Motion Sciencetm

Level II * Physical Attributes


There are three types of speed which relate to athletic performance.

Miles-per-hour speed
Reaction timing speed
Initial speed.

Miles-Per-Hour Speed

Miles-per-hour speed is simply the time it take to travel a certain distance. Most people have similar miles-per-hour speed in individual movements. Speed in multiple movements, like hand combinations or running, can vary greatly from person to person, since factors such as coordination and strength are involved. As an example, most people can do an individual movement like swatting a fly or stepping on a brake at about the same rate of speed. An average person can make an individual movement in about 8 one-hundredths of a second. This natural speed can be improved slightly, but a gain in miles-per-hour speed of an individual movement is not the key factor in increasing speed in athletic performance.

Reaction Timing Speed

Reaction timing speed is also similar in most people. There is an exception to this. That exception is that one person's reaction timing speed in a highly trained movement can be significantly faster than that of an average person in the same movement. This is because of the high repetition involved in developing the trained movement and the efficiency that is achieved. Average reaction timing speed is about 20 one-hundredths of a second. Highly trained reaction speed can be as low as 10 to 12 one-hundredths of a second. To improve reaction timing speed, a person must do many repetitions over a long period of time. Notice, however, that the fastest reaction timing speed is slower than an average person's miles-per-hour speed.

Initial Speed

If miles per hour speed and reaction timing speed are similar in many people, and if the improvement of these speeds can be increased only to a certain level, there must be another factor that allows one person to be consistently faster than another person. This factor is initial speed, or how fast movement starts.

Although it is effected by inherent slow twitch vs. fast twitch fibers in the muscles, initial speed is still the one type of speed that a person has the most control over improving. It is the act of coming from non-action to action and is a function of coordination. Since an opponent will react to the first thing he or she sees, a slow starting speed, meaning it is broadcasted or telegraphed, will allow the opponent to open range or change angle, rendering the attack harmless. If on the other hand, the first thing perceived by the opponent is the attack in motion (assuming the correct distance is used), it is much harder for the opponent to escape.

Therefore, the truly fast athletes have better than average starting speed, or initial speed. And, to attain this fast starting speed, the athlete must first train his or her movements in a slow deliberate manner to learn the proper starting sequence, timing, coordination, and line and/or path of the movement. Once this is learned, the rate of speed of the movement can begin to be increased, thus positively influencing overall speed and athletic performance.


There are many conditions that can be placed on and describe speed in athletic performance. Although some people are naturally faster than others, improvement of miles-per-hour speed, reaction timing speed, and initial speed will allow each person to reach their highest level of speed in their movements.

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