THE IMPORTANCE OF TOP SPEED TRAINING FOR ATHLETES

By Travis Hansen

I think if you were to ask how many coaches and trainers throughout the country find it beneficial to integrate “Top Speed” work into their training on a regular basis with all of their athletes, the answer would be very few. I can see why most would neglect this approach since it’s not always specific, but I think there are several reasons for why it would help complement a total athletic training program, and develop other common qualities as well. Below I’m going to discuss a few reasons why I think you should implement this type of training with all of your athletes regardless of their sport.

 

#1: Top Speed –> Acceleration –>   First Step Continuum

           

            Jimson Lee over at speedendurance.com shared a 100 meter split analysis a few years back that really made me realize just how important it was to have great top speed even if your sport is primarily reliant on maximal power and acceleration capacity across short distances (10-20 yards). Here is the table below.

sprinterchart THE IMPORTANCE OF TOP SPEED TRAINING FOR ATHLETES

What you will notice in this chart is that each of these elite sprinters 10, 20, and 40 meter splits are insanely fast when you consider all of the variables. For example, Bolt who we all know is not the strongest starter, still yields a 2.87 second 20 meter split! If he were timed utilizing a combine approach (half electronic) and measured in yards it would be even more impressive. What’s important to understand here is that having great top speed requires that you be able to create an explosive first step and accelerate rapidly, and it builds each of these skills as a natural by-product of this style of training. I like to call it the “Top Down Relationship.” If you analyze the 10 and 20 yard splits from any of the elite combine performers who recorded a blazing 40 yard dash, you will immediately realize all three work together to elicit a better overall split. Anecdotally, I’ve also noticed my fastest athletes over the years generally dominated every phase of a sprint or speed based activity, not just one. Furthermore, a study in 2012 by Triplett showed that most sports do involve running at maximum speed and it could help improve athletic performance. 1 Now I know many are going to automatically attempt to rebuttal the study I shared and the whole notion of top speed training by saying that the ratio of plays performed at top speed is minimal, and that mainly the need to increase speed quickly through better acceleration is much more critical than how fast the athlete is capable of running. I wouldn’t argue this by any means, but I think there is more too be appreciated with top speed training for athletes.

First, lets look at Westside Barbell’s training template. It consists of max effort heavy work and dynamic effort speed based work. I view linear speed and sprint work in much the same light. The start and short distance stuff helps build and express single leg strength and power, while longer distance sprinting at or near top speed helps really build speed and power. Some of the adaptations derived from each working distance will be different as well. At the start, there is very little momentum and longer ground contact times. An ideal scenario to apply as much strength as possible. As an athlete picks up speed we move to the other end of the spectrum and now momentum is high and ground contact times are very short. I displayed a chart in my book that showed the average ground contact range of a sprint at .08-.12 tenths of a second depending on the speed of an athlete. Not very much time to apply force to say the least, thus the need to possess very high levels of speed and power to prevent any deceleration and loss in speed. Moreover, don’t you think if an athlete possesses great muscle recruitment velocities at top speed with very little time to produce force into the ground, doing so at the start with much more time to apply force will be relatively easier and they will be faster there?

The next reason why I think top speed work is so valuable for athletes is due to the fact that it is very hip dominant in nature. Check out the picture below and you will see what I mean….

sprinter THE IMPORTANCE OF TOP SPEED TRAINING FOR ATHLETES(Photo courtesy of palmbeachpost.com)

Look at how far behind the hips the balance foot is at push-off. Pure hip dominance and hyperextension!

What do vertical jumping, broad jumping, planting, cutting, braking, balancing, a hip turn, crossover step, swinging, throwing etc. all share in common? The need for powerful and strong hips, and top speed work serves a great specific source of training for improving this ability. Charlie Weingroff and Bret Contreras also had some good research on just how active the glutes and hips are during sprinting. “Finally, hip strength appears to be more important than knee or ankle strength as far as sprinting is concerned, and the hip extensors are likely the most important muscles for forward propulsion (2,10,14,25,29,36,46).” 2

Last but not least, top speed training creates a strong metabolic disturbance inside our body and really helps develop the alactic energy system pathway, so that we are in better sport specific shape, and so that we can improve our speed endurance and nearly sustain our peak speed performances over several repetitions.

So how do we improve our top speed exactly? Like other skills, I don’t think there is a single best technique you can perform, and it’s going to be based on the structural strengths and weaknesses of any given individual. However, in my experience there definitely does seem to be re-occuring techniques that help get the job done well. Here is a list of drills that I recommend along with a video of one of my favorite drills: “The Modified Reverse Hyper.” I took this one from my friend/mentor Kelly Baggett. Kelly is absolutely brilliant and used a heavy dumbbell originally, but we’ve found that plates work better as a means of adding overload throughout a training cycle.

 

THE TOP 5 TOP SPEED DEVELOPMENT EXERCISES:

#1-40 OR 60 YARD DASHES

#2-FLYING SPRINTS

#3-MODIFIED REVERSE HYPERS

#4-HEAVY SINGLE LEG WORK (RDL’S, LUNGES, SPLIT SQUATS, ETC.)

#5-LOW FREQUENCY PLYOMETRICS (BOUNDING VARIATIONS, BROAD JUMPS, TUCK JUMPS, BARRING JUMPS, HIGH HURDLE JUMPS, ETC.)

 

I just want to add a bit more before I leave you on the reverse hyper and the other drills as well. First, I hope all of the ladies noticed my killer hair wings as I was providing Scott a spot. Second, you will notice that the reverse hyper literally replicates the same range of motion and joint action angle as top speed sprinting. As a result, this specific strength exercise will have vast carryover as soon as an athlete starts to become more upright after the start and initial acceleration phase during a sprint.

On a final note, the heavy single leg work and low frequency plyometrics do an absolutely fantastic job at making sure that an athlete can counter high impacts that occur during the landing phase of a sprint. I’ve noticed that often times athletes will lose overall leg stiffness and collapse as they try and increase their speed. A number of things occur when this happens that causes deceleration or the loss of speed. Dominate these drills and you will immediately notice better economy and a “gliding” action as athletes quickly bounce off the running surface quickly into their next stride.

 

SCIENTIFIC REFERENCES:

#1-Triplett, T. Power Associations with running speed. Strength and Conditioning Journal 34: 29-33, 2012.

#2-http://charlieweingroff.com/pdf/TheTopFiveGluteExercises.pdf

 

Coach Travis Hansen is Director of the Reno Speed School and author of the speed development book ‘The Speed Encyclopedia‘.

speedencyclopediabook 192x300 THE IMPORTANCE OF TOP SPEED TRAINING FOR ATHLETES

**If you’re a speed training nerd like us, you should definitely check out this resource – The Speed Encyclopedia.

 

Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility

By Dr. Evan Osar

Introduction

If you coach speed or agility you will undoubtedly encounter athletes that demonstrate frontal plane instability when running or performing agility drills. Frontal plane instability, more accurately this can be described as a loss of control in the frontal plane, can be a common yet overlooked cause of decreased speed and agility in your athletes. In this article, we will look at how loss of frontal plane control impedes many athletes from achieving optimal performance and how this relates to loss of speed and agility in your athletes. We will introduce an exercise progression specifically designed to improve frontal plane control so you can help your athletes maximize development of speed and agility while also reducing their risk of injury.

Control of Frontal Plane Motion

Frontal plane control (stability) is crucial to optimal force production and reduction in athletes. Optimal control in the frontal plane enables an athlete to plant their foot into the ground, decelerate their momentum, reduce ground reaction forces and generate force required to either propel their body forward, to change direction, or strike a ball.

 

Image 1 126x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityImage 3 300x201 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 2 199x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 4 268x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility
Images 1-4: Examples of the need for frontal plane control – standing on one leg, changing direction, supporting on one leg to kick a ball, shifting body weight to strike a tennis ball

 

As mentioned in the introduction, a very common and often overlooked component of developing speed and agility is the loss of frontal plane control. When your athlete has lost front plane control you will notice either a pelvic drop or lateral shift (image 5) or the individual will side bend their trunk over their stance leg if they have compensated (image 6) when he/she stands on one leg. Loss of frontal plane control can alter force production in the hip complex resulting in slower speeds and/or reaction times, result in stress of the knee or in the ankle-foot complex, and can also manifest as chronic low back tightness and pelvic/sacroiliac dysfunction.

 

Image 5 178x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityImage 6 121x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility
Non-optimal frontal plane control while standing on one leg; loss of pelvic control (left) and compensatory side bend for loss of control (right)

 

Often you will note a loss of speed and/or agility when the athlete is performing their drills because they have to compensate and overuse other muscle(s) and/or strategies to balance and produce/reduce force. Improving frontal plane control then becomes a priority for these athletes so they can both maximize performance and diminish the risk of injury.

Since it garners so much attention in both the rehabilitation and speed conditioning settings it is important to identify the role of the gluteus medius in providing frontal plane stability before addressing the specific exercises to improve control. As you are aware, the gluteus medius attaches to the lateral aspect of the pelvis and inserts onto the greater trochanter of the femur and is important in providing frontal plane pelvic and hip stability.

There is no lack of exercises addressing the gluteus medius – the muscle most blamed for the lack of frontal plane control. Clam shells, lying hip abduction, and lateral band walks are just three of the over dozen gluteus medius specific exercises athletes perform when rehabbing a current injury or as part of their dynamic warm up. While targeting the gluteus medius with these exercises works for some individuals, there are still many athletes that will not demonstrate improved frontal plane control using these types of exercises.

One of the biggest reasons these exercises fail to change control when standing one leg is that they don’t adequately address how the trunk and spine relate to hip and pelvic stability. The gluteus medius is part of the lateral kinetic chain and to improve its’ function, you must address the entire lateral chain including the trunk and spine.

Image 7 142x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityThe lateral chain, comprised of the ipsilateral (same side) oblique abdominals, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, intercostals, lateral fibers of the gluteal complex, and vastus lateralis, connect the ipsilateral shoulder and hip complexes with the trunk and spine (image to left). While active in all movements, the lateral chain is most responsible for controlling frontal plane motion.

 

The Modified Side Lying Bridge for Frontal Plane Control

The modified side lying bridge – a modification of a DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization) pattern – is one of the most effective corrective exercise patterns we have found for developing frontal plane control in our athletes. What makes this pattern so effective is that it develops stability through the core while connecting both the ipsilateral shoulder and hip complexes to the trunk and pelvis.

The pattern is broken down into 3 phases and each level is designed to improve the components necessary to reach the next level. It is common for athletes to be progressed too quickly through the pattern without developing the prerequisite stability in the shoulder, trunk, and/or hip regions. Stability or control in these regions is necessary prior to progressing to the more advanced patterns which I will introduce in part II since these more advanced exercises will cause the athlete to break down and/or develop additional compensatory patterns if they can have not developed prior stability.

 

Level 1

The athlete lies on his side with the ipsilateral shoulder and hip flexed to 90 degrees and 75 degrees respectively. His shoulder and hips are stacked and his spine is in neutral alignment. He contracts isometrically to push his left elbow and knee into the floor. This contraction activates the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior of his support shoulder (the one he is lying on) and the gluteal complex of his support hip (the one he is lying on). It also helps connect the shoulder and hip with the trunk and spine. He holds this contraction for 5 seconds and repeats for 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions. Throughout each of the progressions, the athlete’s core should be activated and their spine should remain neutral.

 

Image 8 1024x341 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityLevel 1 (isometric shoulder-trunk, hip-knee support)

 

The athlete then assumes the position and activation from above however in this version he is supported upon his forearm and hip-knee. Similarly he pushes his knee down into the floor and maintains a neutral alignment of his trunk and spine while holding this position for 5 seconds and then relaxes for 10 seconds. He repeats the pattern for 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions of 5-second holds.

Image 9 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityLevel 2 (isometric forearm and hip-knee support)

 

Level 3

The client assumes the position and activation from level 2. He then lifts himself up so that he is supported on both his elbow and knee. He holds for 3 seconds and slowly returns to the starting position. He repeats for 2-3 sets 5-10 repetitions.

 

Image 10 1024x616 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityLevel 3

 

Regardless of the level your client has achieved, this pattern is a great way to activate the lateral chain prior to walking, running, or performing agility drills. In other words, even the level 1 pattern can be effective at activating the lateral chain for those athletes that don’t have the shoulder, trunk, or hip stability required for the higher patterns.

Many of your athletes require improved frontal plane stability. As we have discussed, the gluteus medius is an important part of the lateral chain responsible for frontal plane control. By helping your athletes improve activation of the gluteus medius as part of the lateral chain and integrate this function with the trunk and pelvis they will begin to demonstrate improved control when you get them into the upright position. In part II of this series, we will introduce a more advanced version of this pattern and demonstrate a progression to incorporate the lateral chain into the upright position.

 

PART II

Earlier in this article we discussed how many athletes lose speed and/or agility from the lack of optimal frontal plane control (stability). We discussed that while the gluteus medius is an important muscle of frontal plane control, it is part of the lateral chain which is responsible for control especially in single leg support and when shifting the body through the frontal plane. Loss of frontal plane control manifests not only as decreases in speed and/or agility but can also present as a common cause of overuse injuries of the low back, hip, knee, and/or ankle-foot complex.

We introduced the side lying isometric pattern to improve activation of the gluteus medius and incorporate its’ function into the lateral chain. In this article I will show you an advanced progression of that exercise and demonstrate how to transition your athlete into the upright position so that they can develop improved integration of the lateral chain.

 

Advanced Modified Side Lying Bridge Pattern

In the advanced progression, the client assumes the position and activation from the previous patterns. He lifts himself so that he is supported completely upon his forearm and knee. He holds this position for 2 seconds while reaching out with his free arm and then returns to the starting position. He repeats this exercise for 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions. In this pattern, the athlete is supported on his knee rather than on his ankle and foot since this enables activation of the hip complex rather than bypassing this region which occurs in the traditional side bridge patterns.

Image 11 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 21 1024x622 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityModified Side Lying Bridge Pattern – Advanced

 

Now that the athlete has developed improved control it is important to incorporate this function into the upright position. While there are a number of patterns that can be used, we generally use the split squat position as it helps the athlete identify and feel where they should have control. The focus is primarily on the front leg mechanics during the pattern.

The athlete begins in the split stance position where approximately 70-80% of their weight is on their forward leg and 20-30% is on the rear leg.

  1. The individual first aligns their TPC (thoracopelvic canister) so that their trunk is positioned over the pelvis and the spine and pelvis are neutral. The pelvis is neutral when it is in a slight anterior pelvic tilt.
  2. Next they position the foot of the front leg so that it is in the tripod position where there is the most contact under digit #1 (big toe), digit #5 (small toe), and the calcaneus (heel).
  3. Finally they ensure that their hip, knee and ankle-foot complex are aligned. From the front you should be able to draw a relatively straight line through the hip, knee, and first two digits of the foot when the athlete is in ideal alignment.

 

See images below for examples of optimal and non-optimal alignment in the split stance position.

 

Image 41 199x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 51 199x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 31 210x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility
Optimal alignment in the split stance position – neutral pelvis (slight anterior pelvic tilt when viewed from the side and level when viewed from the front and back), hip-knee-ankle-foot tripod aligned (left); optimal alignment of the lower extremity however non-optimal alignment of the pelvis – it is laterally tilted in the frontal plane and the trunk and spine are not aligned (middle); optimal alignment of the pelvis however non-optimal alignment of lower extremity – knee is excessively abducted (right)

Image 61 199x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 7 116x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 81 179x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 91 133x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility
Split squat

 

Once the athlete has achieved optimal alignment, they perform the split squat where the focus remains on the mechanics of the forward leg in frontal plane control. The athlete focus on eccentric control as they lower their body and then lifting their body up and over their front foot during the concentric phase. It is important to pay close attention to ensure that the athlete’s pelvis remains level and in an anterior pelvic tilt and their spine remains straight through the pattern as loss of frontal plane control can manifest even in these relatively low level patterns. This pattern can be challenged by loading it with weight and/or by elevating the rear leg.

 

Image 101 197x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and Agility Image 111 126x300 Frontal Plane Exercise for Improving Speed and AgilityOnce the athlete can perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps progress them on to patterns that will begin to really challenge their frontal plane control such as the lunge, reverse lunge, and lateral lunge. These patterns teach the athlete how to control frontal plane mechanics as they move through varying functional movement patterns and planes of motion.

Ultimately you will want your athlete to develop control while in single leg stance. Begin to incorporate single leg squats and step up to single leg (images 10 and11) to train this control once your athlete has developed optimal control with the previous patterns. Again be sure to pay attention for the loss of frontal plane control and common compensations such as the pelvis not being level, side bending of the trunk, or loss of lower extremity alignment. Do not allow an athlete to perform any exercise pattern where they can not maintain the optimal alignment and mechanics discussed previously or they will simply be strengthening a non-optimal strategy that will cause them to develop or perpetuate frontal plane control issues.

You will also want to include sport-specific patterns once they have developed the requisite frontal plane control through the aforementioned patterns.

 

Conclusion

In this article we identified the loss of frontal plane control as a common cause of the loss of speed and agility and a contributor to injuries of the low back, pelvis, and lower extremity in our athletes. While at times it can be beneficial to isolate the gluteus medius, it is far more efficient to condition this muscle as part of the lateral chain. In part I we introduced the modified side lying bridge as an important pattern for developing coordination between the gluteus medius and the other muscles of the lateral chain. In part II, we progressed this pattern and then incorporated the lateral chain into the upright position via the split squat. The split squat pattern is a great pattern to incorporate the control the athlete requires – alignment of the lower extremity and activation of the lateral chain – once they get into single leg stance. When your athlete achieves control in the split squat and lunge patterns, progress them through the appropriate sport-specific patterns they need to develop speed and agility. When the athlete has develop frontal plane control, they will often demonstrate faster speed, greater agility, and reduced incidence of injury.


References:

Kolar, P. (2009). Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization: A Developmental Kinesiology Approach. Chicago, IL: Course handouts.

Kobesova, A. and Jezkova, M. Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization According to Kolar. Course B. St. Louis, MO: Course handouts.

Lee, LJ. and Lee, D. (2013). Treating the Whole Person with The Integrated Systems Model. Vancouver, CA: Discovery Physio Course handouts.

Osar, E. (2012). Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Movement Dysfunction of the Hip and Shoulder. Chinchester, UK: Lotus Publishing.

Osar, E. (2015). Integrative Movement Specialist Certification. Chicago, IL: Course handouts.

 

About the Author

Audiences around the world have seen Dr. Evan Osar’s dynamic and original presentations.  His passion for improving human movement and helping health and fitness professionals think bigger about their roles can be seen and felt in every course he teaches.  His 20-year background in fitness and experience as a chiropractic physician and manual therapist provide an unique perspective on corrective exercise and fundamental training principles for the fitness professional. Dr. Osar has become known for taking challenging information and putting it into useable information the fitness professional can apply immediately with their athletes. He is the creator of over a dozen resources including the highly acclaimed Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction. He is the developer of the Integrative Movement System™ – a principle-based system for assessing and correcting movement dysfunction. For more information please visit www.fitnesseducationseminars.com.

Speed Secret

by Travis Hansen

Now I’m well aware that many will be skeptical when first seeing the title of this article, but please hear me out. I have no doubt that there are still several aspects of speed development that are not fully disclosed or understood based on science. This will be the first article of hopefully several that address some of these gaps, so that coaches, trainers, and athletes can get the most out of their efforts in training.

Right now I’m going to discuss an extremely underrated training factor which heavily impacts various speed related adaptations in the body, and that is “Fatigue.” By definition, fatigue refers to a temporary loss in function in some area of the human movement system (central, local, muscular, etc.). If you really want to get faster quickly then you must learn how to manage fatigue through proper programming. Period.

youthathletesrunning 300x184 Speed Secret

Below I will introduce then briefly discuss some reasons why fatigue impairs performance.

 

#1-Speed-Conditioning Continuum

#2-Phophagen Pool

#3-Neural Fatigue

#4-Muscular adaptations

#5-Real world evidence!

 

            Brad Schoenfeld published a great article on T-Nation awhile back that mentioned how different genes express based on specific training approaches. Quite simply, genes associated with strength and speed development may be inhibited when endurance training and conditioning are high, and vice versa. How many speed programs for athletes have you seen that limited conditioning? Not very many. Adaptations related to improved speed and power (increased motor unit recruitment, excitability, rate coding, etc.) take weeks and weeks to develop, whereas conditioning levels and energy system changes can occur within days. So why are so many still wrapped up on running athletes into the ground and basing their programs almost exclusively on being in optimal condition year round? I don’t know.

Phosphagen pools help regenerate broken down or independent ADP within muscle cells so we can perform high intensity based training methods such as max effort strength training, sprinting, cutting, jumping, etc. When these pools run out we are sapped. The key is to allow enough of a rest interval between actual sprints so that these pools can replenish. One study I found showed that depletion of creatine stores and ATP after max effort sprints resulted in a substantial decrease in power output. 1 Make sure to rest 2-5 minutes depending on the athletes level of speed when performing 20-60 yard sprints.

Neural fatigue is next on the list and this is a big one. Unfortunately, our body’s nervous system takes several days to complete recovery and regenerate so that we are able to operate at full capacity again. “Research suggests athletes are unable to maintain maximal firing frequencies for the full duration of, for example, a 100m sprint. Fatigue after a single training session may also have a neural manifestation with some athletes unable to voluntarily fully activate muscle or experiencing stretch reflex inhibition after heavy training. 2” Famous researchers and coaches such as Bompa and Francis have also discussed the impact high intensity training has on the body’s nervous system and the need to lay low and relax till the time is right. The motor cortex was an area that was mentioned which gets fatigued along with other neural structures throughout the body.

I’ve found at least 2 studies which support “quality over quantity” when it comes to sprinting and any other high intensity based method. 3 4 This is still a very underrated concept in my experience. Basically, specific changes in the muscle which can promote greater speed such as increased cross sectional area, fast twitch fiber conversion, and an increased sarcoplasmic reticulum volume will not occur if sprinting volume and frequencies are too high. 2-3 days per week of speed and change of direction work is more than enough to generate the changes I just mentioned and more so that you can become faster over both the short and long-term.

Lastly, I’m proud to say that the program we are using with our athletes has help over 2 dozen athletes cut 3-5 tenths of a second off of their 40 or 60 yard dash. As verified by a Brower TC fully electronic timing system. There are many other areas of emphasis for building speed (technique, maximal strength, single leg strength, plyometric variations, warm-up/preparation, nutrition, supplementation, supplemental lifts, hypertrophy, etc.) but proper recovery for the purpose of managing cumulative fatigue levels is absolutely imperative if the goal is to get faster.

 

SCIENTIFIC REFERENCES:

#1- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3524088/

#2-Ross, A. Neural influences on sprint running. Sports Medicine, 31: 409-425, 2012.

#3-Villarreal, ES. Low and moderate plyometric training frequency produces greater jumping and sprinting gains compared with high frequency. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 3: 715-725, 2008.

#4-Ross, A. Long-term metabolic and skeletal muscle adaptations to short sprint training: implications of sprint training and tapering. Sports Medicine, 15: 1063-1082, 2001.

 

Coach Travis Hansen is Director of the Reno Speed School and author of the speed development book ‘The Speed Encyclopedia‘.

speedencyclopediabook 192x300 Speed Secret

**If you’re a speed training nerd like us, you should definitely check out this resource – The Speed Encyclopedia.

 

Speed Training Checklist for Success

 

As coaches we develop habits and daily rituals that often direct our day to day coaching. This can be a good thing as it keeps us consistent. But it can also limit our development and stifle our growth as coaches due not stretching our “Coaching Muscles”.

I have listed 5 areas coaches need to stay on top of to be the best at teaching speed at a world class level. Here is my speed training checklist:

#1 Know the Body

There is no getting around it. At some point a speed coach needs to understand how the human body functions from a biomechanical standpoint. They need to know how the energy systems affect power output and recovery. They need to develop a keen understanding of how the neuromuscular system reacts to stimuli. They need to see the connection between joint range of motion and dysfunction, and how tissue extensibility gets affected by the stresses imposed upon it.

The bottom line is speed coaches need to know how the human body does what it does. They don’t have to have a doctor’s insight but they have to have a view of what their instruction will cause the human body to react like.

 

#2 A Whip Made Out of Feathers

We have all had that coach that rips into our hearts and makes us melt into a puddle of fear. We play with apprehension because we know if we make a mistake the wrath is coming. Tough way to play and enjoy sports…

On the flipside there is the coach that is so nice they would yell at you if you made ten mistakes in a row and never hustled. This coach gives you the approach that you can do anything and the results will never be painful.

The key to coaching is to have a stronghold on when the whip must come out to hold athletes accountable and when the feathery touch must be used to hold an athletes confidence above the breaking point. Coaching is about getting the most of each player and not treating them all the same- because they simply are not the same. Each player reacts differently and how we approach them can either catapult them to new heights or shove them off the edge to failure. Take the time to get to know your athletes and what buttons they need pushed.

 

#3 A Strategic Approach

Far too often coaches don’t plan or have a strategy when going into battle. They wing it! This not only is a recipe for failure it becomes obvious to your athletes because they can see the lack of direction in your coaching. Regardless if you’re a track coach, soccer coach, or tennis coach there needs to be a game plan. The strategy you develop gives confidence to the athletes but it also gives you a roadmap. You know if the roadmap is worth staying on or if it s time to find an alternate route.

When you plan a strategy you take the combined knowledge you have gained of the competition and your athletes/teams capabilities and you develop a plan. This plan can be practiced and preached. It can be analyzed by your athletes and absorbed.

A strategy should always be apart of your overall philosophy because you never want to go away from what your foundational core values are.

 

#4 Weakness or Strength

We always talk about how important it is to improve the weaknesses of our athletes. We want to bring the weakness up so they athlete is less vulnerable to an opponent. I agree with this 100%.

The issue I have with many coaches is they spend so much time on the weaknesses they neglect to enhance the strengths. Great players have strengths that make them great. Their strengths are dominant!

I had an 800 meter runner several years back that was simply the fastest runner in the field. His endurance was his weakness so we devised a strategy that would enhance his endurance so he could use his speed throughout the entire race. But I never stopped working on getting him stronger in the weight room and working on top end speed. We raised his limitation but still prioritized his speed.

 

#5 Steal like a Bandit

I don’t care what anyone says. 95% of the information out there has been done before. There may be a different look to it but at its core it is not new. But if you come across something you have not seen before and it is effective you need to steal it like it is a million dollars.

I certainly am a coach of strong character and believe in honoring ethics in coaching. But when you see something that can help your athletes or team gain a significant advantage you need to find out how you can implement it into your training or program philosophy.

In recent years we have seen football teams and basketball teams have great success with a different style of play. It doesn’t take long before many team implement that strategy into their game plan. How often did Americans learn training techniques in track and field from other countries that were more scientific in their approach. It is simply smart coaching! Learn from other and take their ideas so you can enhance your athletes success.

 

Final Words

Far too often coaches learn a style of coaching from their predecessor and they stick to it through hell and high water. The problem arises when that style no longer works or the coach doesn’t have the same attributes as their predecessor and the athletes don’t respond the same.

Coaching is about staying current, yet sticking to core values that are time tested. Coaching is about having the strength to believe in what you know is correct yet having an open door mindset to allow new changes to improve your program.

One of the hardest things for any coach to do is to swallow their pride and get their ego out of the way long enough to stop tripping over it. What makes coaches great is their confidence. What makes coaches lose is their ego, and of course bad athletes, but that’s another point. The greatest coaches seek greatness outside of their domain and mold it to fit in their world.

 Speed Training Checklist for Success

Should Sprinting and Jumping Athletes Use Plyometrics?

By Keats Snideman, CSCS, LMT

What Are Plyometrics?

Probably one of the most commonly used (and abused) methods of performance-enhancement for sprinters and indeed all running and jumping athletes is “plyometrics.” Plyometrics can be defined as movements that involve fast eccentric muscle actions followed by dynamic and explosive concentric actions (aka, the stretch-shortening cycle). The best example of a plyometric drill that comes to mind is the classic “depth jump” exercise where an athlete drops off a box or step of some pre-determined height. Upon hitting the floor the athlete concentrates on explosively jumping into the air as high as possible.

The purpose of this method is to “shock” the body and nervous system to produce higher levels of muscle tension and force than would normally be possible without the preceding drop. In fact, the “father” and creator of modern day plyometrics, Yuri Verkoshansky of Russia, originally named the plyometric method the “shock” method. To understand how such a system of exercises could be beneficial or detrimental to sprinting, jumping, and indeed all athletes, let’s take a closer look at basic muscle function during movement.

Reversible Muscle Action (i.e. The Stretch-Shortening-Cycle)

Through scientific observation, it has been discovered that if a muscle is stretched immediately before a shortening (concentric) muscle action, force and power output will be increased and energy expenditure will be less. To demonstrate this phenomenon, assuming you are sitting while reading this article, try to stand up. Do it now. Could you feel your body rock back to stretch the thigh muscles a little before you stood up? This is perfectly natural and is called “pre-stretch.” Many sporting actions and resistance training exercises actually involve some level of pre-stretch which enhance the subsequent performance. In the case of sprinters, have you ever noticed the different rituals they use when getting in the blocks. Often, you’ll see the sprinters stretching and kicking their legs behind the blocks before setting their feet in them. This is pre-stretch at work. Now getting back to our little sit-to-stand movement again, I want you to try standing without any pre-stretch (rocking back) whatsoever. In other words, lean forward a little from the hips and then stay still for a few seconds before trying to rise. Much harder if not impossible isn’t it? This simple test and observation is an easy example of how natural it is for human movements to utilize eccentric/lengthening muscle actions prior to concentric/shortening actions.

Even human gait (walking) utilizes this stretch-shortening-cycle to make it more efficient in terms of energy expenditure. In fact, if you walk at a comfortable walking speed (you’re preferred speed), you should be able to walk practically forever. However, if walking speed is increased or decreased from this preferred cadence, efficiency is lost and perceived effort may increase. Let’s apply this pre-stretch stuff now to running, sprinting and jumping. In sprinting in particular, there is a greater stretch of the plantar flexor muscles (gastroc-soleus, etc…) if the foot and ankle are pulled up (i.e. into “dorsiflexion”) prior to foot strike (heel strike in walking and running). If performed correctly, this pre-stretch is followed by and explosive isometric muscle action and then the propulsive concentric action which moves the body forward and upward off the ground.

This is also what happens during a vertical jump except that the arms and shoulders might be used more or less aggressively depending on the situation. This entire process is due to stored elastic energy in the muscles and tendons (think of a spring) and neurological reflexes (primarily the myotatic stretch reflex). When combined with a volitional effort to explode, improved performance (i.e. fasting sprinting times, higher vertical jumps, etc…) can be realized.

Classification Of Plyometric Exercises

Plyometrics can be broken down into various types for simplicity. First off, you have “Impact” and “Non-Impact” forms of plyometrics. With impact plyos you have direct contact with a surface (i.e the ground or playing surface) or an object (such as a medicine ball or sporting implement). In contrast, non-impact plyos involve a quick stretch (recoil) of one or several body parts and joints which then culminate in an explosive concentric muscle action. Examples of non-impact plyometric actions include various kicks and punches in martial arts and boxing. Also, you can think of a baseball pitch as a very dynamic and explosive non-impact plyometric movement. Ever seen a slow-motion or still picture of a pitcher’s arm in the cocked back position (extreme external rotation)? Now that’s some pre-stretch!

Next, plyometrics can be classified according to their intensity level. Similar to strength training exercises, you can have high-intensity plyos like depth jumps and plyometric push-ups and low-intensity variations such as skips, hops, jumping rope and jumps onto boxes for example. The intensity of plyos should really be thought of as a continuum rather than belonging to distinct categories. For instance, one athlete may find jumping rope extremely difficult and challenging whereas another athlete may find the same activity trivial, merely a warm-up. In general, it really depends on the fitness level of the athlete when it comes to choosing specific plyometric exercises. This will be discussed later in the article.

Next, you have preparatory and supplementary plyometrics which help prepare the body to hand the stress and force of fast eccentric muscle actions. This would include the lower intensity plyos discussed above such as skipping, hops, agility ladder drills, rope jumping, jumps onto boxes (but not off) and most forms of free-weight strength training. All these help to prepare the body to handle and produce more force while developing and strengthening the connective tissues.

As an interesting side note, some sport scientists such as the late Dr. Mel Siff, state that in order for an exercise to be classified as truly plyometric, the time interval between the eccentric-isometric (force absorption) phase and the subsequent concentric (force creation) phase must be short, as little as 0.15 seconds in lower extremity plyometric activities. Any longer than this and the movement is considered regular “jump” training, but not plyometrics. But this isn’t set in stone as other research has shown that some benefit still occurs in upper body muscle groups for up to four seconds after an eccentric muscle action (Wilson, et. al).

To recap, the basic premise and theory of plyometrics (and all training in general) to remember is as follows: if you can train the muscles, tendons, and nervous system to produce more force/tension in a shorter period of time during the takeoff from the ground, you can improve performance. This is primarily what the goal is with specific plyometric training. Sounds good right?

Plyometrics And Anaerobic-Dominant Sports

When you look at Track & Field (sprints, hurdles, jumps and throws) and most sports that rely heavily on anaerobic energy processes (i.e. Baseball, Volleyball, Basketball, Tennis, Football, etc…), you realize that there is already a relatively high amount of sprinting and jumping occurring anyway. It’s hard to deny that plyometric muscle action is a vitally important part of performance in these activities, but care must be taken when prescribing and performing specific plyometric movements to avoid overloading vulnerable and overworked areas such as the Achilles tendons, knees, and the lower back. If the plyometric exercises are being applied to the upper body (i.e. plyometric push-ups, medicine ball rebounds, etc…) problems can develop in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder areas. Usually, most of the injuries that occur are due to over-zealous use of and the misapplication of plyometric exercises and related drills. As with any training method, if problems arise, it usually the application of and not the method itself that is to blame. If plyometrics are to be used safely, a carefully planned integration must take place. Next, we will look at a rational plyometric progression process.

A Rational Progression of Plyometrics

The first step after making the decision to include specific plyometric exercises in an athlete’s program is to consider the nature of the sport and the current stress/strain being applied to the body from the sport itself. As mentioned above, sports such as Basketball. Volleyball and jumps/sprints from Track & Field already contain a high volume of plyometric muscle actions. For many of these participants, especially younger and novice-level ones, time might be better spent by focusing on getting stronger (improving maximal strength) through a progressive resistance training program and just playing the sport itself. True impact plyometrics (as discussed earlier) don’t need to be explored until the athlete is sufficiently strong and has developed a good foundation of connective tissue, joint, bone, muscle, and tendon integrity. This does not mean that preparatory and supplementary plyometrics should not be performed because they can help to prepare the body for more demanding plyometric exercises in the future.

A great place to start is to ensure adequate levels of basic strength are in order. Variations of the following strength and power lifts are a great place to start:

1. Squatting (especially front and back squats because they basically simulate the natural jumping movement pattern)

2. Deadlifts (including RDL’s, snatch-grip, clean-grip, sumo and conventional style)

3. Olympic lift variations (For a GREAT resource, see Complete Olympic Lifting)

4. Pressing (both bench press and military press variations)

5. Rows/Chins (for postural support, upper back and elbow flexor development)

6. Supplementary/Assistance Strength Movements (such as single leg exercises, reverse and regular back hypers, GHR, planks, Swiss-ball exercises, medicine ball abdominal movements, woochops, etc…)

The key with athletes is to keep it simple in the weight room and realize that we’re trying to create athletes, not bodybuilders. Keep the primary lifts in the strength and power building rep range (1-5 reps, maybe as high as 8) and leave the higher reps for the supplementary/assistance lifts (10-15 reps is quite common for these exercises).

Depending on the specific athlete’s fitness levels and training history, some preparatory and introductory plyos can be started usually from day one. In addition to basic skipping and sprinting drills, some great beginning drills include the following:

1. Two Foot Hops/Jumps In Place– these are very mild and done insets of 20-25 repetitions. Maximal height on these is NOT the goal here. Simply strive for a comfortable frequency that permits a fluid and rhythmic series of small jumps in place.

2. Jumping Rope– done at a faster pace, jumping rope is a fantastic preparatory drill that teaches an athlete a lot about timing, rhythm and helps to develop basic coordination. As with all plyometrics, the key is to keep the ground contact brief between jumps. Start with as little as 15-30 seconds and build up to 60 seconds worth of jumping. Any more than a minute of continuous jumping is not ideal since it takes the athlete further away from the anaerobic energy systems they are trying to improve (ATP-CP & Anaerobic Glycolysis). If you want to make it harder, simply make the jumps more complicated by adding in side-to-side, front-to-back, high knees (running man), Ali-shuffles, double jumps (2 revolutions per jump) and rope crossing. The variations are almost endless!

3. Agility Ladder Drills– similar to jump roping, the variations are endless. Simply focus on short ground-contact times and fluidity of movement. Keeping the eyes up and not on the ground adds to the difficulty. After a period of adaptation to the above mentioned drills, higher intensity drills can start to be introduced:

4. Jumps onto Boxes– just as the name says, perform individual jumps onto boxes while sticking the landing with ideal body mechanics. This means a nice “athletic” position with knees lined up in the direction of the toes (no excessive inward or outward bowing of the knees)! As the athlete improves, jump height increases. Sets of 5 reps or so should be performed for only a few sets. Ensure the athlete steps off (not jumps off) the box in preparation for each successive rep.

5. Depth (Altitude or Drop) Jumps– in this variation, the athlete simply steps off the box and then “sticks” the landing in the ideal athletic position as mentioned above. It’s important to strive for a quiet landing as this ensures that the force is being dissipated properly upon foot contact with the floor. As famous Strength Coach Michael Boyle likes to say, “if it doesn’t look right, it isn’t.” Always start with a low box and only progress when form is near perfect.

6. Depth Jumps– not all athletes need to progress to this level of training but if they are to be done, they must be done right. The set-up is very similar to the Depth Drops as discussed earlier; the only difference here is that the athlete will explosively rebound off the floor upon hitting it, as if the surface was red hot. Since depth jumps are very ballistic movements, there must be some planning in advance (in the athlete’s mind), a process known in motor control as a “feed-forward” type of control. All ballistic actions utilize this feed-forward type of planning because there is not enough time to use “feedback” as with slower more predictable type of movements and activities. This is what differentiates true plyometric movements from the more commonly performed “pseudoplyometric” movements. The reps and sets on depth jumps are similar to depth drops but include greater rest periods (3 to 5 minutes for maximum height depth jumps).
Remember, these movements are HIGHLY stimulating to the nervous system! And since the nervous system take longer to recover than the cellular/metabolic system, you must take this into account if you are to maximize the potential benefits, and minimize the risks.

Conclusion

There is so much more that could be said regarding plyometrics and athletes, but hopefully I’ve hit the major points that need to be taken into account when designing athletic enhancement programs. I truly believe that many sprinting and jumping athlete can get phenomenal results without EVER doing any super high-intensity plyos. Getting stronger and more explosive in the gym can go a long way to improving game speed as long as some speed work is continued at least most of the year. If true plyos are to be used, than at least do a little homework to ensure a safe and proper progression for your athletes so performance can be maximized with less risk of injury.


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About The Author:

Keats Snideman is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a licensed massage therapist specializing in Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). Based out of the Phoenix (AZ) Metro area, Keats specializes in the enhancement of athletic-style fitness and has a proven track record for getting his clients results. He has coached and provided treatment to a variety of clients (athletic and non-athletic alike). Some of the clients Keats has worked with include athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLBA, USA Track & Field as well as athletes from both the collegiate and high school levels. He is currently the recovery and regeneration consultant for World’s Strongest Man Competitor Kevin Nee. For recreation and fun, Keats also competes as a competitive sub-masters sprinter (100 & 200m dashes). He may be reached at keats@coachkeats.com or through his website at:www.coachkeats.com.

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