Weekly timed sprints are a very effective way to see whether athletes are performing at 95% or better of an athlete’s best.
If 95% of an athlete’s top speed is “high intensity” and fast enough to cause speed adaptations over time, then they’re performing well. One of the best ways to measure how fast an athlete is on average is to implement weekly timed sprints.
In this post, we look at how coaches can improve athletic performance in any sport with weekly timed sprints.
Advantages of weekly timed sprints
One of the core principles of sports science is to answer the question, “Are we actually doing what we say we’re doing?” When it comes to speed training, are your players actually hitting speeds that are fast enough to get faster? It’d be pretty tough to know, without a doubt, if you’re not timing the sprints.
Timing sprints means that if an athlete is below 95% on their first sprint, it’s usually because of a too-relaxed effort or a too-relaxed warmup. Coaches timing sprints means that they always know what’s going on with their athletes regardless of whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral.
Additionally, coaches can quickly identify the training residual for speed (how long speed lasts after not being trained) as 5 days and a weekend, or basically a week. When coaches are in-season and are programming Flying 10s once a week and want to make sure athletes don’t lose their speed, how do you know they’re sprinting fast enough to keep their speed?
Because the last thing a coach, especially performance coaches, is to assume the speeds are being met when they actually aren’t. There’s a risk that athlete speed levels detrain, and then this makes itself known on the field a week or two later. This is especially true after a break. Although athletes’ bodies might feel refreshed after a break, their nervous systems were not primed and consequently not ready to sprint at very high speeds.
Failing to time weekly sprints is like jumping in a car but not looking at how fast you’re going for the whole journey and turning off the map, as you’ll never know how far you’ve got to go.
Timing Sprints Ensures a Consistent Readiness Tracker
Sprinting faster is a primary objective and key performance indicator. For coaches, if your athletes can outsprint the other team, then you’ve got an advantage. The more specific the readiness check-in is to the sport and training objective, the more significant it is and the more impact it will have in adjusting along the way.
Although athletes will always feel differently on different days—training is hard, traveling for competitive games and competitions is tiring, and practices are fatiguing—athletes should be able to hit the +95% threshold for sprints consistently.
Most coaches consider anything below 95% consistently (e.g., 9 out of 10 training sessions) to be a red flag and worth having a conversation with an athlete about how to improve performance.
Sprinting readiness is a measure of how ready an athlete is to attack an intense workout. If an athlete can do that, then they’re primed and ready to sprint as fast as required according to the goals of competitive games they’re about to compete in.
Continuous Improvement in Speed Development
What happens after your athletes have hit 95% consistently in speed readiness and peak acceleration?
Now you’re tracking this, you can encourage and motivate them to do even better. Encouraging buy-in to go above 95% means 100% becomes the new minimum. And after that, 105%. Every athlete is going to hit a peak limit, and that depends on how far and how often they need to run at maximum velocity.
Football, soccer, and rugby players are never going to have to run as far or as fast as professional sprinters, of course. But . . . it never hurts to encourage and motivate your star athletes to push boundaries and aim for even better in their next sprint training session and competitive game.
Once you’re measuring these sprints, then you can keep pushing them to do better. However, remember, difficulties will arise because 100% effort doesn’t always produce 100% speed. In order to achieve this consistently, athletes need optimal sleep, nutrition, physical readiness, mental readiness, hydration, and numerous other factors. That’s not always possible.
So, use weekly timed sprints as one way of gauging an athlete’s physical abilities and readiness and assess anything that could cause a negative effect on their ability to achieve maximum speed in training sessions.