Speed/Strength Correlation — Debunking the Misnomers

Kevin ChristianCoaching Blogs, Illinois HS Track & Field, Opinion, Sprints/Speed 1 Comment

by Mike Adamson

Plainfield East Boys Head Track coach

I do not write much but felt compelled to write this for 2 reasons;

  1. This past March in the weight room, I approached a kid who was a freshman wide receiver who just got done playing basketball. He was there the day after basketball season for football off-season lifting. Since I coach freshman wide receivers during the football season, I had already talked with this athlete many times about doing track in the spring. So, I asked him one more time and his response was “I don’t think so, I want to get big for football next year.” I was quite taken aback by this because; one, I was his wide receiver coach this past year and will be again next year, two because our head football coach is our assistant throws coach for track, and three because we were in the weight room in which my entire track program was doing the same exact lifting program he was. This made me realize that despite mine and other coach’s encouragement for our athletes to do multiple sports there is still a perception among many youth and families that track will not allow you to gain muscle strength and even make you lose weight.
  2. I recently read an article about a track coach who determined that when he had football players doing the football lifting during track season they actually ran slower than guys who were not doing the lifting.


I would like to try and debunk both of these misnomers and show the correlation between an increase in speed and an increase in strength. A little about Plainfield East where I coach first. I am currently the head boys track coach at Plainfield East and have been since the building opened. We had our 1st season in 2009 with just freshman and sophomores. I have also coached football at the F/S level for the past 4 seasons with my focus on wide receivers. For the past four seasons, Mike Romeli the Head Varsity football coach has been an assistant with the track program, coaching the throwers and developing our weightlifting program. We continually evaluate and refine our weightlifting program to fit the needs of the sprinters/jumpers/throwers. Every athlete in those event areas that are out for track completes the lifting program, whether they are in football or not. They don’t have the option. Meaning, the football players that come out for track do the same exact lifting program that those players that just play football do.


My goal in sharing the data below is to present the correlation between strength & speed. The best indicator for team speed in track and field is the 4×1. Here are our 4×1 times and other relay times from the past 4 seasons since we have adopted our current training model.


4×100 Relay

2013 = 42.12 (*dropped baton in State Final 3rd exchange, on pace for under 42 sec.)

2014 = 42.49

2015 = 42.20

2016 = 42.17


4×200 Relay

2013 = 1:29.34

2014 = 1:26.97

2015 = 1:26.78

2016 = 1:28.12 (*dropped baton at Sectionals 3rd exchange, on pace for high 1:26, low 1:27, dead even with Minooka & Neuqua)


4×400 Relay

2013 = 3:20.74

2014 = 3:23.85

2015 = 3:19.97

2016 = 3:26.67


All of these relays had at least 2 football players on them but that doesn’t matter to me because all of our sprinters complete the football lifting program throughout the season whether or not they play football.


Below is more data broken down individually. There are 12 athletes listed and all are football & track athletes. I choose just football/track athletes to try and convince future football players that they can still ‘get big’ while competing in track and field. The other side of it is they will also ‘get fast’


Bench Hang Clean 40 yd Dash Personal Events
2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016 2015 2016
Carter: Jr.-Sr. 235 245 205 215 4.59 4.55 100m= 11.33 100m= 11.25
200m= 22.95 200m= 22.14
400m= 49.69 400m= 49.44
Hutt: Jr.-Sr. 185 225 200 225 4.61 4.57 100m= 11.43 100m= 11.35
400m= 53.5 400m= 53.1
300IH= 41.47 300IH= 41.28
Coughlin: Fr.-So. 200 235 195 225 4.78 4.64 100m= 11.68 100m= 11.35
200m= 24.03 200m= 23.13
400m= 52.98 400m= 52.55
Schramm: So.-Jr. 175 205 170 205 4.91 4.72 100m= 11.77 100m= 11.67
200m= 25.01 200m= 23.30
400m= 54.70 400m= 52.82
Kiska: So.-Jr. 190 225 195 215 4.78 4.73 100m= 11.68 100m= 11.60
200m= 25.34 200m= 24.82
400m= 52.01 400m= 51.84
Hickman: Fr.-So. 200 235 190 205 4.91 4.79 100m= 11.90 100m= 11.78
200m= 24.90 200m= 24.04
400m= 57.70 400m= 52.70
Dorencz: Fr.-So. 165 185 155 185 5.33 5.03 110HH= 21.48 110HH= 19.64
300IH= 51.25 300IH= 47.73
Keubeng: Fr.-So. 130 175 120 195 5.07 4.91 High Jump= 5’7 High Jump= 5’11
Long Jump= 18’6 Long Jump= 20’1
400m= 55.6 400m= 54.8
K. Young: Fr.-So. 155 195 N/A 165 4.95 4.83 Long Jump= 18’7 Long Jump= 19’5
100m= 12.05 100m= 11.88
200m= 26.86 200m= 24.93
Planer: Fr.-So. 140 180 105 145 5.01 4.94 100m= 12.42 100m= 12.12
200m= 26.30 200m= 25.85
Edom: So.-Jr. N/A 175 145 195 4.95 4.90 Long Jump= 19’10 Long Jump= 20’4
Triple Jump= 39’4 Triple Jump= 42’0
Alexander: Jr.-Sr. 245 260 205 225 4.89 4.83 Pole Vault= 12’9 Pole Vault= 13’7
200m = 25.59 200m= 24.87




Here is the breakdown of how and when we collect this data. First off, the 12 athletes are comprised of 3 Seniors, 3 Juniors, and 6 Sophomores. Our sophomore class accounted for over a 1/3 of our team this year and many play football. That is why they make up about ½ of the 12. I also did not include freshman because this data was to observe their year to year improvements and we only have one year so far. We max out on bench and hang clean right before spring break. Usually, the week before or of Illinois Prep Top Times. The 40 yard dashes is the average of all the 40 yd timed dashes we did throughout that year. Two times in each of the months of Dec., Jan., Feb., Mar., and once in April and May (only once during the outdoor season because we switch more to flys and because of more weekday meets). Each session consists of 3 timed 40s. Their average for each year then is taken from the 30 they do throughout the season. I wonder how often guys who just go to a speed development trainer got timed in a 40 this winter & spring?


I believe this data speaks for itself. As Coach Romeli and I have collected and compiled this data the past few years, we of course have seen that usually the guys that have dropped the most times in their 40s and in their own track performances have made the most gains in the weight room. There is a direct correlation that you can see improvement in both areas of strength and speed at the same time. It does not have to be one or the other. You can ‘have your cake and eat it to’ so to speak. There is another reason for the correlation, these kids work really hard and of course are going to see improvement. They are young athletes and if they invest themselves in the process their hard work is going to pay off. Now that kid I mentioned before that wanted to ‘get big’ is a good kid and shows up every day to football lifting. There is no doubt he has gotten stronger to help him in football, but what has he done to make himself faster? The Bears moved up to draft Leonard Floyd at #9 because of his extreme athleticism. Laquan Treadwell moved down the draft board because his lack of a good 40 time. Treadwell might end up being the best receiver drafted but Corey Coleman was taken as the 1st wide receiver because of his speed (he did high school track by the way). Perhaps this is why Laquan’s little brother is doing track and field currently at Crete-Monee.


You can bet that I will be making that freshman wider receiver from last year look at this data because I know if he commits to the program he will end up being a contributor to our program. I see many kids come out for track and field as sophomores because they see at the start of sophomore football that their teammates that did track in the off-season are all of the sudden bigger and Faster.

They don’t want to fall any more behind.

Comments 1

  1. Good article, coach. I wrote the article on football lifting you refer to here. I in no way was suggesting that lifting in general makes you slow. In fact, I linked our entire lifting program in the article, and I am assuming we do more than most teams in the state. Maybe I did not make the point clear enough that the TYPE of lifting you do has a great impact on speed. You state that my article shows that “football players doing the football lifting during track season…actually ran slower than guys who were not doing the lifting.” My point was that track athletes doing TRACK lifting in the spring performed better than track athletes doing FOOTBALL lifting in the spring. Major difference.

    There are a couple reasons the football lifting “hindered” our athletes in certain ways. Those who were lifting heavy one day were useless for our speed workouts the next day (or in some cases they squatted during their lunch period the day of a speed workout). Another “problem” with the football lifting is that often it did not line up with our recovery days. We would have an easy day planned, but the football players would do heavy lifts. The timing and type of lifting was more critical than the actual act of lifting itself.

    Overall, I am a fan of lifting. I spend hours on our in-season and off-season program every year. Our goal is to make the kids faster, of course, so that is what our lifting is geared around. I personally improved dramatically in college when I focused on lifting more. Hopefully most coaches didn’t take away from my article that lifting is bad. It’s great…if you do it right.

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