Saturday, July 10, 2010

Speed and Quickness

Speed and Quickness


Where does speed come from?

Speed is the ability to go from point a to b fast.

Quickness is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions with speed.

Quickness requires the same fundamentals as speed and it requires off angle movements/loading, or all the speed pieces in multiple planes of movement.

So lets define the principals of speed then add quickness into the mix.

  1. Neuro
  2. Balance
  3. Power
  4. Trunk Stability


Neuro or neurological, is about the nervous system. The nerves tell the muscles when to fire and how hard to fire. (Gripping and egg or squishing an egg.) The nerves have multiple things going on.

  1. Recruitment
    1. The idea is that the proper portion of the body is recruited for the given task. For example look at swimming, people pull and kick too fast, too much, and too hard to get anywhere quickly. When people sprint they do the same. They use areas the wrong way and they work way to hard to go way to slow.
  2. Repetition is 2 part:
    1. There is the repetition that builds the neural pattern to recruit the proper parts at the correct time. This happens by continuing to train a movement until it is burned into your system
    2. Next, is how many times in a row that that nerve can recruit that pattern. Nerves get tired. So sprinting tells a nerve contract “NOW HARD!”’ and do it again and again…whew that system gets tired. This means form breaks down and movement slows or gets sloppy.

You have to train the system to recruit and repeat with the intensity that you need. This is one reason for the old coaches saying, “to be good at that sport you have to play that sport!”

  1. Patterning
    1. This is #1 and #2 on demand to achieve the desired result. The pattern has to be built and used. If you build an amazing 6-lane highway and never use it, nature will reclaim it. “Use it or lose it!”
  2. Feedback
    1. The nervous system also tells you where your body is in space. It gives you the feedback to let you know what is going on. If you don’t know where your body is, than you don’t know where you are or what to do next. It also lets you know if the next 3 in the speed list are working. This part of training is some of the hardest for people to get. They lift weights or swing a kettlebell or run and never learn where they are or what they are supposed to be using. Learn how to feel your body and what it is that you are supposed to use.


Balance is not just standing on one leg or doing squats on a bosu, or abs on a physio ball. Balance is not static. It is about quickly making fine tuned adjustments to keep a specific posture while remaining in place or moving through space. These micro adjustments are about reading our neuro feedback. It is also about having the strength and mobility to maintain the desired posture. The fastest sprinters on the ground or in the water have the least amount of extra movement. They also have the best balance. For that matter the best athletes in the world have the incredible kinesthetic awareness and amazing response time

The feet need to fall under the hips. If we reach too far or don’t land under our hips we are not properly balanced and we will have to work from our appendages. This will damage the body!


Power is strength under speed. It is the idea of exploding as strong as possible. This is both accelerating and decelerating. Landing after jumping off of something, running downhill, changing direction, stopping are all decelerating. These movements will load the muscles quickly, dynamically and even though the muscle is trying to contract (shorten) it is being lengthened. (This is called an eccentric movement.) These movements are HARD on the muscles.

The rebound from an eccentric movement is what we will use in decelerating and then quickly, or as close to immediately as possible, accelerating, is what we are looking for in quickness.

We are trying to generate as much force into the ground as possible as quickly as possible in the desired direction with the proper body positioning and the proper musculature.

Quick feet don’t make a fast runner. They make quick feet. Think of it like a bike in the gear that you can spin the pedals around quickly but you don’t get anywhere. This is what quick feet are. It is something that is necessary but not a huge amount of importance. The key is being able to create “torque”. Push that ground away as the other leg gets up and the foot gets quickly under the hip! If you look at the best sprinters in the world they don’t look like they have super fast leg turnover, nor do they overstride. They drive the leg into the ground and then get that knee up and the foot under the hip.

Trunk Stability

Read the core post.

If our spine deviates from its proper angle, or if we don’t get proper trunk contraction, we will not transmit all the power that is generated from the hips, hamstrings and quads. This means we will move too slowly and have to work too hard for the result.

If you throw a stick on its edge into the ground it will bounce up into the air. If you throw a cooked spaghetti noodle into the ground it will not do much but lie there.

Maintaining proper body angle

The angle of the body is paramount whether you are doing a back handspring, sprinting, riding a bike or doing a deadlift. This body angle is going to give the most advantageous muscle recruitment, spine stability and endurance. The more tired you get the more important it is to try and maintain this angle. When you lose it you are now compromising your stability and you risk injuring yourself. My recommendation is 95% of your training time, should be to stop as soon as you lose good form.

Going back to the throwing the stick into the ground analogy, if you throw a stick into the ground so it hits evenly into the ground it will bounce a little but not as much as if you through it at an angle so it hits the tip. The better your body angle the more power you can transfer into the desired direction of travel.

So, in short quick is super short acceleration, deceleration, and direction change. Speed is getting from a to b, where the space between a and b doesn’t have obstacles in the pathway, as fast as you can.
If obstacles are present then it will require, an off angle load that now means you also need quickness.

The 40 yd dash is used in the NFL to measure its players. They are getting away from it because they are seeing that the first 10 and 20 yd are more revealing. If you measure the fastest guys against the slowest guys the last 20 yd (from 20 to 40 yd) the speed is almost the same. This means that the fastest guys are really only faster in the first 20 yd. Think about a 300 pound lineman’s top speed is the same as a 210# wide receiver. WOW!

The above picture is of David Belle the founder of parkour. He is both quick and fast. He is performing a "speed vault" and has great trunk contraction as well as spinal stability.

1 comment:

  1. Belle may be the "founder" of Parkour, but not the inventer as I'm sure others did it before he came along. For instance, I started doing this stuff in 1978, probably before he was born.

    I used to run around the campus at UNC Chapel Hill vaulting over walls, zig-zag jumping over ditches, balance-running bike-rack top-pipes, free- hand climbing the underside of fire escapes, doing arm-bars on lampposts, running up open-book corner walls, flips off the end of walls, etc.

    "Parkour" or what I used to call fun-running is an awesome workout for the whole athlete.

    I was doing it all by myself after midnight as a way to calm down after hours of studying in the library. My workouts lived in obscurity, which I was fine with since in 1978-85 it would have been seen as "way out there."

    Belle and others have taken it much farther than I did and elevated it to an artform, bringing much attention to an awesome sport.