by Coach Andrew Behnam
This week in our interns’ curriculum, speed development is the topic they are studying; particularly speed development involving sleds. We make sure to place an emphasis on speed with our guys because when all else is equal, the faster team wins. Because training for speed is such an important topic, I wanted to hop on here and talk about how we set up the speed work in our baseball program.
We use load in the weight room to get stronger, but we can also use load on the field to get faster. This is where the utilization of sleds in speed training can be effective. When you are training a team sport, more times than not your entire team will be spread out across all ends of the strength continuum. Because of this, performance coaches would never put an absolute load on the bar and ask their whole team to squat it. That would be disastrous. Similarly, putting the same weight on a sled and asking everyone on the team to push or pull it could end up just as messy. To prevent this, we take load-velocity profiles on each of our athletes to ensure quality movement is not just happening in the weight room, but on the field as well.
Creating the Profile
Before we actually make the load velocity profile, we need to gather some data that will help give us an idea of where to start. For the purpose of this blog, I will be creating a mock profile for an athlete; we’ll call him Johnny. The following steps must then be followed:
- Set the desired distance for the runs (10 yards in this trial)
- Run one un-resisted sprint
- Run two to three resisted sled pulls with various weights on the sled each rep
You can measure the sprints through a number of ways. You can be as qualitative as you want and use a radar gun, you can use timing gates through two splits to find peak velocity, or you could use a pocket radar to find max speed with the linear sprint. This all depends on the resources you have. In this test, I will be using timing gates.
I recorded and then charted the times for each load on the sled. As you can see above (and will come to see on the graph), there is a linear relationship between load and velocity. Johnny’s first number is the un-resisted time, which is the main number you will be working with. This is the time you will divide by all of the resisted sprint times to give us the decrement in velocity for each rep, otherwise known as Vdec.
After calculating for Vdec with each respective rep, the results are as follows:
Now that we have our linear data, we can plot anywhere along the axis for speed specific strength training zones. If you want to slow the athlete to a desired speed, you can have a general idea of how much weight is needed on the sled based on the graph.
Speed Training Zones
Michael Cahill PhD, from the Auckland School of Technology has done extensive research looking at each specific phase of speed training. He classified different phases of training as:
- The Technical Competency zone – zone that slows you by less than 10% Vdec of your maximal speed
- Speed-strength Zone – zone that slows you down by anything less than 40% Vdec
- Power Zone – the zone within 40%-60% Vdec
- Strength-speed zone – anything 60% Vdec and above
Cahill created chart to quantify these zones and show the linear relationship between load and Vdec. A lot of this data with training zones parallels the velocity based training research done by Bryan Mann, who has studied vertical plane movement VBT.
Sled training can be beneficial if used correctly with your athletes. One point to note is that sled training is merely a supplement, not a substitute for sprint training. At the end of the day, we must sprint fast to get fast. If the resources allow, sled training can be a great tool in a coaches’ toolbox. Through Vdec, we can elicit the desired training adaptation and match it with the same work in the weight room.
Andrew Behnam is currently a strength and conditioning coach at TCU working with the baseball team. Before arriving at TCU, Andrew pitched in college for 4 years, and made stops at Millersville University and Villanova University where he worked as a performance coach. You can follow Andrew on social media:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ajbehnam1?lang=en
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ajbehnam1/