Review: Training for Power and Strength in Speed

Training for Power and Strength in Speed is the second book of seven in the new Key Concepts Elite Coaching Edition e-book. Like the previous book (The Structure of Training for Speed), it is divided into two distinct sections. The first section presents the details of topic at hand, including the principles, rationale and application. The second section is a discussion format that illuminates the first section and provides more details on specific topic areas. Both sections together come to a total of 31 pages.

The first part starts off by discussing the “grand conversion” of strength into speed and the understanding that strength work is a means to an end. With that basis, it moves on to selection of the strength program based on personal strengths and the characteristics of strength programs in the context of short to long and long to short, and also in the context of moving from beginner athletes to advanced athletes. The next portion discusses motor unit involvement, starting with what is motor unit involvement and why it matters. It also raises a number of interesting questions about the relationship between motor unit involvement, CNS and muscular demand and recovery. While scientific answers may be difficult to find, the practical implications are discussed.

The last part of this section discusses how to integrate the explosive power work into the overall training structure and training plan. There is a nice diagram that shows the interplay between the three high intensity components (speed work, weight, and plyos) and the writeup explains how these are manipulated to create the “optimal performance window” which is the time when the athlete will be capable of running their best times.

The discussion section has some really interesting material. It starts by talking about integration of strength work into a sprint athlete’s program. There is some information on the use of intensive tempo and then it jumps into an excellent discussion of what makes up a “great strength program” and why the “best” strength program may not be the best thing for a sprinter.

The next part is about CNS stimulation and how it can be used as a positive force in athletic training and peaking. Also, it explains why the bench press is a good lift for sprinters even though (actually because!) it is not specific to sprinting. A short example showing how weights can be used to help with peaking is given and this also ties in with the previous motor unit discussion. There is a section on the rate of increase of strength with some suggestions for different types of athletes and some interesting thoughts as to the long term development of sprinters and why the ages of top sprinters has gone up. The crossover effect is discussed and provides a compelling argument as to why upper body strength is critical for top sprinters. Then there is a long section on the “Left to Right Continuum” that goes into detail as to how weights can improve top speed. While this may seem like a basic supposition, it is actually a deeper question than you might think at first glance. There is also short discussions on the place of bodybuilding in the training of a sprinter, depletion pushups, and training for bench rep testing.

I really enjoyed this e-book, especially the view that it provided on the place of strength training within the context of a sprinter’s training plan. I often hear people giving lip service to the statement “weight training is just a means to an end for a speed athlete.” After reading this e-book, I came away with a much better feel for how that actually applied to me and it should allow me to do a better job of understanding and focusing my own strength training efforts.

With regards to the Optimal Performance Window, a 7 week max strength program would lead to a supercompensation at around weeks 10-15. How about in the 3rd training block, which lasts only 5 weeks, and where only a 3 week max strength period is possible? What would the week range of the window be? Thanks

The differential there is that the 3 weeks strength block is, in part, necessarily short because the CNS demand of the speed work is so high that intensification is completed in that short period, making the peak sooner, shorter, and higher overall. That said, the timing and duration of the peak will be individual and more strongly influenced by the speed work at that point. This is one reason i liked triple periodization, as I could have increasingly shorter blocks throughout.

That’s great Charlie. Thank you.
I was going through Number 2’s notes on Nathan’s training 2007 and his last max strength phase is in May. Thereafter there are 12 weeks of competition scheduled.
So it makes sense that the speed work will have more of an impact on timing of the peak.