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Speed Training for Athletes


Speed Training for Athletes – Two Factor Strength Training

When discussing speed training applications for athletes, there are numerous factors to consider.

Some of which include:

  1. improving stride length
  2. improving stride frequency
  3. improving leg drive
  4. improving transverse hip to shoulder action, ie. rigidity (resistance to movement), mobility for the sporting action (remember, mobility is specific to the action), removal of soft-tissue abnormalites
  5. improving the strength of arm action; drive speed and turnover
  6. improving individual and synergistic kinetic segment stability (where appropriate) and mobility (where appropriate)
  7. improving RFD (rate of force development) and reactivity
  8. decreasing ground contact time
  9. increasing sporting age, ie. speeding time developing technique over a long period
  10. improving maximal upper, lower and full body strength levels through the incorporation of various CKCE’s – closed kinetic chain exercises.

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on developing the strength of the posterior chain which falls under 1, 2, 3 and 7 above.

Two Factor Training

When engaging in closed-chained strength training movements, there are two options.

Factor 1:  Unilateral

Examples include; step-ups, lunges, split jumps, 1 leg RDL’s


Lunges of Death Will Bust You Up

Factor 2:  Bilateral

Examples include; squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, good mornings


The exercise we are demonstrating today are RDL’s.

But not your typical RDL’s. 

How to execute conventional RDL’s:

1.  Brace your abdominals and with an upright, neutral posture, unrack the loaded barbell from the power cage.

2.  Take as few steps back as possible and setup with a shoulder width foot position.

3. Reset your air, brace your abdominals outward and start moving your hips backward while keeping the bar scraping your legs as the bar moves downward.


4.  When the bar reaching a position right below your knees, extend back to the starting position with a powerful glute contraction.

5.  Do not let the bar move away from your legs.

6.  Reset your air and repeat.

For the purposes of our demonstration today we are showing a variation to the RDL.

Beyond the Range (BTR) Sumo RDL

This movement is the same as the conventional movement but is done with a sumo stance and on an elevated surface.  The elevated surface increasing the range of motion (ROM).  The sumo stance allows the foot position to be turned outward and the wide position engages the gluteus medius (one of the external rotators of the hip and essential for unilateral (gait, running) strength and stability) to a greater extent. As you can see we also overloaded the lockout with jumpstretch bands.

Now if we can improve our lower body strength, specifically improving hip extension AND improving the deceleration of hip flexion, we will improve:

  1. stride length
  2. stride frequency
  3. leg drive
  4. maximal lower body strength levels through the incorporation of various CKCE’s – closed kinetic chain exercises.

Quick Note:  If you engage a movement in one anatomical plane of motion your decelerate its antagonistic counterpart.  This is VERY important to understand when programing for athletes.

Also remember when the muscles that externally rotate and extend the hip are weak, there is more prevalence of anterior knee pain. (Ireland et al. (1))

I actually recommend this movement over good mornings for young athletes.  It is a safe alternative where you can let the bar go if you are in trouble and it is very easy to teach.  It also is a greater progressional training movement for the conventional RDL’s AND the transition of the 1st to 2nd pull in the clean and snatch.

Other exercises to activate the glutes are:  clam shells, X-band walks, glute bridges


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8 Responses to “Speed Training for Athletes”

  1. NZEd Says:

    Sorry guys, I personally think the stance on your RDL’s are slightly too wide, thus making the execution of the exercise minimal. You can clearly see how the shorter guy benefited from that.
    Please see this as positive critism, I love your site and personally do some of your exercises demonstrated on this site.

    Keep it up.

  2. Jim Smith Says:

    Absolutely no offense bro.

    As you correctly stated, the width of the stance is a completely individual thing and will absolutely need to be adjusted for each athlete.

    Thanks for checking out the post and your great support!

  3. Jeff Says:


    Are the reasons that the wide and externally rotated stance up the focus on the glute medius specifically due to increased demands to resist internal rotation and adduction of the femurs?

    I ask this because normally we think of whatever being stretched most as being recruited most, but in this case, the glute medius would be shortened from the get go, so I am guessing that the more “extreme” stance position and the demands to stabilize in that position are what cause the stress on the glute medius to be increased.

    Just curious if I am on the right track in my thinking or if I missed the boat.

    As always, thank you for your help and for sharing your time and knowledge with us. It’s a privilege to read your website.

  4. Jim Smith Says:

    Jeff, that is exactly right. Even though the glute med is shortened it is highly on tension and aids in hip extension.

    I really appreciate the feedback, means a lot and I am truly humbled.

    Can’t wait to show you guys all of the youtube videos I have queued up. I have about 8 in the bank right now ready to post!

  5. Kie Kim Says:


    This is a great exercise and you have a great website that has taken my training to another level.

    Should a replace the conventional RDL with this entirely? Or should I rotate between the two?

  6. Jim Smith Says:

    Definitely rotate between all versions of the RDL. Thanks for the kind words and great feedback!

  7. Eddy Beale Says:

    Personally squats and weighted lunges helped me a ton to improve my sprint times, but Romanian deads also helped my hams develop a solid base for pushing off from the blocks during sprint practice.

  8. flex lewis Says:

    hey jim, quick question regarding increasing explosive power for sprinting. would doing quater squats explosively be good for this? what do you recommend?

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