Speed training can refer to one of many strategies used by professional and amateur athletes to increase their agility, power, and overall swiftness. Athletes who want to reach their peak performance levels can engage in two basic types of training, known as resistance and overspeed training, to build muscles, increase endurance, and heighten reflexes. Most speed training programs are specifically tailored to different sports, though training regimens usually incorporate similar methods and equipment.
Overspeed training programs encourage athletes to move and react more quickly than is usually required in their sports. The goal of overspeed training is to improve coordination and condition muscles and reflexes. A popular training technique is downhill running, which forces an athlete to keep a faster pace than usual. An individual may also use a large elastic band to connect himself or herself to a faster moving object, which pulls the athlete along at a very swift pace. With enough practice, athletes are able to improve their coordination and run faster under normal conditions.
Resistance training is incorporated into many speed training programs to build muscles and improve endurance. An individual may run with a parachute, which creates significant air resistance and makes him or her work considerably harder to cover a certain distance. Elastic bands are frequently used in resistance training to hold a person back while trying to run forward. An athlete might also choose to work out in a pool, where resistance from the water requires him or her to use a great deal of effort.
Many sports require athletes to run fast, jump high, and react immediately to a stimulus. Speed training programs are frequently sport-specific, allowing athletes to increase the abilities helpful to their respective sports. Basketball players, for example, often perform short sprints and dribble between obstacles to prepare for fast-paced games in which running short distances and quickly changing directions are keys to success. An athlete who competes in track events might have an entirely different training regimen, in which he or she may run several laps to increase speed and endurance for long distance races.
Physical therapists, athletic team coaches, and personal trainers all facilitate speed training programs. A professional trainer can identify specific areas where an athlete can improve, set goals, monitor progress, and make changes to a program when necessary. When professional help is not available, many athletes choose to create their own programs or watch instructional videos so they can train on their own. Individuals who are interested in speed training can find videos and equipment through online retailers and at most sporting goods stores.