Speed-Back to Basics
Part II In teaching team speed.
Cheryl Coker, DESIGNING A SPEED DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
in speed and base-running ability can be obtained by learning correct
running mechanics through form running drills. Good technique, however,
can take an athlete only so far. Reprogramming the central nervous system
through a fundamentally sound training program is required to change an
individual's underlying speed. The purpose of this article is to present
information that will help you design a speed development program for
Speed can be
broken down into acceleration and maximum velocity. (See Figure 1)
According to this figure, softball players rarely reach maximum speed in
base running. If this is the case, why don't softball players only train
for acceleration, particularly out of the batter's box and off the base?
faster, you have to change your underlying speed. As a player's maximum
speed increases, improvement is realized at all percentages of that speed.
The start (out of the batter's box and off the base), acceleration, and
maximum velocity all need to be trained to achieve a player's maximum
the direction of the run is the key to powerful starts both out of the
batter's box and off of the base. It is not within the scope of this
article to discuss starting techniques. Regardless of the technique used,
there are a number of drills that can indeed improve starting by improving
- Pushup starts-Line up in the sprint
start position (four point stance). The hips are raised into the set
position. Maintaining the starting posture, perform a pushup. In a
continuous motion, at the top of the pushup, an explosive horizontal
drive is executed and players sprint a given distance.
- Medicine ball starts-Medicine ball
starts are underhand, between the legs throws. Stand with feet
slightly wider than shoulder length apart holding a medicine ball with
two hands. Lower the body by bending at the knees while simultaneously
allowing the medicine ball to go back between the legs. Allow the
body's balance to shift forward. From this position, throw the
medicine ball at about a 35 to 45 degree angle to the horizontal.
Generate the power to throw by exploding with the legs. At the height
of release, the movement is converted to a sprint after the ball.
- Harness starts-Using a harness, or even
a rubber bicycle tire tube, perform starts with resistance. One player
is in the harness and drives from an arbitrary starting position while
the partner provides resistance. Focus on knee drive.
- Get up starts-These are a fun way to
work on starts and are only limited by your imagination. The player
will start in some predetermined position and perform a series of
movements sprinting as fast as possible. An example could be to start
on the stomach facing the opposite direction and on command get up and
sprint. The complexity of the start can be increased to include a
series of movements. For example, the player lies on her stomach
facing the opposite direction to the run, does six pushups, rolls onto
the back, performs six sit ups, six donkey kicks, and then sprints.
- Roll-over starts-Players line up at the
start with the toes of the back foot beside the heel of the front
foot. They will then lean forward and at the point where they are just
about to lose their balance, they explode horizontally and sprint as
fast as possible.
plays a major role in base running. Acceleration is characterized by the
ability to overcome inertia at a high rate. Sprinting over distances of 10
to 40 meters will focus on the acceleration phase. The following drills
will also improve acceleration:
- Wall Drill-The wall drill teaches
correct acceleration technique by forcing players to drive backwards
into the ground. Stand three to four feet from a wall. Lean forward
and place hands on the wall. Arms should be fully extended. In this
position, drive the knees towards the wall. Ground contact time should
be minimized. The technique used to perform this drill resembles that
of pushing a car.
- Stick Drill-The stick drill focuses on
the increasing stride length that occurs in acceleration. Place a
piece of tape (sticks, chalk, rope, etc.) 40 centimeters from the
start line. Continue to place markers, adding 10 centimeters each
interval, for five to 10 meters. Place the ball of the first foot just
in front of the start line. Run through the "course"
contacting each piece of tape. Correct technique is characterized by
propelling the hips horizontally past the second piece of tape while
the legs drive back into the ground in order to contact the tape. If
done correctly, the body position will resemble that of the wall
- Resistance Exercises-Resistance
exercises such as running with a parachute, harness tire, weighted
vest, uphill, etc., focus on the expressiveness and power required to
maximize acceleration. These exercises train specific strengths by
requiring players to work harder over a given distance. Although these
drills make running more difficult, technique should not suffer. If
technique begins to deteriorate, decrease the amount of resistance.
velocity is reached at distances of 30 to 60 meters. Maximum velocity is
the highest speed achieved during a sprint. Efforts must range between 90
to 100 percent in order to improve top speed. The following drills are
designed to stimulate the central nervous system and the muscles to
develop maximum speed:
- Ins and Outs-Ins and outs are a
segmented run. The "in" is performed at 100 percent
intensity. The "out" is a maintenance phase where the speed
and stride frequently are sustained but maximum effort is controlled.
An example of an ins and outs design would resemble the following:
The distance for the ins and outs are controlled by the coach and the
overall distance can range between 60 to 100 meters. Always end the
run on an "in".
- Flying Starts-Flying starts involve
building up into an all out effort. An example would be a 15 meter
flying start into a 40 meter sprint. In this example, players should
reach top speed by the end of the 15 meter "fly". This speed
is then maintained over the remaining 40 meters. Flying starts should
be a gradual but proportional buildup to top speed. A sudden change in
speed once the player hits 15 meters can result in injury and should
- Over-speed Training-Over-speed training
is also an effective method of training maximum velocity. Running
downhill will increase the runner's natural speed. The grade of the
hill should not exceed 10 percent. Assisted running or
"towing" with elastic tubing can also benefit maximum
velocity. It should be noted, however, that the athlete should have a
strong base before over speed training is introduced due to its
demanding nature and increased chance of injury.
development should occur year round. By adjusting workout volume and
intensity, peak speed can be realized during the competition season. Sport
specificity also evolves from general to specific as the competitive
development in the off-season involves high volume, low intensity
workouts. The use of resistive and normal sprinting are high during this
stage in the training cycle. As persuasion approaches, workout intensity
increases and volume decreases. A shift to more softball specific training
occurs and base running drills should be incorporated in the program.
Assisted exercises can be introduced towards the end of this stage
provided that a strong speed base exists. Peak intensities are found
during the competitive season.
Chart I below
can serve as a guideline for developing a sound speed development program
Speed plays a
key factor in maximizing base running performance. Base running can win or
lose a game. Improving running technique and implementing a sound speed
development program can increase your speed to stretch singles into
doubles and doubles into triples.
Coker is a Speed Consultant for the University of Virginia Athletic