When athletes think they need to prepare for their sport, the first thing that goes off in their head is "I got to hit the weight room". This mentality is in-grained in the sport culture, that hitting the weights will make you stronger and more resilient for your sport. This has some merit, but should not mistakenly be a cure-all for increasing your performance.
There a many qualities that an athlete should possess that will make them superior to their competition. These things include aerobic capacity/endurance, anaerobic capacity, flexibility/mobility, speed/agility, power, tactical/technical skills, and yes strength. The degree of which qualities need to be dominated are determined by the nature of the sport, and just getting stronger can be a detriment if it's the only thing that is focused.
Using the weight room can certainly help us develop muscular coordination, muscle endurance, and increase some of our mobility. Increasing strength will allow tendons and joints to handle higher degrees of strength, especially if they are paired with power based exercises.
The neurological adaptations to strength come rather quickly, and over a course of a 12-16 week training period, we can increase our strength a fair amount. This can be useful to develop an ability to handle higher intensities and maintain the muscular coordination to move our bodies in a smooth and timely manner. However, training heavy too often can also cause a central nervous system (CNS) fatigue as well, especially if recovery is not adequate. Then you run the risk at decreasing performance.. If maximal strength is not revisited every 21 days, and not trained much once developed, the drop off in this quality is about 10-15%. The same goes for a well-developed aerobic system, if revisited every 24-30days, the drop off would be about 10-15%. Therefore, these qualities are easily maintained once developed and seem to have an easier means to return to their prior levels in a short period of time.
Speed can be one of the most important qualities an athlete possess because it allows them to beat an opponent to a ball or create separation form another athlete. You rarely hear an announcer say "Wow look at the strength that player has" when they score a touchdown. Almost always fans and announcers comment on how well someone got away or how fast and smooth they move. That's why the phrase "speed kills" exists.
Speed training at 90-95% intensity is quite taxing on the CNS. More taxing than maximal strength training as it requires faster rates of contractions in the muscles across the whole body and the required coordination to facilitate a rhythm of relaxation and contractions in miniscule periods of time.
At 100% intensity, an athletes may need 10 days to fully recover, where 90-95%, they are mostly recovered within 48-60 hours. At high degrees of weight room training, repeat efforts can be done in 36-48 hours.
The most difficult thing about training for speed is that it's about managing the fatigue on the CNS, especially when strength training and other qualities need to be accounted for. Speed diminishes in quality if left untrained in 5-7 days. It requires a minimum of 2 training sessions per week just to be maintained, and at least 3/week to increase it.
Since speed has to be trained so frequently, it shows how difficult it can be to manage when other qualities like strength, aerobic fitness, and power need to be trained as well. An easier way to navigate this would be to train speed frequently, at low dosages on training days that can pair with higher degrees of strength or power training. The speed portion would be performed first in the workout, followed by some plyometrics and then strength training. The intensity of these activities need to be accounted for as you don't want to burn out the CNS where you create an overtraining effect and actual hurt performance.
Based on a 3-4 day training cycle, the workouts may include 20 min of speed work in the beginning, followed by 5-10 min of explosive training/plyometrics (keeping the landing contacts to <30/session). The end of the session may have moderate to heavy strength training at moderate volumes to a maximum of 90-95% load at very low volumes.
All these variables are individual specific and need to be managed by a well-informed coach who can track these things and make sure performance is going in a positive direction and having the autonomy to make changes to redirect the athlete in the right direction if performance is being hindered.
If you are in need of a professional to help with your athletic training, then drop us an email at email@example.com and put "I Want To Perform" in the subject line.
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.