How Rest Will Make You Run Faster

Why The Fatigue Factor Is Important In Speed Development

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Photo: Tom Merton from Getty Images Pro via Canva

Rest is often an overlooked variable in speed development.

This was one of the key messages from Dr Mike Young as part of his presentation: “Developing Game Speed” at the 2020 Proformance Child to Champion USA online conference.

What is the significance of rest?

According to Young, sprinting at an intensity of 95%+ of your maximum speed is required to stimulate improvements in speed. If you are running below this intensity, you are not optimally promoting speed development.
He says that sprinting at less than 90% of maximal speed does not improve performance.
Therefore, any factors that negatively affect a young athlete’s ability to perform sprint efforts at 95%+ need to be acknowledged and managed.


One of the most significant factors is fatigue. Fatigue will constrain intensity, regardless of how hard the athlete tries.
Athletes are more likely to be able to sprint at an intensity of 95%+ in the absence of fatigue.
Fatigue will negatively impact the neuromuscular, energy system and mechanical performance of the athlete. This will in turn affect the athlete’s ability to sprint fast and at the intensity required for speed gains.
An athlete’s feeling of “tiredness” is not a reliable measure of fatigue. Be aware that performance can be constrained by fatigue in the absence of the athlete feeling fatigued or reporting that they feel fatigued.

Factors Affecting Fatigue

“We cannot optimally develop speed-power under high states of fatigue.”

Mike Young, PhD

Young outlines some factors that affect fatigue:

Order of Training Elements

Speed training should be scheduled at a point in the session when the athletes are more likely to be fresh and not yet in a state of fatigue. Therefore it makes sense to perform speed development training early in a session, up-front after a thorough warm up.

Managing Decrement

For speed gains, we want to keep keep quality of movement & quality of effort high to keep the intensity as high as possible. We need to strive to see how close can we stay to an unfatigued level of performance, otherwise we risk an increased chance of injury, rehearsal of bad mechanics, and a lowered average intensity of the session.

Managing Total Volume

“When training speed, the emphasis should ALWAYS be on quality rather than volume. Quality of Movement. Quality of effort.”

Mike Young, PhD

Speed training should never be a “grind”. “More” is usually not better when it comes to speed training. At its best, “more” can be a waste of time; at its worst, it is inviting injury. Mike Young suggests a total session volume of around 250 metres or the equivalent time it takes an athlete to sprint this distance, as being appropriate for speed development. For younger athletes, less may be better.

Exercise Intensity

Sprinting intensity refers to how close it is to 100% maximum sprint velocity. We need our sprint intensity to be high to get a sprint training stimulus and we can’t let this intensity drop if we are to gain the benefits we are seeking.

Otherwise, we may get a situation where the athlete is trying as hard as possible but cannot produce the output we want to see.

Intra Set & Intra Rep Rest

A certain amount of rest is required between repetitions and sets to exhibit the speed and power qualities we are after. If we don’t allow sufficient rest then we will see the intensity of the performance constrained by fatigue.

A short recovery between sprints has its uses, but are not recommended where the aim is to develop maximum running velocity.

Mike Young suggests that 1-minute of rest between repetitions for every 10 metres of running is an appropriate guide.

The further an athlete sprints at high intensity during training, the more minutes of recovery they need before doing another sprint.

Over To You!

Start to think about how you can better manage the fatigue factor during speed development sessions. Try using some of the above suggestions. I would love to hear how it goes. Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.

Further reading

Mike Young Twitter Account

Proformance Website

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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