How to build your speed on the football pitch

Any fan of the Premier League, and there are millions around the world, will know the impact of speed training on the game and its participants over the past 20 years. As many a pundit has said, speed kills, and a player’s pace can make his passage to the first team much easier.

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Speed is key in all aspects of the game – beating an opponent to the ball, finding space by losing a defender, supporting an attack or getting back in defence. Analysis shows how the modern game’s pace means players are not only running further during a game, but also spending more time undertaking repeated sprints over varying distances.

Fatigue

Speed endurance is essential for the modern player and the energy required to do this is supplied anaerobically. Anaerobic endurance can delay the production of lactic acid, increase tolerance of the build-up and delay fatigue.

There are two areas of training which can improve speed – gym work and running drills. In both cases, coaches will want to vary their programmes to avoid boredom setting in among the group, and may look at websites offering soccer training drills, such as https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Soccer/drills.jsp.

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Sprint drills are designed to reach maximum speed within a short distance. These involve 20-30 metre sprints with rest periods as you walk back to your mark. Acceleration drills involve jogging short distances, then sprinting and returning to a jog. Speed off the mark is important, but so is accelerating to top speed as quickly as possible.

Strength

Interval training, combining distance jogging with sprints or running uphill is another useful drill to increase speed, as is the use of a speed ladder along the ground to improve foot speed.

In the gym, flexibility exercises are an important aspect of speed training. The stronger players will generally be the faster ones on the pitch, and flexibility will also be key to improving speed, particularly in flexors. Leg muscles such as quadriceps and those in the lower leg must be strengthened, and rotator cuffs and the achilles area will influence short sprint bursts.

Strengthening these areas will improve technique and mitigate injury risks. Finally, strength training uses exercises and resistance programmes to influence muscle fibres and develop fast-twitch reactions. Exercises such as squats, front squats and deadlifts should be a part of your regime.