Speed Kills

Anita! So stoked you are back

Anita! So stoked you are back

I was never a big heavy weight, when I was in my prime I never weighed over 217, 219, but me and my trainer Cus D’Amato, we always put a great deal of emphasis on our speed and combinations. He always told me “speed kills, speed is what kills, the speed kills”.–Mike Tyson

The “speed kills” quote might have come from D’Amato, but I have also heard it ascribed to Sugar Ray Leonard and even earlier to Sugar Ray Robinson, the pound-for-pound best ever (I guess you have to be fast to get the nickname ‘Sugar’). The idea, if not the phrase, is probably even older than Robinson. The concept of speed kills is certainly not unique to boxing. Look at Muay Thai superstar Saenchai, or jujutsu champ Rafael Mendes.

Speed is an absolutely integral part of so many sports and physical activities, and weightlifting is no different. Coaches like to use the phrase ‘speed through the middle’. What we mean is the hips nearing the top of the 2nd pull and dropping down and back into the 3rd pull. Speed here is essential. Check out this video of the best weightlifter in the world Ilya Ilin (Kazakhstan, 94kg) snatching 440 pounds off blocks.

Yeah, that’s pretty damn fast.

A real key to quicker and thus heavier Olympic lifts is driving the hips back and down as absolutely quickly as you can. Once you have reached full extension, there is nothing to be gained by hanging out there. The bar has stopped any upward momentum and gravity is starting affect it. You want to get under the bar as quickly as possible.

Speed is also a huge component in many other common movements found in CrossFit. Take kipping pullups, for example. Too many people float through the movement, letting momentum and thus gravity dictate how fast each rep is. By pushing aggressively away from the bar the moment the chin is above it, you can speed up each rep as the subsequent kip will be faster (in a non-butterfly kip).

How about kettlebell swings? A lot of time is wasted at the very top of the swing. Again, do not depend on gravity to bring the bell back down. Using your lats and anterior chain, actively pull the bell down each time. This will dramatically speed up repetition time.

Speed kills. How can you speed up each movement?