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Speed

Building more muscle makes an athlete more capable of putting out speed, but it doesn’t give you the speed. Speed is something you have to work on specifically to obtain.

Are you a recreational or elite athlete who works out religiously specifically to be in good shape to play your sport? Are you shocked by the fact that that your reflexes are not getting faster, despite your great conditioning program?

If you answered "yes" to the second question, that begs another question: How fast do you generally move? It has nothing to do with the common belief that putting on lean muscle makes an athlete slower. That's just a myth. Building more muscle does what it's supposed to do; it really does make an athlete more capable of putting out speed. But again, read the last part of that previous sentence carefully.

It "makes an athlete more capable of putting out speed." But it doesn't give you the speed.

Speed is something you have to work on specifically to obtain. An excellent way to start your speed workout is by walking faster. This doesn't mean just going outside for a walk and consciously walking faster, although doing so will help. But be aware of how fast you walk at home, at school or in the office.

As most folks know, good athletes never look like they are making an effort. They grab the ball or skate or run without the look of straining to be fast. So grade yourself on the speed of the short walks you do indoors. Do you get up from a seated posture slowly? Is your walk from the couch to the refrigerator more of a saunter?

Every time you are on your feet to walk, even if it's just a distance of a dozen or so feet, keep speed in mind. Increase the speed of your walk, no matter how long or short the walking distance is.

At first, you may not be able to walk at a faster pace without showing, or at least feeling, the effort. But if you deliberately improve your walking speed, it will eventually become effortless. Your goal is to accustom your body, muscles and mind to a faster gait so that you're not even aware that you are moving your feet and legs faster than you once did.

Walking, because it's a basic movement for most humans, will deliberately increase your sense of speed. Now to improve upon that sense so it reflects on your sport, which again begs the question: When lifting weights, how fast do you lift?

Your muscle-building and strength workouts will help you recruit more muscle fibers, but to be quicker, you need to perform each weight movement quicker. Start out with a much lighter weight than you regularly lift — about half of your normal poundage. Be sure to perform the full range of motion for the exercise; don't get sloppy just because you're trying to do it faster. You'll soon be able to increase the weight and recruit more muscle fibers with each lift, which will soon transfer over to the athletic moves of your sport.

Jumping rope is also a speed-specific activity. It's a great way to be able to recruit more muscle fibers as you turn the rope faster and learn to move your legs faster to keep up the pace. You will actually notice your speed improving. The best part is, so will your competition.

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Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.

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