Muscles Responsible For Speed

Throughout the strength & conditioning industry, the term “Posterior Chain” is thrown about haphazardly; however most coaches haven’t the first clue how to program a routine that effectively targets and develops the musculature and soft tissue that makes up the “posterior chain.” Much Less, effectively train those muscles in a way that positively affects and athletes speed.

How can this be you ask?

Well the primary reason for this is what I like to call the good ol’ boy network, but we’ll address that in another article, But the major factor here is a lack of education and experience in three key areas: Pysiology, Biomechanics, and Application. And yes this stems from “strength coaches” at the professional and collegiate level, all the way down to your basic entry level high school coach.

Don’t believe me?

Ask your / your sons current strength coach or whoever is in charge of their strength and conditioning, What the primary extensor of the torso are? Do you know what they are? well…

The answer to that question is the hamstrings, or to be specific the “Biceps Femoris.” The Glutes are dominate in lateral force production and hip external rotation, but the ham’s… those bad boys move you forward and move you upward.

And unfortunately 90% of these guys are doing nothing but blowing up the quads with poor exercise selection because of that lack of understanding of biomechanics we talked about.

The quads, by the way, happen to be the dominant decelerators of the human body, so unless your major goal is to only get good at stopping and n0t accelerating, thats a big problem.

So what gives?

Well for starters, the most commonly prescribed exercise by all these “strength coaches” and coaches in general are deep back squats. Those are a problem because the Traditional Back-squat was never designed to be what it has become today.

In America we’ve tried to emulate olympic style squats, which are deep front squats executed for the purpose of being able to dive under a heavy bar in a movement like the clean or snatch, and then stand up to move into the final position of the lift.

I thought Squats we’re great for athletes?

Well they can be, if done properly. Remember, the exercise itself isn’t whats good or bad for an athlete, (theres something really deep we’ll cover another time called Dynamic Correspondence) Whats really important for an athlete is selecting exercises and developing training routines that make the muscles act in the same range and direction or “chain” as we call it, as the athlete performs.

That doesn’t mean trying to mimic the sport movements the athlete performs; rather, selecting exercises that make the dominant muscles in those movements, function in the same ranges, angles and directions of force production they would in the athletes sport movements.

Train the muscles in the directions they perform

To this end, the three muscles that make the most profound impact in an athletes linear and Lateral speed are the Hamstrings, the Glutes, and the Calves.

The Hamstrings

In any movement an athlete makes when the foot is in contact with the ground, the hamstrings actually extend the torso by pulling the pelvis up & through in a hinging motion.

The Calves

The calves help to act as shock absorbers, foot/ankle stabilizers and a final launching mechanism like a spring board when leaving the ground.

The Glutes

Finally the glutes help drive the femur down towards the ground from the high knee position to make impact with the earth and create the leg drive necessary to propel the athlete forward.

Below is a video of a phenomenal hamstring developer we use as a staple at S8; there are multiple variations of this exercise and we have specialized machines for this, However a Russian Leg curl like this one can be done with just a partner holding your legs down.

This makes the hamstrings extend the torso much in the same fashion as they do when an athlete propels him or herself forward.

In Strength,

JJ Morris
Director of Performance

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