Speed Training – Uncovering Imbalances

SST is running their Lightening Speed Camp again and the coaches have been getting ready for it by working their way through the drills to make sure we know what we’re doing and to make sure things do smoothly when we’re working with the athletes.

I have never done any speed training for running before. My speed training is for the bike and it focuses on getting me up a hill or around another rider quickly. Most of my power comes from my quads and glutes for the passing and from my quads and hamstrings for the hill climbing. When I started doing the drills for the speed training I was anticipating that they would be a piece of cake given my level of fitness and relative strength, but I was wrong. Boy was I wrong. Turns out that I have a few imbalances or recruitment issues what make sprinting efficiently fairly difficult for me. Worse than this is that these issues have been having a negative impact on my cycling power as well.

Below is a list of the issues I uncovered, how they impact my riding and what I need to do to correct them:

Hip flexors are weak on both sides and I have a recruitment issue with my left side. My tensor fasciae latae was KILLING me on both sides for a few days after the training. This came primarily from the wall knee drives. It’s safe to say that the other muscles that flex the hips are also weak – psoas and illacus. These impact my riding because the hips do flex when pulling the pedals from the 9 o’clock position to the 1 o’clock position. I’ll address these issues by doing more knee ups, a hanging leg cycling movement and hanging leg raises with my toes facing out. I’ll also benefit from doing more sprinting. My goal is not to add a lot of strength to them. Instead I will focus on improving muscle recruitment.

The bottoms of my feet were really sore in the days after. This makes sense because I lift with my feel flat on the floor and when I ride, my shoes have a stiff sole meaning that the muscles in the foot do not have to do very much. I’m losing a little big of power by having loose feet although it isn’t that much. I’ll address this one by doing more running – particular starts and starting to use the power runner machine we have at SST.

My VMO’s were sore. I know I have some recruitment issues with my vastus medialus because my knees sometimes get sore after riding a lot. I’ve been working on this by doing Poliquin step-ups, hack squats with my heal on a step and lots of split squats. The VMO is active mainly when in the first and last 20-30 degrees of knee extension so the alternating wall knee-ups with complete knee extension of the lower leg caused the pain. This issue impacts my riding because I’m not firing these muscles when I need to when the front foot is between 3-6 o’clock in the peddle stroke.

My calf muscles were killing (primarily the gastrocnemius and not so much with the soleus). This one shocked me a little because I have good calf development and I do a lot of movements that use them. However, I haven’t been training them with heavy loads very often because I figured I was getting enough work with the riding. I was wrong. I’ve been losing power with the 4-6 o’clock position of the peddle stroke because of this. To address this I have a variety of options. Lots of standing ankle extension (gastrocnemius), some seated ankle extensions (soleus), back squats with ankle extensions at the end, and forward sled dragging.

The front of my lower leg was somewhat sore but it should have been killing. This indicates a recruitment issue with my tibialis anterior and a possible (very likely) flexibility issue with the antagonist muscles on the back of my lower leg (gastrocnemius and soleus). These issues would impact the 6-11 o’clock position of the peddle stroke as I pull from the very bottom to the top. I’ll address the flexibility issue by doing more stretching of the lower leg. I’ll fix the recruitment issue by doing toe raises, focusing on lifting the front part of the lead foot when doing split squats and by doing some ankle flexion work with band.

All in all I’m losing a fair amount of power that I wasn’t aware of. What’s funny is that I wouldn’t have become aware of it had I not tried the running speed drills. The lesson here is one about diversifying my training and not doing the same thing all the time. I’m fairly sure that if I tried cross country skiing I would uncover more information about how my body is functioning that would make me a better rider.