Speed Training Phases

With the principles of speed training in mind, let us now examine a six-step progressive model for developing speed in competitive aging athletes:

Basic Training.

Developing a training base early in a season or in the transition phase or off-season enables an aging athlete to have a foundation upon which to develop speed and power without getting injured. Stretching, strengthening, drills for skills, and development of some endurance should be keys.


Functional Strength and Power

Developing muscle mass, strength and power in the gym under the guidance of strength specialist should be a priority. Chapter 7 outlines the guidelines for developing the qualities of strength, muscle mass (hypertrophy) and power.



This step focuses on hopping, jumping, bounding, hitting, kicking exercises that must be explosive and sport-specific. Donald Chu’s book Explosive power and strength or Lee Brown’s Training for speed, agility and quickness are excellent resources for sport-specific exercises such as this with great diagrams and descriptions of exercises and drills (www.humankinetics.com). While such training should only be undertaken with aging sprint athletes with a large training age or with a well-developed base of strength and power training in the gym, there is no reason aging athletes cannot undertake such training. Indeed, recent research is suggesting power training is more important than strength training for preventing falls and undertaking the tasks of daily living. Moreover, such training does show remarkable improvements in power of older people without the fear of injury, as long as the program is progressive and supervised closely. Later in this chapter we will examine in detail the principles of plyometrics training.


Sport Loading

This step focuses on sport- or event-specific speed and loading the athlete with relatively light resistance that develops speed and power without changing sprinting form. Speeds should be 85-100% of maximum. The ways to increase resistance include weighted vests, harnesses, parachutes, uphill sprinting, stairs, sand, and weighted sleds for runners, drag suits, leg ties, buckets, or tethers for swimmers, large gears, slow cadences, headwinds, hills for cyclists, and tire tubes for rowers.


Sprinting Form and Speed Endurance

This phase develops sprinting technique and the ability to hold the speed for longer.


Overspeed training

This phase involves applying excess 5-10% extra speed through the use of overspeed training techniques such as those referred to below in the section on sprint-assisted training. The aim of such training is to train the nervous system to increase stride or stroke rate or in cyclists, cadence.

Chapter 8 of The Masters Athlete discusses in detail the many and varied methods of developing speed and power in masters athletes. Below are a list of highly recommended books on the subject

  • Brown, L., Ferrigno, V. and Santana, J. (Eds). (2000). Training for speed, agility and quickness. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.  ISBN:  0-7360-0239-1.  Available from Human Kinetics (http://www.humankinetics.com/).  Contains numerous drills and exercises for sprint runners and team players.  A classic book.
  • Chu, D. (1998). Jumping into plyometrics. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.  ISBN: 13- 9780-8801-18460.  Available from Human Kinetics (http://www.humankinetics.com/).  A classic book for sprint runners and the most complete book ever written on this form of explosive power training.
  • Dintiman, G., Ward, R. and Tellez, T. (1998).  Sports Speed.  Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.  ISBN:  0-88011-607-2.  Available from Human Kinetics (http://www.humankinetics.com/).  A classic book for sprint runners.