specific conditioning (Parisi Method) must be performed in conjunction with any strength and speed work, in order to fully reap the benefits of any additional strength and speed gains.

I agree with what is being said here about speed being a specific skill. However, does this not mean that it perhaps would be more efficient to use in-game or practice situations to perfect this skill, with plyos and weights (oly and limit strength) to supplement it?

For example, a soccer player may spend several days a week playing the actual sport. Will he not develop the required mechanics and adaptations for speed in his sport during these sessions? (assuming of course that he is not lazy and also gets the opportunity to sprint at full speed several times)

This would mean that the intensity of his ‘sprint work’ is not as high as a track workout, as rest intervals are shorter and the surface (grass) will not yield the same grf as the synthetic track.

Could there even be a possibility that lower amount of grf for sprint work on grass is ideal for soccer/football/rugby players? Moving from track onto grass, you have to apply more force into the ground to get the same grf. I’ve noticed a pattern with a couple of players who when they move from grass to track (inseason rugby to offseason track workouts), they run with noticably louder footsteps, whereas when the vice-versa occurs their footsteps are a lot lighter on grass and don’t seem to get enough power out of every step.

Correct, with respect to in-season training, the optimal scenario is to arrange practice so that a certain volume of practice time is spent on specific conditioning/agility training. Thus, there being no need for speed workouts separate from or on top of field practices. The exception to this would be if for some reason the coaching staff did not incorporate any conditioning/agility/speed work into practices.

This will vary, depending, as you said, with what is done during the sport practice.

The intensity is dictated more so by the effort exerted. The ground reaction forces will dictate impact stress, thereby, affecting the reactive component, however, this does not automatically guarantee that the intensity of neuromuscular work/effort will be greater/less.

Again, I would not place a golden rule on this. Speed/agility/conditioning work on the grass would be more specific to field athletes, however, speed and agility (alone) are more optimally developed on a surface which yields higher ground reaction forces.

This is why the old addage of jumpers/sprinters training in sand is garbage. Antiquated thinking suggests that because it is harder to jump/run in sand that it must be a superior training surface for developing a greater vertical leap/speed. It is true that more muscular work is required to try and generate the same speed/height as on a hard surface, however, the reactivity factor goes down the toilet, as much more force is dissipated/lost into the soft surface.

Are you a soccer player?