Speed development for NRL athletes

Unlocking Speed: Insights from Nathan Kiely, Rehab and Speed Coach for Brisbane Broncos


Speed is a crucial attribute for athletes in the National Rugby League (NRL). To gain a deeper understanding of the key components of speed development, we turn to Nathan Kiely, a highly regarded rehab and speed coach for the Brisbane Broncos, who specializes in speed development for NRL athletes. In a recent interview on YouTube, Kiely shared valuable insights into enhancing speed, emphasizing the significance of sprinting, the systematic approach to skill development, athlete assessment, and common mistakes to avoid. Let’s delve into his expertise and discover how athletes can unlock their full-speed potential.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Secrets behind maximizing speed potential in NRL athletes
  • How Nathan sets position-specific strength targets to optimize athletes’ roles on the field
  • Common mistakes athletes do when improving speed
  • What a successful speed session looks like
  • Supplementary exercises for injured athletes to prepare them for sprinting on their comeback

People mentioned:

  • Roger Farber
  • David Boyle
  • Sam Kennedy
  • Graeme Morris
  • Nathan Parnham
  • Ross Herridge
  • Dave Ballard
  • Dean Benton
  • Jonas Tawiah Dodoo

The Primacy of Sprinting

According to Kiely, the most overlooked aspect of speed development is the act of sprinting itself. He stresses that athletes must dedicate ample practice time to sprinting, as it is the primary factor in becoming faster. While other training methods have their place, nothing can substitute for the actual task. By prioritizing sprinting, athletes can focus on refining their technique and maximizing their speed potential.

Systematic Skill Development

In addition to sprinting, Kiely highlights the importance of a systematic approach to developing the key components that underpin running competency. He identifies lumbar pelvic control, leg stiffness, and the ability to rapidly switch limbs in space as crucial skills for speed. By implementing a systemized training program targeting these components, athletes can enhance their overall running ability and ultimately improve their speed on the field.

Assessing Athletes

Understanding an athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, and physical qualities is vital in designing an effective speed development program. Kiely emphasizes the significance of athlete assessment based on factors such as position, age, and individual physical qualities. The Brisbane Broncos employ a comprehensive standardized testing battery, tailored to each position, to establish benchmarks for performance evaluation. This data-driven approach ensures a customized training program for every athlete, maximizing their speed development potential.

Common Mistakes and Solutions

When it comes to improving speed, Kiely points out some common mistakes athletes make and offers valuable solutions. One common error is a lack of intensity in sprint efforts, often due to inadequate recovery. Kiely stresses the importance of allowing sufficient recovery time between sprint repetitions to prevent excessive fatigue, which hampers speed development. Athletes should prioritize quality over quantity, ensuring they have the energy to generate the required outputs for optimal adaptation.

Organizing a Successful Speed Session

Kiely also provides insights into organizing a successful speed session. He recommends allocating 10 to 15 minutes for low-level preparation, including targeted mobility work to enhance hip mobility and activation exercises for the lumbar pelvic region. This warm-up routine helps athletes establish proper control and integrity in these areas. Additionally, dynamic movements are incorporated to raise body temperature and improve blood flow, preparing the body for optimal performance during speed training sessions.

Supplementary Exercises for Injured Athletes

For athletes undergoing rehabilitation and unable to perform sprints, Kiely suggests supplementary exercises and drills to maintain and enhance their speed-related qualities. The selection of these exercises depends on the specific injury being addressed. For instance, if an athlete has a hamstring injury, high-intensity drilling and change direction work can help load the calf-ankle-foot complex and replicate some aspects of sprinting. By carefully tailoring supplementary exercises, injured athletes can continue their speed development journey and seamlessly reintegrate into sprinting once they have fully recovered.


Nathan Kiely, the rehab and speed coach for the Brisbane Broncos, offers valuable insights into speed development for NRL athletes. His emphasis on sprinting as the primary factor in speed improvement, along with the need for a systematic approach to skill development, athlete assessment, and proper organization of speed sessions, provides athletes with a comprehensive roadmap for unlocking their speed potential. By avoiding common mistakes and incorporating supplementary exercises during injury rehabilitation

Listen: iTunes | Spotify

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