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Speed Kills, but why?

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Jun 14, 2022

Athlete on track ready to sprint
Speed is the single most athletic component that will consistently give you the greatest competitive edge.
Here are the facts:
  1. Work = Force x Displacement
  2. Power = Work / Time
  3. Power = Force x Displacement / Time
  4. Power = Force x Velocity (speed)

Ok, I get it – speed is great, but what about power?

Let’s talk about some synonyms for powerful- go ahead, look them up on Google.
  • Heavy
  • Heavy-duty
  • influential
  • Mighty
  • Potent
  • Significant
  • Strong
How about the antonyms?
  • Helpless
  • Impotent (???)
  • Insignificant
  • Little
  • Powerless
  • Unimportant
  • Weak

If you had the choice, would you rather be powerful, or unimportant and weak?

Launchpad has zero interest in helping athletes be little or helpless or unimportant or weak or insignificant. On the contrary, Launchpad is here to help athletes become POWERFUL!  
But to be powerful, you have to produce as much force as possible, with as much speed as possible. This is why speed kills.
We can break speed down into different subcategories: reaction time, acceleration, maximum speed, and speed endurance.


Reaction Time

Reaction time is a measure of how fast your sensory system can perceive, process, and respond to an external stimulus.  Simple enough, right?
The world record for the 100m dash is 9.58 seconds. The next fastest time recorded by a person NOT named Usain Bolt is 9.68.  That’s a 0.1 difference in seconds!  Why does reaction time matter?  Because every single second matters when it comes to being elite.


Components of Speed

Acceleration = an increase in speed. It is the magnitude and direction with which you produce force.
Maximum speed = aka top speed – the highest velocity you can produce during an athletic movement. Reaching your top speed requires 100% effort, which taps into your neuromuscular system’s ability to recruit as many fast-twitch fibers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Speed endurance = your body’s ability to sustain a higher intensity exercise for an extended time. It relies on the body’s anaerobic efficiency, which describes your ability to resist lactate buildup.

Too often, people believe you are born with athleticism, or you are not.

There is some truth to that, anyone would be silly to argue against it. Certain people just have more fast-twitch muscle fibers than others. We all have some combination of fast twitch and slow twitch in us- you have fast-twitch muscle too!
Fast-twitch muscle fibers are also known as type II muscle fibers. These muscle fibers contract quickly and produce powerful get-up-and-go forces.
However, fast-twitch muscles tire out extremely quickly.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers do not use oxygen to produce energy; instead, they rely on something called anaerobic metabolism (don’t worry about it for now, we’ll talk about this another day).

Slow-twitch muscle fibers are also known as type I muscle fibers.  These muscle fibers are fatigue-resistant and primarily facilitate smaller ranges of motion compared to fast-twitch. This means in explosive motions, where range of motion is key, slow-twitch muscles underperform.  
In addition, slow-twitch muscle fibers contain a lot of blood-carrying myoglobin, so they are also known as red fibers. Because of slow-twitch muscle’s aerobic metabolism, they’re the first to activate when a muscle contracts.
There’s real science behind athletes who are explosive, it’s not magic. Different muscle fibers respond differently to different types of stimuli (training).  If your goal is to be an explosive athlete, stop worrying about your damn mile time, please?

TL;DR: You can’t change your genetics, but you can change the way you train if you feel compelled to enhance the abilities of your fast-twitch muscle.