If you follow the NFL, you may have noticed the Kansas City Chiefs, and Showtime Mahomes has become one of the most dominant teams in the league this year. Along these same lines, it's no secret they are also seen to be one of the fastest teams. As the saying adage goes, “speed kills.” A couple of weeks ago ESPN produced an article with the headline “Bengals overwhelmed by Chief’s dominating speed.”
Every athlete I have ever met wants to be faster, regardless of their position. I cannot think of a single athlete who does not want to be faster in their sport. The beautiful truth is, speed is not entirely genetic. Sure, some individuals are gifted with a predisposition of better levers, longer tendons, or the likes. But when we get down to it, speed is a skill, and it can be trained. Further, there are aspects of speed I will lay out; which, when applied, even without coaching will make any athlete instantly faster.
Tip #1: Fast and Violent Arm Swing
This is something I think a lot of athletes get confused about. In our heads it is intuitive speed is all about the legs and the arms follow along for the ride. However, the opposite could not be more accurate. Our body works in coordination and naturally prefers our arms and legs to move together as much as possible. Great sprint coach Charlie Francis who coached countless numbers of Olympic Athletes points out and coaches the arms need to move faster than the legs. I will repeat this; THE ARMS NEED TO MOVE FASTER THAN THE LEGS. This is a subtle faster, but it holds none the less. If you want to be instantly faster, you have to move your arms.
Tip #2: Stiffen the Core
I use the word stiffen instead of brace for several reasons. For one a braced core will cause the athlete to be too tense. Speed is all about contraction and relaxation. If the athlete braces, you will be all contraction with none of the relaxation. However, the core does need to be stiff especially if you are prescribing to the first cue I provided. The more violently the arms move, the more the torso will want to twist with the arms causing a whole slew of issues, and making it nigh impossible to run in a straight line. However, an appropriately stiff core will help you resist the twisting the arms are trying to create thereby helping you not run around like a chicken with its head cut off. How taut should the core be? Think like you are at the beach and someone attractive walks by, you will not brace, you obviously will not let your gut hang out, but you also do not want to make it seem like you are trying to keep your gut in; this is the way you should feel when you are sprinting.
Speed is a skill which needs to be practiced and trained over and over again. However, these two cues will go a long way in helping you perfect this coveted athletic ability. You will need to use both as they work in conjunction with each other, but when you do, you will find yourself already faster than you were before.
- Dave Howington, CSCS, Performance Trainer