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Speed is a key element of athletic prowess. Many athletes are training directly for speed because their sport requires it; even pure strength athletes like powerlifters use speed training to increase their lifts. Just look at Westside’s training plans; they always include a weekly speed day.
Also, speed feels good: training fast makes you feel fast, and it’s addictive. Once you start using fast lifts you don’t usually stop. And it’s great to see people pursuing real, functional athleticism.
Speed training can be dangerous. And you don’t have to drop a barbell on yourself to get hurt.
If you’re training slowly, the bar has mass and weight, but little momentum. If you let go of it, it would just fall to the floor. Not a good look if your gym doesn’t have bumpers, but at least it’s predictable. If you train fast and lose control, the bar has enough momentum to be unpredictable. And if you lose control but keep hold of the bar, it’s heavy enough and moving fast enough to make a mess of your back, knees or shoulders before it comes to rest, wrenching your joints and damaging your muscles. Training speed requires more forethought than lifting slowly.
What are the top 4 mistakes athletes make in the weights room and what are the fixes?
Mistake 1: Poor Movement Selection
Training for speed can take two forms. You can take a specific movement, the one you’re going to use on the day, and work with lighter weights to train for maximal bar velocity. But that only really makes sense if you compete or participate in a strength sport. If you’re lifting to improve your soccer, rugby or tennis performance, speed isn’t going to be patterned. It’s going to be neurological. That means it’s a function of the nervous system, an expression of your whole organism’s ability to move fast.
If you wanted to get stronger so your tennis would be better, which of these approaches makes more sense: lying on a bench and doing mock tennis strokes with an end-weighted dumbell or club bell, or bench presses?
Obviously it's the bench presses. They don’t mimic the tennis strokes you want the strength for — but neither does the clubbell. But they do build the strength that will support your sporting skill. Strength is a skill, speed is a skill, but they’re transferable, general skills.
Use safe, simple, compound movements to work on speed. If your squat is solid, fast squats can be a good choice, but they’re hard on the CNS and if your form deteriorates and you try to come up out of the hole fast it’s an injury waiting to happen. Try using fast deadlifts, fast benches and incline benches, and medicine ball slams if you can.