During the off-season, athletes should perform speed training on Tuesdays and Thursdays and lift on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Speed technique workouts should also be performed twice per week during the in-season.
Athletes should be tested for speed twice per month on either a 40-yard (37-meter) or a 20-yard (18-meter) sprint. They should record their times so that they can chart their progress. Give athletes a trial run at 75 to 90 percent speed and then have them run three timed sprints, recording the best of the three times.
Sprint workouts last about 10 minutes. Five of those minutes should be devoted to technique. Concentrate on only one weakness in form at a time (such as the position of the head, eyes, back, arms, legs, or foot plant) before going on to another. Video analysis is a great way to learn precisely what needs work. Athletes enjoy seeing themselves, and videotape heightens their awareness of proper sprinting technique.
The remaining five minutes of the speed workout should be devoted to doing 10 all-out quality sprints at distances ranging from 10 to 50 yards (9-46 meters). Athletes should have about 30 seconds of rest between sprints so that they are breathing easily before their next sprint.
Of course, you must consider that the Bigger Faster Stronger (BFS) program is designed for a class setting and for sports that require short-term endurance. For example, football players go all out for 2 to 5 seconds and then must be ready for the next play within 10 to 30 seconds. Athletes training for maximum speed need more rest time between sets; one popular method is to rest one minute for every 10 yards (9 meters) of running.
When the weather is bad, do not stop sprinting. Let your competitors take it easy. In Minnesota, waiting for warm weather would mean avoiding sprints for six months. Replace 40-yard (37-meter) sprints outdoors with 20-yard (18-meter) sprints indoors. Times for the two distances will generally differ by about 2 seconds; thus 3.0 seconds for 20 yards (18 meters) is equivalent to 5.0 seconds for 40 yards (37 meters).
Carl Lewis ran 9.92 seconds at the Seoul Olympics for a new American record in the 100 meters. Lewis won the gold medal after Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids. Lewis stated that he had run as fast as he could, but this wasn’t true. Lewis made four critical errors and probably could have run as fast as 9.87 seconds that day. First, he turned his head three times to look at Johnson—that’s three errors. Because he turned his head, Lewis was unable to be as fluid as he could have been. His fourth error was letting up 2 or 3 yards (2-3 meters) before the finish line.
The point of this story is that paying attention to the details is essential to improving your speed, even with elite athletes such as Carl Lewis. With that lesson, here are 10 guaranteed ways to improve your speed:
1. Sprint train twice per week, minimum.
2. Run 10 sprints, varying from 10 to 50 yards (9-46 meters).
3. Time your sprints twice per month (record and chart all times).
4. Sprint all year round. In bad weather, run the 20-yard (18-meter) dash for time indoors.
5. Use video analysis. It can be extremely valuable!
6. Perform flexibility training six times per week (see chapter 14). To improve speed, you must stretch correctly.
7. Perform plyometrics twice per week, minimum.
8. Parallel squat. If you squat but don’t go parallel, you will not improve speed maximally. You must squat to parallel, no exceptions!
9. Perform the straight-leg deadlift to strengthen and stretch the glutes and hamstrings at the same time.
10. Practice power cleans to develop an explosive start.
This is an excerpt from Bigger Faster Stronger, Second Edition.