Does Strength Equal Speed? A Personal Experiment
What’s up everybody! Hope you had a great 4th. I’m not big on fireworks, but I am big on dirty bulking, which I did plenty. Jess and I actually moved apartments, so I spent the better part of the weekend lifting boxes, screaming “Lightweight!”, and getting an awesome arm pump. It was great exercise, but after failing to put together several new furniture items (I’m as handy as I am short), I can gladly say the move is pretty much complete.
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation between us when we went to put up our new curtains.
Jess: “Looks like we need a drill bit set.”
Jess: Well? Do you think you can go get one?
Me: “Um, sure. What does it look like?”
Me: (already in the middle of calling one of my much handier friends)
As she says, my brain is too full of fitness, business, and plans to pen an LOTR spin-off, to make any room for practical life skills. I would say she’s spot-on!
Why learn when I can delegate???
Speaking of my brain being full of fitness, I’m always adding new tools to the toolbox and doing little experiments to see how certain things do and do not work as they relate to program design.
My most recent experiment involved the relationship of strength to speed. You see, I ran A LOT in high school. Cross-country AND track.
Looking back, I really don’t know how I did it. I used to view a 5-6 mile run as child’s play, but now when I see a flight of stairs I go into fight-or-flight. It’s funny how things change over time.
Back in those days, I didn’t do jack for strength-training. I’m sure I did a few triceps pressdowns and maybe a bench press or 2, but nothing legit. I honestly can’t remember my exact times in the sprints, but I know I had hit at least a 59 second 400 and a 26 second 200.
Why I Wanted To Do This
I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’m actually taking a little hiatus from deadlifting. Nothing too long, of course, as deadlifting is sort of like water to me, and I WILL spontaneously burst into flames much like a Phoenix in Harry Potter if I go too long without doing them.
The reason for the break is because I want to devote some dedicated time to my squat technique. While I haven’t neglected squatting in my training career, deadlifts have always been first priority, and what allows me to be strong with deadlifts (e.g. wicked stiff ankles), make me a poor squatter. So I guess I’m maturing and trying to shore up my weak links.
Anyway, that got boring after about 2 weeks. I needed something more. Something different.
It was weird, but I felt like I needed to get out of the gym. I tried to suppress the feeling at first (similar to when I first stumbled upon dark chocolate), but it couldn’t be ignored. And then slowly the thoughts trickled in about hitting the track and testing my speed. I haven’t sprinted a lick since I got into all the max strength work (particularly deadlifts) that I have been doing the past 5 years, so I was intrigued.
I know that absolute strength development helps big-time with several other athletic qualities, particularly speed, but I had never put it to the test.
Wait…You Can Get Faster Without Actually Running?
Why yes, yes you can.
I absolutely love the analogy of the glass of water. Though for my purposes, let’s picture it as a glass of Trumoo.
Picture the size of the glass as your absolute strength. The more strength you have, the bigger your glass. The bigger your glass, the more Trumoo (various physical qualities) you can pour in. These qualities include power, speed, agility, and endurance. A lack of strength can limit your potential to develop the aforementioned qualities. In other words, strength is the foundation for everything else!
In the case of speed, picture the physiques of top-level sprinters. Are they frail? Not quite. In fact, they’re usually pretty jacked. This is because, in order to run at top speeds, you have to be able to put force into the ground. And you can’t put much force into the ground without having developed some serious force in the gym! Someone may have quick feet, but if not much is happening with each step, it doesn’t really matter.
Deadlifts possess a special carryover to sprinting, as it develops all of the posterior chain musculature, particularly the glutes and hamstrings, which act as 2 primary extensors of the hip to create the rear-leg propulsion necessary for each stride.
So I rolled over to Beverly Hills High School with 2 of my friends, one of whom is a very high-level 400-meter sprinter. The other works with track athletes and has been around the sport a long time. I say this mainly because this was not “bro-timed”. They had all these techniques to ensure that my times were as accurate as possible.
We tested my 30-meter, 60-meter, and 400-meter. The 30s and 60s were more to look at my acceleration and we did the 400, because I was most curious about that time.
These were the final times;
30-meter = 4.31
60-meter = 7.61
400-meter = 60
Man, I felt fast!!!!
I didn’t feel heavy, muscle-bound, or stiff. I actually felt like an animal, because I could tell I was just destroying the track with my thighs!!!
….was what I felt after the 30s and 60s.
Shortly after the 400, I vomited everywhere. I forgot what it feels like to “have a gorilla jump on your shoulders” shortly after the 200-meter mark. There was a summer camp going on at the high school and several kids began screaming and calling for their mothers, who sadly were not there to cover their eyes.
Let’s just say those children now know what salmon and rice from Won-Ton Sushi looks like…sort of.
Strength equals speed
Strength does not equal cardiovascular fitness
Soon after puking though, I realized how much fun I had just had. I had definitely gained a ton of acceleration ability and my 400 hadn’t really dropped off at all. The experiment was a success.
Here is a video of one of the 30 and 60-meter sprints;
By solely strength-training, I got faster. I know I had never timed my 30 and 60 prior to that day, but I have no doubt that current me would have blazed old me. It just felt entirely different.
And now I have the sprinting bug! I’m going out in about an hour to test my 200-meter. I really want a 24. And I have to crush a 54 in the 400 at some point.
I’m going to incorporate speed work 2x/week now in my program. I think it’s just what I need to get fired up again, as I was sort of getting burnt out on the max strength work. I will definitely still continue on that course, but now I will have some more variety, and I have no doubt it will support my strength gains.
Even if you are not someone who wants to necessarily get faster, sprinting is phenomenal for looking better naked. Going back to what I mentioned about sprinters being jacked, they also carry very little bodyfat. There’s something about maximally locomoting for 10-60 seconds repeatedly that creates a serious afterburn of calories.
And while I got fired up to develop my own speed, my friends really got me intrigued with all the intricacies of sprint technique. It felt like when I was learning to lift for the first time! I used to be more involved with speed work when I was in the athletic setting at Evansville, but since I transitioned to working with mainly the general population I kind of got away from it. So it’s an area of weakness compared to a lot of other things, but I’m excited to really further my knowledge base there and apply a few things in the programs I write.
I’m probably going to have one of them put up a few guest posts on here diving into more specific drills and ways you can incorporate speed work, even if you aren’t an “athlete”.
Alright, I gotta get over to the high school and see what I can do with the 200! Have a good one.
Dominate All Life,
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