What is Speed?
Speed means being able to
cover a distance or perform
a movement in the quickest
possible time. It involves
how quickly the muscles can
move the joints.
This can involve the whole
body e.g a sprinter. It may
only use part of the body e.g.
a cricketer must pull his
bowling arm forward very
Why is speed important?
In many activities speed is necessary to
perform certain skills.
e.g. perform a smash in badminton ( More
power opponent is unable to play it or plays a
In many team/Individual games, short bursts
of near maximum speed are often needed.
In football beating a defender to the ball.
In Tennis, speed allows you to get to the ball
quickly to be able to play a good return.
Reaction time is an important part of speed: it is the length of
time from the cue to the first muscular contraction in response.
Here is a sprinter and a tennis player both are ‘ready’. Both
react to a signal or cue. The sprinter explodes out of the blocks
on the sound of a gun. The tennis player moves in relation to
seeing the server’s arm.
Improving reaction time
Reaction time can be improved by
practicing in situations similar to the
activity e.g. a series of sprint starts.
Your running speed depends on a
number of factors.
Range of movement in ankles, hips,
Force exerted by leading leg
Ability of muscles to cope with lactic
Stride length and frequency of strides
Strength of muscles
(quadriceps, gluteals, gastrocnemius)
Speed can be improved
through training. You need to
work muscle groups for short
intervals at a relatively high
Programme of strength training
– strengthens leg muscles
(contract at a faster rate)
Programme of aerobic and
anaerobic work where an
individual is asked to work for
extended periods at near
maximum ( e.g Shuttle
Sprints). Increases muscular
endurance, allowing muscles to
improve ability to cope with
Programme of flexibility
exercises – improves flexibility
of ankles, hips and shoulders.
Flexibility is the range of
movement across a
joint. This gymnast has
The gymnast shows
static flexibility, he is
holding a fixed position.
Static flexibility is important when
attempting the splits.
Judges are looking for correct body
position in the splits (good hip
After warming up, the gymnast should choose
stretches which stretch the muscles across the hip
joint and hold the stretch as far as he can.
Stretching should be done everyday for maximum
effect and to allow for the splits to be performed.
Exercises to maintain and improve flexibility are
usually static or active exercises.
STATIC – hold a stretched position for a few seconds
ACTIVE – using movement to move a body part of
Dynamic flexibility is another
type of flexibility.
It is different from static
flexibility because the action
being performed is fast and
is not held for anytime. E.g. a
karate competitor needs to
be able to kick high and fast.
In rugby, dynamic flexibility in the hips is
important for a goal kicker. A big range
of movement across hips means he has
a bigger follow through allowing him to
A swimmer needs
flexibility in the
shoulders. A big
range of movement
across the shoulder
joints means the
swimmer is able to
make each stroke
bigger. This allows
her to swim further
with each stroke.
You can test your flexibility by doing the
sit and reach test.