This is it... the final part of my interview with Travis Hansen.
After this, you have no excuse for not running faster.
Here. We. Go.
YB: What are your thoughts on genetics and speed? How much does the former influence the latter? And what can you do as an athlete if you’re not blessed with a relatively high distribution of fast-twitch muscle fibers at birth?
TH: ACTN-3 or Alpha-actinin-3 is being deemed as the speed gene by some and genetics are influential to adaptation and progress, no doubt.
This speed based gene manufactures a protein found specifically in fast twitch skeletal muscle fibers that serves various roles in human running speed. I've read some information that every high level olympic sprinter that was tested for the gene came back positive.
With that being said, far too many athletes fall into the trap of blaming their alleged poor genetics or whatever else, even though they haven't been specifically tested.
Also, many athletes respond very well to speed training and make great progress who have poor baselines when they start. The genetic issue weeds itself out naturally at the elite levels and most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
The reality is that even if someone has a poor predisposition to running fast, there is so many channels in the nervous system and muscles that athletes and coaches can capitalize on to become faster through training and nutrition and proper recovery methods.
Hormone levels, muscle growth, muscle recruitment, and so much more contribute to someone's speed and everyone can utilize these features to their benefit and become faster. I've seen it too many times in athletes who came in who I'm quite confident were poor responders genetically.
YB: Let’s dive into sprinting technique for a moment. What are some typical technique flaws athletes make when trying to run fast that slow them down without them even realizing it?
TH: #1 - Pure lack of effort.
It sounds ridiculously simple but a majority of athletes will not bust their ass and sprint as fast possible when given the chance to test or train a speed exercise.
Some hear they need to stay relaxed which is wrong as the body naturally rotates between remarkably fast phases of relaxation and tension during athletic movements such as sprinting, and others just aren't self aware of their intensity when sprinting.
Either way, athletes need to be made aware of this limiting factor so that they can become faster with such a simple fix.
Another reason could be the overpour of conditioning that athletes encounter from the coaches which has conditioned their cell's energy systems and muscles to operate at a certain speed and anything more is perceived as foreign to the body.
YB: I know you like to use resisted sprint variations with your athletes. Why are sleds and Prowlers so effective as speed training tools?
TH: Sleds are very hard to perform wrong.
Or if someone does execute a sled drill improperly, the body typically indicates the weakness or weaknesses and you can then direct your training to alleviate the identified error with other exercises or coaching cues.
Research also shows time and time again that sleds are reliable and fantastic tools for building acceleration and we've already discussed the value of increased acceleration in sport.
YB: In The Speed Encyclopedia, you also devote an entire chapter to nutrition for athletes.
I’ve noticed that many young athletes have horrible eating habits, especially these days when nobody teaches them the basics of what and how to eat for performance at home or at school.
Can you point out two or three common diet mistakes athletes are guilty of when trying to build muscle, get leaner and fuel their performance in and out of the gym?
TH: Poor nutrient combining and timing.
Athletes still need to recognize the value each macronutrient or protein, fat, and carb has to offer in their overall ability to perform, recover, and stay healthy.
Often time athletes will focus too much attention on just one nutrient (i.e. lean protein) and dismiss all of the essential value the other two have nutritionally. Probably because there is so much controversy and confusion provided by the mainstream media in this arena.
The truth is athletes need to properly combine all 3 nutrients at pretty much each and every meal to maximize their nutrition and performance.
Meal timing and frequency is another area where I notice many athletes go wrong. Most notably, pre-workout nutrition, intra-workout, and post-workout. All 3 phases can benefit an athlete who is looking to build muscle and recover faster, and usually only one of these phases is being practiced optimally.
YB: Travis, thanks again for doing this. Where can my readers find more about you and get in touch with you?
I write regularly for a host of websites. Here are some links to past articles I've written:
My 2 personal websites:
And my book page:
YB: You should definitely check out Travis' speed book.
It's a great resource for athletes and coaches, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in improving their speed.
Grab your copy at:
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Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.