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Push yourself to your limits with the STATSports Max Speed Metric

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What is your Max Speed?

Max speed is the maximum velocity a player can sprint and therefore it takes time and distance to achieve. The STATSports Max Speed metric is a single score of your maximum speed reached throughout the session which can be measured in meters/s, mph or km/h. Studies show that using the STATSports tracker will help make you faster and improve your Max Speed up to 9.4%.

Max speed is particularly important for wide defenders who perform the greatest number of sprints, over 20 in a match. Although wide defenders, wide midfielders and forwards achieve the greatest sprint distance in a match, it is important all players, regardless of position, work on improving their max speed.

A great example of an athlete who used their speed in a crucial moment is Virgil van Dijk, who performed the fastest recorded sprint (34.5 km/h) in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League for Liverpool against Barcelona as a central defender covering almost the full length of the pitch to get back to defend his goal from a Liverpool corner. Research has shown that sprinting within professional football often leads to decisive moments within the game and this is a prime example of these decisive moments.

How could you improve your Max Speed as an Athlete…

Get in the gym and improve your rate of force development (RFD). Improving RFD will improve a players’ ability to develop larger forces in a shorter period of time making them more explosive.

Research shows the combination of both maximal strength and power training improves RFD and is most likely to occur through increases in musculo-tendon stiffness, enhanced muscle force production and increases in neural drive. It is also important to improve your acceleration or change of direction technique to utilise your improved explosive strength.

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Strengthening the athlete’s lower body muscles particularly the posterior chain (e.g. glute muscles, hamstrings muscles and calfs) is fundamental to any S&C programme aimed at improving sprint performance. Exercises such as Back Squats, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Split Squats, Good Mornings, Glute Ham Raises, Nordics and unilateral versions of these exercises should form the core of an athletes strength programme. The Olympic lifts, snatch and the clean and jerk, and their derivatives which utilise triple extension, extension of the ankle, knee and hip, can also be an excellent addition within an S&C programme aimed at improving sprint performance.

Plyometric exercises are also a very effective training modality for the development of muscular power via the development of rate of force development (RFD) and movement velocity. Unloaded and loaded vertical and horizontal jumps maximise the force production of the muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle joints. These biomechanical elements make plyometrics essential within any training programme designed at improving sprint speed.

Having a higher maximum speed also results in a faster submaximal (below your maximum) performance. This means that increasing your top speed will eventually make anything below your maximum speed both faster and more efficient, which results in a significant improvement in speed endurance. Thus, speed and endurance aren’t mutually exclusive and both should be incorporated into a balanced workout routine.

Research has suggested that straight line sprints in particular are the most common action that led to goal scoring opportunities either from the goal scorer or assisting player, followed by changes of direction and jumps. Therefore, because of this, speed and power capabilities are deemed to be an essential physical trait of professional footballers. There is also evidence that would suggest that better professional football players are also faster sprinters, emphasising the importance of sprinting performance and training.

The following articles from The Sports EDU and Football SCR emphasise the importance of speed and power for footballers and give insights on how to improve your maximum speed through various different training techniques.

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