[Image source: The Independent]
This week on Balls'n'All, I discuss speed - namely, how some people have natural speed and how you can gain speed. Discussed are the body parts that help with speed, and how you can strengthen them to increase your own speed, whether it be for a 100m sprint, 10km run, or just your weekend sport.
How to Develop Speed
Jackson - You’re here to talk about speed. And basically the NTFL competition and most sports in the Top End actually play a really frenetic pace. They play with speed that doesn’t compare to other leagues correspondingly down south. Football in particular is probably the quickest competition going around just about. But if you’re one of those people who just aren’t naturally blessed with a fleet footed running style and you’re naturally quick and it all comes natural to you, how do you get faster? Is speed purely genetic or is it something you can work on?
Jacob - Oh well obviously speed, a huge part of it is genetics but it’s also something you can work on. Anyone can get faster and anyone can become fast. It is relative to, you know, the base you’ve been given by your mother and father. But you can certainly become faster. And in order to become faster a lot of it is about how you use your body and the physical confidence that you develop.
Jackson - So what are some of the techniques you can use to get faster?
Jacob - So essentially you need to be strong though the 6 foundation movements of human movement. And so those are; Push-Up, Pull-Up, Bend, which is like a hinge movement of the hip or a deadlift, Brace, which is like a plank, and a Squat and a Lunge. And that brace is foundational to the other 5 movements. Bracing is really, really important in running fast. So the first thing that you really need to get right in running quickly is your pelvis control. So a lot of people end up having anterior tilt of their pelvis which means that their pelvis tilts forward. So if you imagine, and I learnt this in pilates, if you imagine your pelvis as like a bucket. You want to keep the bucket - a bucket which is full of water by the way. You want to keep that bucket nice and flat so that you don’t spill any water. So if you tilt your pelvis forward you’ll spill water out the front. If you tilt it back you’ll spill water out the back. You want to keep it nice and flat. So getting that control through the pelvis, forward and back. And we talk about happy cat and angry cat for anyone that’s worked with me. Is the first thing that we do in order to set the body right in order to perform optimally. Then from there I like to then focus on all the joints. So you look at the knee joint and the ankle joint. And so if we start with the ankle joint, say for example. It’s about getting that nice and solid so that when the foot hits the ground the ankle joint is nice and solid and rigid so that it’s a nice spring to then push back up. Because at the end of the day there’s only 2 things that matter when it comes to running fast. 1 is the amount of time you spend on the ground, and the other is the amount of power you put into the ground. And so and this doesn’t particularly matter too much across what speed you’re running. So whether you’re a 100metre sprinter or a 10km runner. There’s not a lot of difference in the world’s best runners in the amount of time they spend on the ground. I can’t remember the exact numbers but for example, in the 100 metre final Usain Bolt for example would be spending about .011 of a second on the ground. Whereas Mo Farah in the 10km at the Olympics would be spending about .016 of a second on the ground. So that’s about, is that right? .05 [.005*] seconds. It’s very, very small in the amount of time they both spend on the ground. So what the real difference comes in is the power they both put into the ground. So there’s a high knee drive in the sprinters and they’re hitting the ground harder.
Jackson - So you mentioned a little bit about the brace. Is that like a plank?
Jacob - Yeah so bracing is sore of more of a gymnastics term, and essentially that’s a plank. And so the reason that we use the word brace is because you’re bracing all of the movement. So a plank, most people know a plank as being on our hands or your elbows and your knees or your feet in a position on the ground. Bracing is important through the other 5 foundation moves, so doing a squat you should be bracing. Doing a lunge you should be bracing. Doing a push-up you should definitely be bracing. When you’re running you should be bracing. So to develop speed, the first thing that is really, really essential is to be able to develop that response between the foot and the rest of the body. So when the foot hits the ground that the body responds is nice and braced and solid and it can then spring up off the ground. So when you first start off doing some drills you’d start off with knees up. So we talked about glass of water, bucket of sand. So lifting your knee up to a height where you can balance a glass of water on your knee. Not too high, it’ll fall off, or too low, it’ll fall off. And also a bucket of sand across your toes, so having your toe pulled up. That creates tension in the muscles of the lower limb. And then when it hits the ground it’s nice and responsive. Which sprinting a huge part of it is about the Achilles. So the part of the lower leg at the back which attaches the calf muscle to the heel. And obviously it’s called the achilles because that’s where the mythological guy from greek mythology was shot and couldn’t then run anymore. So the achilles is really, really interesting because if we look at 2 Olympic athletes, Stefan Holm was a Swedish guy I think who was a high jumper. And there was another guy whose name escapes me at the moment but he was from 1 of the Caribbean countries. And 1 had been, Stefan Holm had been training all his life, and then the other guy who was really interested in basketball but got into high jump and burst on the scene and was very, very successful. Made I think an Olympic final in the 100metres and certainly a world championship final. And so when they tested their achilles, Stefan Holm’s achilles was super, super big and solid. It was really thick, the tissue through the tendon was super thick. And so that was from years and years of training that. So it’s really important with children in particular but with anybody who wants to develop speed to develop that achilles tendon. So the bigger and stronger that is, then the better it’s going to be about responding and bouncing off the ground and moving you quicker.
Jackson - So just on that Jacob, not everyone unfortunately has the access to professional coaching. Especially like a person like yourself. Professional advice from Jacob Andreae, but if they’re listening now they do. So if these people were to go into the gym, because most people associate stronger legs with more power and therefore a faster sprint time. What are some of the do’s and don'ts in regards to lower body training that will help with your sprinting?
Jacob - Starting off with developing the calf muscles. So hanging your heels, so standing on a step and hanging your heels over the edge. And then with 2 feet on the step going down as low as you can with your heels. So your heels go past the step and then all the way up high as you can. And just do 20 calf raises. And you might start off with 1 set and you’ll build up to 3 sets. Then form there you build up to doing 1 single leg but with a little bit of support from the other leg. Then from there you build up to doing single leg. And developing that strength through the achilles and the calf muscle. So the calf consists of the 2 muscles. You know what they’re called?
Jackson - No I don’t.
Jacob - The Gastrocnemius and the Soleus. So developing those muscles there. Then from there you can start to do some small bouncing. So bouncing would be really concentrating on keeping your heel low to the ground. So without letting your heel hit the ground, you might gently touch, but keeping your heel low to the ground and pulling your toes up whenever you land. So for the whole exercise of bouncing keeping your toes pulled up so you're really activating the front of your lower leg muscles. And that muscle there is called the Tibialis Anterior. I’ll test you on that later. I just wanted to quickly touch on, because I know there’s going to be people asking this question. How come I see so many indigenous blokes who ‘ve got skinny calves and ankles be so quick? And the reason for that is they’ve got , typically, genetically, longer tendons. So if you’ve got a longer tendon it allows you to be able to really whip your limbs and hit the ground harder. And it’s similar to a kangaroo, a kangaroo doesn’t actually have a calf muscle. They’ve got 1 big tendon which goes right through their hip. All the way down through the back of their leg underneath their foot down to the front of their foot underneath. So it’s just 1 big tendon which is then able to propel them forward on every step. And it’s essentially what some people have got who are genetically gifted in terms of being quick and having longer tendons.
Jackson - So I was about to say that Jacob. Do you look at a guy like a Ross Tungatalum, someone like that that has blistering speed. Now I don’t know for a fact but I don’t get the impression Ross had access to a lot of speed coaches growing up as a young fella. So do you look at a guy like that and think: ‘Wow there’s so much potential there’. In regards to improving his pace? So obviously he’s very quick now but do you look at him and think ‘Wow, with the right training he could be super quick’?
Jacob - Yeah well I think that he would be genetically gifted and so he’s probably got fast twitch muscle fibers. He’s probably got a longer than normal achilles tendon, tendons in both of his legs. And so he’s probably already been ahead of the game in that respect. And then on top of that he’s most likely been running around as a kid. A very, very active lifestyle right from the moment he could walk. And running around kicking the footy and playing any sport that he can play just generally being physically active. So he’s working his muscles and his tendons and he’s developing them. And so that is so super important. So for anyone that is interested in learning more, you can go and learn this stuff, you know, you mentioned earlier that not everyone has access to this. Well that’s where the Northern Territory Institute of Sport is heading now, giving everyone access to this. So that rather than taking the cream of the top [crop*] and working with them, they’re really going from a rising tides lifts all ships type mentality, where they get in and work with everybody.
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