Speed Development for Crossfit™ Athletes by brannen Dorman

Photo credit: Beau Jangles Photography

Last week I discussed why we think speed and agility training can be beneficial for CrossFit™ athletes. This week I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at how we integrate speed training into a CrossFit™ athletes training design.

Hierarchy of Speed Development

Each athlete is at a different point in their training journey and require different training strategies to properly prepare them for their goals. When it comes to creating a speed training template for an athlete we use a hierarchy of development to help better design a training structure that will allow us to get the biggest “bang for our buck”. Through a thorough assessment we can find the needs of the athlete and then create protocols that will allow them to progress towards their goals in a safe, productive way. While there is much more that goes into this, below you will find a brief review of the hierarchy we use.


Quality movement is the foundation of any quality sprint training design and is a prerequisite to all other developmental tools used. During an athlete’s assessment we are evaluating their ability to create the proper ranges needed for speed and agility work. If those ranges are not met by the athlete, we create a design which focuses on creating end ranges adequate for speed and agility training. If the athlete can demonstrate ranges of motion suitable for speed training, we then will assess their functional strength in those end ranges.

Functional Strength in End Range

Once an athlete has created the proper range of motion in the planes needed for sprint training, we then focus on developing functional strength and control of those newly developed end ranges. Speed and agility training create some of the most demanding forces on the human body of any training style. Ground reaction forces can be upwards of 4-5x bodyweight and muscle forces can be upwards of 7x bodyweight while sprinting. Because there is such an overwhelming amount of force created, athletes MUST be prepared to handle the stress. Developing strength and control in those end ranges will protect the athlete from injury and allow them to be more successful at adapting to speed training.

Speed Work

The final piece in our pyramid is the actual development of speed work - acceleration, deceleration, absolute speed, change of direction, agility work, among others. Once an athlete shows they can properly move through and control the end ranges necessary for speed training, we can then give them training that includes top speed sprinting and change of direction work.

Basic Design for a CrossFit™ Athlete

Assuming the athlete has shown the ability to move well and is strong enough to withstand the forces of sprint type work, we can then introduce them to sprint work in their training design. Typically I break speed training into two rotating days for CrossFit™ athletes. The first is mostly focused on movement improvement and neural patterning the athlete can do in the gym. The second day focuses mostly on speed drills to be performed on a track or field that teach acceleration, deceleration and mixed drills to help the athlete properly prepare for full speed efforts that may come up in competition.

For example, during our ‘in-gym’ training session, to help develop hip flexor strength, we may have an athlete do a hanging knee drive hold:

Once they have established efficacy in the knee drive hold, we may add another level of difficulty by adding a knee extension to the exercise:

We will also focus on simulating the speed and ground force of actual full speed efforts. Typically, I will start an athlete with a movement like the Wall Assisted Goodmorning to Knee Drive. This particular drill simulates the rapid hip flexion and opposite side hip extension needed for sprinting while also forcing the athlete to activate their hamstring AND learn how to properly decelerate with their forward leg.

We can progress this by adding a jump to the end of the drill. This will add another layer of complexity while also simulating the ground forces of sprinting, thereby preparing the athlete for full speed efforts.

To give you an idea of a full training session, we have provided an example template for both a movement (in gym) day and a speed (track/field) day. As we progress an athlete we may layer in more complexity, volume or intensity based on the athlete's goals and needs, but here is a example for where an athlete may start.

Movement and Neural Patterning Day:

Speed Work:

Our team at Training Think Tank is in the process of creating a speed development course for CrossFit™ athletes. In that course we will go into more detail of how we assess an athlete, plan a training block and structure individual training sessions. The course will include videos, training templates and other important concepts we utilize for our athletes. If you are interested in better understanding speed training and how you can integrate into your normal training year, be on the lookout for that later this year.

~ Brannen

Created By
Brannen Dorman

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