When everyone thinks of superstar athletes a few key attributes typically come across during their performances: explosive, powerful, intense are a few choice words most people would choose to describe them. These are also the words that could be used to describe their superpower that they use called sprinting. The general population looks to the explosive athletes that are capable of accelerating, changing directions, and applying precise force with awe in amazement only wishing they could achieve such feats. These athletes have trained their bodies in such a way that the muscles fibers are different from a normal persons. People normally have their bodies develop to meet the demands of their activity in a normal day so most people have more slow twitch muscle fibers than fast twitch fibers in their body.These fibers are slow to tire but produce minimal force output while fast twitch fibers produce maximal force and are depleted or exhausted quickly when be used.
Genetics are a key component pertaining to how fast or explosive a person can be but training to sprint and increase your top end speed is something every explosive athlete should be testing, measuring and assessing. Sprint training is the holy grail of making athletes perform better in any disciple that moving faster is beneficial. Top end speed being increased across the board means you lower end speed endurance increases as well. If you have an athlete able to sprint a 4.4 forty yard dash they should be able to run repeat forties at a sub max pace say 4.7 or 4.8 while an athlete who runs a 4.8 could do repeats of 5.0 or 5.1 as an example. The issue is that most coaches do not have the patience to develop speed in their athletes. Most coaches think of some athletes as their workhorses able to keep working and performing for a long duration and completing multiple jobs in order to help achieve the results their team needs. On my end in the track and field world, I want all my athletes to be race horses and some other sports would do well to think of their athletes in a similar light to help them perform their best. The way I envision this is a pitcher who throws 100 mph fast balls every time but is only good for 10 pitches, through training would it be better for him to be able to throw 50 at 100 mph or 100 at 90mph? I’m pretty sure everyone would choose the 1st option because speed kills. Making sure you are making athletes faster and more explosive is often a work to rest ratio than it is what type of training you are doing, Max effort attempts can not be max efforts if you’re doing dozens of attempts and getting worse or weaker with each attempt. Speed development requires long breaks between reps to ensure that the body has had a chance to recover to be ready to go at 100% or as close to 100% as possible with the training session to wind down as soon as a noticeable decrease in power or speed is seen. Typically with sprinting 10 meters or yards of work requires at least a minute of rest at top end speed. (On another note I dislike giving athletes a percentage of speed like 80% or 90% for workouts or training, I prefer them to go at max speed or give them a time to hit based on percentage of the max for the set distance rather than leave it up to them)
In conclusion, training for speed and explosive power should involve training that allows the athletes to be fully recovered to maintain their mechanics throughout their repetitions of sprints, throws, or weights. If an athlete starts to train at a sub max speed for a longer duration then the athlete is being conditioned to do more work at a sub max level rather than having a higher max end speed or power from these exercises. Quality reps vs quantity reps will allow the athlete to recovery faster and deliver the training results everyone is trying to accomplish.