4 Myths About Speed Training and How to Overcome

Guy Sprinting (side 2)

A few weeks back I jumped on a webinar with Tony Villani. (Here’s the recording if you missed it) 

There was a question that somebody asked that went something like this:

I work mainly with youth basketball players, how do I build buy-in for families that have not experienced speed training? How do I tell them that speed training is important?” 

Tony and I were eager to jump at this one. Because in reality, every athlete needs to know how to run.

On your first day of water polo, if you don’t know how to swim they will need to teach you how to swim to survive.

Why doesn’t this happen in most American sports though? 

Take soccer for example, 80-90% of the game is focused off the ball and running. 

Running can help you be more efficient, it can help you play the game longer, safer. 

So for me, basketball players may not need to do a bunch of sprint technique work, but basketball players need to learn how to move. 

They need to train, and there should be a curriculum around how they move and train. The reasons are for one, safety, two, to be more powerful, and three, to help them build the volumes in the intense areas of the game so that they can play better. Because movement is in all sports. 

Accelerating, deceleration, changing directions, and being reactive - those are skills that you can learn, that can make a significant impact in almost every sport. 

This question and the whole topic reminds me of the 4 myths of speed training that I’ve heard the most over the course of my career, which I’ll share below: 

Myth #1: You Can't teach speed

“You either have it or you don’t” 

That’s why I heard from my coaches growing up. 

Through training thousands of athletes over the past 10 years, I can confidently say that you can teach speed. 

Rather than saying “this can’t be improved”, you need to train speed specifically. 

If you look at Dynamic Correspondence, it refers to an exercise or training program’s ability to directly affect an athlete’s sporting performance. 

To summarize, it’s saying that you can improve anything if trained specifically. If an athlete runs with intention at max velocity as frequently as they can at least once a week with proper rest periods, they will get faster. 

Speed can be taught, but it has to be specific to see a gradual increase in max velocity.  

Myth #2: Not Enough Time To Train

This was another question on the webinar with Tony Villani - “What if my session keeps getting cut short?” 

What I’ve seen over the past few years looking through data, is that you can actually improve speed by microdosing throughout your session. 

There are 3 easy ways to do this: 

  1. Run at or close to top speed 
  2. Work on reactive qualities (plyos, etc.) 
  3. Put technical components into your warm-up

With a 30-minute session, you could do 15 minutes of warm up, 5 minutes of technical work, and 10 minutes on building up to top speed. 

You don’t need an hour or more to get faster, speed training can be done in a small amount of time. 

Myth #3: Too Risky to Train 

A lot of coaches get scared off by speed training, “it’s too much of a risk to train.” 

We’ve found the opposite to be true. 

If you’re not telling your system to reach those max capacities, when they are called on in a game or high-intensity situation, the body doesn’t know what to do with them. 

This is when athletes tend to get soft tissue injuries since the contraction rate isn’t there. So if you’re having your athletes hit maximal capacities within the training program frequently enough, there won’t be a big spike in intensity when the athlete is faced with those situations in a game or scrimmage.

Myth #4: Can’t Change Technique 

You actually can change someone's technique. It might not change something they do with their arms, rotations of the leg, etc. but you can make changes. 

Things like frontside range of motion, switching improvements, torso improvements can all be changed. 

On a related note, here are 5 things that matter when running fast from a mechanical standpoint that I think are worth sharing here…

So there are changes that can be made, but they do take time. 

It all depends on how many sessions you’re doing with your group of athletes, but the improvements will happen, even if it’s a few percent at a time. 

If you only get one thing from this blog, get this:  You can teach speed. You have enough time to train speed. It’s not too risky to train. You can change technique. 

Based on my experience training thousands of athletes across just about every level, I am confident in those four statements. 


P.S. Don’t forget to take a look at our partners if you haven’t yet. VALD for Timing Gates. Catapult for GPS. Universal Speed Rating for your data tracking and speed training business.