Do You Want To Know Why Some Athletes Get Faster From Strength Training?

Athletes in all sports need to be fast, strong and powerful to succeed at the highest levels.
We tend to think of developing each of these skills separately - lift to get strong, run to get fast - but that isn't always how it works.
For example, some athletes get faster by lifting weights.
Not all of them do, however.
So how do you know who should strength train to get faster, and who shouldn't?
Let's bring a little science into this :)
The graph below comes from one of our fastest athletes, who got that way by spending a lot of time in weight rooms over the years.

Note that both of his first 2 strides registered at 45 Newtons of force pushing into the ground. That is a good number for his size.
This helps him to cover more ground in his first 4 meters, needing 4 1/2 strides to get there.
Strength development helped this athlete to increase their starting stride length, a crucial factor in getting faster.

Let's contrast this with a 2nd athlete.

This kid would benefit from strength training to develop speed, and here's why.
They are not able to drive off with as much force on their first stride (roughly 35 N) which has an immediate impact on their stride length. It takes them 5 1/2 strides to cover the same 4 meter start zone.
By building strength, through their lower body and core mostly, this athlete would accelerate faster in time.
So wouldn't that help everyone?
Not necessarily.

Let's look at one final athlete's acceleration force profile.

This is another athlete with very little strength training background. This is also one of our fastest athletes.
Here you can see that the first 2 strides average 50N of force, an incredible number considering this is the lightest of the 3 people shown (heavier athletes strike with more force).
You can also see that the waves are farther apart throughout, indicating that they are consistently covering more ground with each stride.
This is what fast looks like on a graph.
Put this kid into a heavy strength program and they'll get stronger for sure.
But you also risk messing with the incredible combination of mobility, rhythm, coordination and power that allows them to be so fast right now.
This athlete's training should still add strength training because they need to play more physical in their sport. It needs to be applied carefully, though, because in building strength we may inadvertently suppress speed.
Strength training for speed development is clearly a complex topic!
The point here is that it won't necessarily help each kid the same way.
Learning as much as you can about how each individual achieves their speed helps coaches to determine what type of training is best for each athlete.
And since kids only get one shot at maximizing their athletic career, we want to do everything we can to make sure we get it right the first time.

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