Speed Training: Can I Actually Improve My Speed?

This is a question many athletes ask themselves, and coaches wonder about their athletes. The answer is undoubtedly “yes,” according to Doug Hix, director of Speed In Sports training center in San Diego. He is asked that question hundreds of times a year, to which he generally responds with a question of his own, “Do you get stronger from lifting weights?” Everyone’s response is yes, and then he says, “You have your answer.”

Hix has a rather simple view of speed training; as a matter of fact he has a simple view on performance enhancement training. Hix says, “My view is if you want to increase your speed you actually have to run; if you want to become stronger then you have to lift; if you want to jump higher you have to jump; if you want to run a faster 40 you actually have to get down and practice running the 40-yard dash. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes about it. No secret treadmills or trade secrets that one speed coach knows over another. Everyone knows what is out there. It is just a matter of how you put your program together.”

That program is where Hix differs on training. He has an extensive, intensive and exclusive program he runs in San Diego. Athletes from the east coast to his home coast of the west travel to San Diego to experience the Speed In Sports program designed by Doug Hix.

Scott Turner, a seven-year veteran and one of the fastest guys in football, said, “When I first went through Doug’s program I was surprised how simulated it was. After we got going. . . we began adding more and more and more, until I felt like I had gone through a complete game of football experiencing every situation that I could possibly go through in a game, practice or conditioning after a practice.”

Hix says, “We all have watched football, baseball, and basketball games and we know what athletes do. With that in mind, I design programs around what athletes do, I don’t force athletes to adjust to my program.” That is where Hix might differ from your ordinary track or speed coach. Athletes come to him and are surprised there is no set program already in place for them. “I have a general guideline I follow, but nothing is set in stone,” says Hix. “I wait until athletes arrive to address their needs, then I begin to tailor a program for them.”

Back to the original question: Can I become faster? Knowing Hix’s positive response, we want to know how to become faster. “To enhance speed you need to take several factors into account, combine them together in a proper work ratio, and begin the speed enhancement process.”

What are the factors that Hix combines to enhance speed? “First you need to understand that there are two types of speed training. One is on-field speed and the second is your testing speed (the almighty football 40-yard dash or 60-yard for baseball). On-field speed is mainly a series of accelerations,” says Hix. Testing speed is straight-ahead training trying to cover as much ground as you possibly can, as fast as you can.”

How would an athlete improve their 40-yard dash for the Combine? “For the 40-yard dash, I like to work in reverse order. I work from velocity training, to acceleration training, to starting, to reaction. Velocity is the part in which you are actually up and running.”

Hix chooses velocity training first, “. . . because once they can do the proper velocity mechanics then everything else is easy to adapt to.” Most athletes other than track athletes do not actually understand the mechanics they are supposed to use when running, which is why Hix puts on pre-Combine/pro-day training programs in which many athletes take part.

What athletes get out of Speed In Sports training programs is numerous. “We offer speed training, pro-agility test training, strength training, nutritional evaluations with fixed meals, postural evaluation for alignment and functional flexibility/mobility training, and a medical evaluation to begin work on any ailments from a rough and long season.” That is a lot to offer in one place. “Yes, but I feel all those areas are important to improvement of speed, strength and mobility. I want my athletes to train right, stretch properly, eat correctly, and get suitable rest.”

So Doug Hix believes that athletes can become faster, but how much faster Doug? “Honestly I don’t know. Everyone says you have a predetermined genetic pattern that puts a limit on your abilities. I don’t disagree; but I don’t agree either. My point of reference is a person going over to a car with someone trapped under it and just lifting the car to save a life. Something happened in their body and mind that caused them to do something beyond normal capabilities. I want to find a way of getting my athletes there daily.”