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How Can I Develop Speed?
I'm a 24-year-old male playing soccer and I've been working at the weight room for 6 months on my own. I used to play rugby, so I used to train in the weight room a lot, and as a conseqence of that I've lost speed.
I don't clearly know which are the best excercises for me, as I want to develop speed, strength and endurance ... but mainly speed. Right now I consider myself slow.
I am also unsure about the number of repetitions my sets should have. This is important because I don't want to gain mass ... not much at least.
Which excercises I should focus on? How many of them? How many visits to the weight room I should do each week?
Why do you believe that weight training would make you lose speed? The old myths that weight training makes you slower and less flexible are so greatly outdated. In fact, weight training can help improve one's speed and flexibility if structured correctly. The sad fact is that many athletes train like bodybuilders and because of the methods usually employed with this style of training it does have the potential to make you slower.
Speed is developed by incorporating many different methods. As I have stated in previous columns, the range of motion in the hips is crucial for great speed. If the hips are tight your stride length and frequency will be negatively affected. In addition, you will not be able to utilize the strong backside of your hips that are responsible for most of the power from the lower body.
From a strength training perspective you should be trying to incorporate Olympic lift variations you are familar with and can perform with good technique. Olympic lifters are known to have great sprint times and vertical jumps even though they do not directly train with them. Your training should address the needs of your sport. However, it should also address your individual needs. Even though soccer does not require any upper body use, there is a good bit of wrestling that goes on so doing some upper body work would be very useful. Since you are mostly referring to dynamic strength-endurance I would recommend keeping rest intervals brief, i.e. 45-60 seconds.
The use of sprints should also be part of your program. I much prefer athletes perform fartlek type of running for endurance and true sprints for speed work. Doing too much traditional aerobic work does very little in the sense of speed development and has a poor transfer to most endurance needed in sport.
If your focus is not on increasing too much muscle mass I would recommend you keep the repetitions on the lower end of the scheme.
The exercises are extensive. As I mentioned Olympic lifts are a great place to start. Other exercises should be used to help prevent many of the injuries that could be experienced in your particular sport. A lot of hamstring, glute, low back work should be done for speed and power development. Abdominal training should be heavily emphasized in the initial stages to set a great standard in which to work from. For the upper body you could also focus on the jerk, bench press, pull-ups, etc. How many times you go is dependant upon your goals and what you want to accomplish. I don't believe too many athletes need to go more than 3 times, unless they need to increase bodyweight.