Speed Reserve

Speed Reserve.  Why developing top sprint speed will help you have a “Speed Reserve” that allows you to run fast throughout a game, practice or an event. 

By Sean Wells

4.38, 40 yard sprint.  Timed on the Brower Timing System.

As a Sports Performance coach, I know firsthand how important speed reserve is to success in a huge multitude of sports, including soccer, football, softball, lacrosse and almost all track events. Speed reserve refers to the difference between an athlete’s maximum speed and their running speed at any given point in time. In other words, it’s the amount of effort needed in each sprint or route ran or run made in soccer.

Speed Reserve Example

For the sake of this blog think if an athlete can run 20 miles per hour once.  That is their top speed, it is going to be significantly easier for the athlete to run 15 mph over and over again.  Now think of an athlete that can only run 15 mph that is their top speed.  They will be unable to run 15 mph several times through the competition or the meet, as it is their maximum effort.  

In the example above I used an athlete whose top speed is 20 miles per hour in one sprint and stated that the athlete would be able to sprint at 15 mph more often.  The reason for this is the athlete sprinting at 15 mph and their top speed is is 20 mph is going at about 77% of 100%.

Comparison to lifting

If we compare this to lifting weights – lifting 77% is difficult but doable, in fact most athletes can lift 77% of their one repetition max several times.  However,  lifting 100% or your 1 repetition maximum is very difficult and not possible for more than one repetition if in fact it is a one repetition max load.  

Developing Top Speed

To develop the top speed we need to be focusing on running faster, jumping higher and developing both max effort strength and dynamic effort strength.

To run fast, we need to practice running fast.  At OC Sports Performance we do this 1x a week.  We run as fast as we can that day.  We rest 4:00 to 5:00 between sprints and we sprint 3x total.  Sprints are measured on a Brower Laser Timing System. The exact same set up is utilized each week.

Results are recorded on each sprint and compared to the previous athlete’s results.  Personal records are highlighted and updated. 


Jumping plays a key role in developing sprint speed.  We have found that using a Jump Mat is a way to give athletes an immediate result to their jumps and let them compare to their previous best.  The jump mat is the easiest tool we have found that allows a great number of athletes to train and record their progress.

Athletes here at OC Sports Performance jump 3x a week.  The jumps are waved in three week blocks. After three weeks we “reset” and test records on the 4th week.

Athletes track their jumps. Coaches monitor the athletes progress.

Max effort Strength

Max effort strength is the greatest method of strength training there is. The reason is that the method develops both inter and intramuscular coordination.  Read: it helps you be fast and explosive.  While also helping all of the things that athletes need, coordination, body awareness, immediate quickness amongst many others.  Most athletes that start training are not strong enough in relation to their bodyweight. This is by far the lowest metric of all beginning athletes.

We use the max effort method and its varieties twice a week.  Once for the upper body and once for the lower body.

Dynamic Effort Strength

Dynamic effort strength is moving light weights as fast as possible.  This is developing and teaching the body to move quicker and be more explosive.  Also the method allows us to develop superior technique as athletes are getting lots of practice on the movements we utilize. These include the box squat, deadlift and bench press.

Just like max effort we use the dynamic effort twice a week once for upper body speed and once for lower body speed.

The higher the speed reserve

As an athlete continues to get faster and develop that speed reserve it becomes significantly easier for the athlete to “win” in practice.  As the athlete is able to participate at a higher level than their peers without as much effort.  Which is key for athletes that are going to be competing at a higher level in a competition sense.

Speed is King!

The number one physical characteristic for explosive athletes is speed. Build top end speed – and develop the speed reserve and reap the reward! An athlete can never be too strong or too fast!

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OC Sports Performance is Central Oregon’s premier, Personal Training, and Sports Performance gym in Bend, Oregon. We are a metrics based and Results driven business!

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