Tactical athletes in the military, law enforcement and fire/rescue communities can range from part time SWAT officers and volunteer fire rescue personnel up to elite operators in Hazmat teams, full – time SWAT Officers and our military’s finest operators in Special Forces. Testing is a part of this culture. The higher the level of the individual in terms of his/her expertise or the team they are a part of, the greater importance testing takes in the optimal readiness and efficiency of the individual. The lower the level of the team, the more often testing is viewed as a necessary evil of the job, something to be tolerated and passed rather than an opportunity to compete and excel.
Testing for the tactical athlete is challenging to say the least. In the military world, testing is expected and accepted. In law enforcement and fire/rescue testing ranges from accepted, tolerated to even resisted. Regardless, once testing has occurred, what has been measured and how does this relate to the ability of the individual to do the job? In the Olympic sport of weightlifting, the web has been used for many years to compare contrasting physical abilities in order to determine physical abilities and progress between competitions. The web is a spider web configuration with the tests percentiles arrayed along each vector of the web from the center (zero) out to the edge (99th Percentile). The vectors of the web are configured so similar measured parameters are aligned together. When this web is configured for each individual, the optimal web should be circular in shape and above the cutoff percentile for each individual. If the web is not circular, then the “dent” should reflect a lack of ability in a certain area of fitness. It could be strength endurance, aerobic fitness, anaerobic power, even body composition and assessment scores. The individual can then create a training plan in which the emphasis becomes pushing the dent out and raising the score in the deficient area in order to create a more circular web in terms of fitness scores.
Here is an example of a web using the Cooper Age and Gender Base Standards for Law Enforcement as our basis for the percentile rankings. Lets assume our individuals being tested both mid 30’s males and the test battery scores were:
Officer Blue Officer Red
Test Score Percentile Score Percentile
1.5 Mile Run 10:14 85th 11:49 60
300 Meter Run 51 80 54 65
Vertical Jump 19.5 50 26 95
1:00 Push-ups 34 70th 71 95
1:00 Sit-ups 62 100 55 100
Generally, tactical athletes fall into three categories – lifters, runners and those that do just enough to pass the test as fitness is not a part of their lifestyle. As can be inferred from the example, Officer Blue is a runner and Officer Red is a lifter. Both are in good to excellent shape in terms of fitness. However, if body composition is introduced, Officer Blue is 15% body fat at 170 pounds while Officer Red is 22% fat at 200 pounds. Neither is unfit, however, at 22% body fat and in his mid-thirties, Officer Red could be on track to be over fat and under fit by his mid-forties. The mitigating factor is genetics. If Officer Red is a thick, heavy-set football lineman type of build, then maybe he is optimizing his fitness potential.
Regardless, in terms of overall fitness for the job, the recommendations for Officer Blue would be to increase his lower body elastic strength training minutes (plyometrics, jump rope, ladder drills, dot drills, etc.) and his anaerobic power training minutes (intense circuits such as Tabata style (20 seconds work bouts – 20 second recovery bouts for multiple sets), crossfit type training focusing on the 45 – 60 second work bouts, as well as speed endurance training such as 200’s up to 400’s with quality being the guide to volume).
Officer Red is a big, strong lifter that uses weights as his main source of fitness. He does some running, but most of it is moderately, short interval sprints such as repeat 50’s up to repeat 200’s on occasion. His overall ability to utilize oxygen is compromised either by his body composition, choice of fitness training or a combination of both. The idea for Officer Red is to incorporate some longer sessions of fitness either jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical workouts or moderate circuits that go for several stations with multiple rounds keeping the heart rate up in the 140’s for the entire training session. Using heart rate training, the 5 zones of training for both officers are 220 minus their age + or – up to 10 beats per minute either way. The range is due to genetics, body composition and fitness level. A fit officer that spends a great deal of time on a well rounded fitness program who is a lean person with low body fat will be in the lower ranges while the heavier, less fit officer would be in the higher ranges for the same workload or workout. So, the zones for each officer would look like this:
HR Zone Percentage +10 Average -10
Competition – Testing – Arrest Gone Bad
Intense 85-95% 177 167 157
Quality Intervals – Tabata / Crossfit Circuits
Moderate 75-85% 159 149 139
Long Slow Distance – Giant Set Weight Training – Some Circuits
Light 65 – 75% 141 131 121
Warm-up, social weight training
Recovered 55-65% 123 113 103
Daily Activity 50% – Under Under 93 beats per minute
Resting Heart Rate upon waking without moving
Resting heart rate could be as low as in the low to mid 40’s with elite level fitness athletes. With sedentary, unfit people, resting heart rate can be in the 60’s and even 70’s. Anything above 84 is generally regarded as dangerous and should be immediately referred to a physician for examination. The lowest heart rates recorded are in the Tour de France athletes with Indurain at 28 and Armstrong at 32 at peak condition. If we assume max is 30 and illness begins at 85, then average would be 57.5 for fit individuals with a range of 55 – 60 for high fit.
Testing ranges from a necessary evil that is tolerated to an opportunity to compete and excel. Regardless, the key is what is being tested and what is to be taken from the test battery. What can be done to relate testing back to the everyday choices the tactical athlete makes in terms of fitness training. The web is a tool that can be used to track and compare disparate tests and relate them back to the individual tactical athlete in order to coach them to optimal status for the team, themselves, their health and operational status.
With the NFL Combine rapidly approaching, many test times and scores will be stated as gospel by various people such as announcers, trainers and coaches. For years I was unsure of actual numbers other than scores from the NFL Combine results sheets I was able to obtain. When looking at those I (like everyone else) focused on the fastest, highest, most or the scores posted by those that had the greatest media profile. What I became interested in was what was the average number an athlete could score in the tests. So, I took the results sheets from several years and ran the numbers looking for averages. Below is what I found. True enough, these numbers are not from the last 3-4 years, but represent what an athlete can expect to score or shoot for on the big day.
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many big time names you see in the best scores of all time.
Position E10 H20 H40 5-10-5 L DRILL VJ BPRS
NT 1.85 2.98 5.32 4.86 8.22 27.5 21
DT 1.81 2.95 5.12 4.64 7.83 29.5 29
DE 1.71 2.79 4.82 4.35 7.33 33.5 24
ILB 1.66 2.73 4.73 4.05 7.1 34.5 25
OLB 1.65 2.68 4.63 4.15 7.14 35.5 23
DB – CB 1.59 2.61 4.49 4.11 7.03 36.5 13
DB – SAF 1.62 2.67 4.59 4.08 6.92 36.5 17
CENTER 1.82 3.01 5.28 4.6 7.83 28.5 26
GUARD 1.88 3.10 5.42 4.75 7.99 27.5 25
TACKLE 1.83 3.02 5.23 4.72 7.94 29.5 26
TE 1.73 2.84 4.88 4.34 7.37 31.5 26
FB 1.71 2.80 4.82 4.28 7.43 32 24
TB 1.64 2.67 4.6 4.23 7.3 34 19
WR 1.62 2.66 4.58 4.18 7.08 35 18
QB 1.71 2.82 4.88 4.36 7.39 30.5 N/A
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many of the athletes below went forward from an outstanding score at the NFL Combine to a solid, let alone great NFL career.
All Time Top Ten Scores 1999 – 2009
40 Yard Dash 10 Yard Burst
1999 4.24 Rondel Melendez 1999 1.47 Jay Hinton
2000 4.32 Antwan Harris 2000 1.48 Antwan Harris
2001 4.31 Santana Moss 2001 1.50 Deuce McAllister
2002 4.31 Aaron Lockett 2002 1.50 Brian Allen
2003 4.32 Kevin Garrett 2003 1.46 Bob Sanders
2004 4.33 Carlos Francis 2004 1.50 Rufus Brown
2005 4.28 Jerome Mathis 2005 1.50 Fabian Washington
2006 4.31 Johnathan Joseph 2006 1.48 Tim Jennings
2007 4.30 Yamon Figurs 2007 1.43 Allison, McCauley, Weddle
2008 4.24 Chris Johnson 2008 1.40 Chris Johnson
2009 4.30 Darrius Heyward-Bey 2009 1.40 Cedric Peerman
225 Bench Press Reps Vertical Jump (No Step Approach)
1999 51 Justin Earnest 1999 43.5 Jay Hinton
2000 45 Leif Larsen 2000 41.5 Curtis Keaton
2001 37 Roberto Garza 2001 45 Chris Chambers
2002 36 Scott Peters 2002 42 William Green
2003 38 Tony Pashos 2003 42.5 Nate Burleson
2004 42 Isaac Sopoaga 2004 41.5 Bob Sanders
2005 43 Scott Young 2005 46 Gerald Sensabaugh
2006 45 Mike Kudla 2006 42 Vernon Davis
2007 42 Tank Tyler 2007 41.5 Quincy Black
2008 37 Vernon Gholston 2008 39 Carl Stewart
2009 39 Louis Vasquez 2009 45 Donald Washington
20 yd Shuttle (5-10-5) Three Cone Test (L Drill)
1999 3.79 Champ Bailey 1999 ?? Unknown
2000 3.82 Dante Hall 2000 6.45 Sedrick Curry
2001 3.73 Kevin Kasper 2001 6.56 Kevin Casper
2002 3.76 Deion Branch 2002 6.50 Jon McGraw
2003 3.83 Terence Newman 2003 6.72 Ryan Hoag
2004 3.78 Dunta Robinson 2004 6.68 Schweigert, Stuart
2005 3.84 Beriault, Rogers 2005 6.49 Carlos Rogers
2006 3.83 Jason Allen 2006 6.64 Tye Hill
2007 3.90 Sabby Piscitelli 2007 6.50 Leon Hall
2008 3.96 Arman Shields 2008 6.57 Harry Douglas
2009 3.96 Kevin Barnes 2009 6.59 Malcolm Jenkins
Standing Long Jump
1999 ?? Unknown
2000 10’11” Curtis Keaton
2001 11’02” Cedric James, Chris Chambers, Jonathan Carter
2002 10’10” Terreal Bierria, Caldwell Reche
2003 11’05” Justin Fargas
2004 10’11” D J Hackett
2005 11’05” Scott Starks
2006 11’01” Will Blackmon, Pat Watkins
2007 11’0” Daren Stone
2008 11’04” Jerome Simpson
2009 11’3” Donald Washington
The NFL Combine was originally founded as a medical event. With the advent of keeping athletes for long-term contracts, the franchises wanted each prospect to be given a full physical. The top prospects were flown to as many as a dozen clubs for medical evaluations. Imagine getting a full set of X-Rays by 6 – 12 different teams. The franchises didn’t like the expense and the athletes did not like the health risk. So, Gene “Duke” Babb founded the NFL Combine, which is run by National Football Scouting. The first combine was held in 1982 in Tampa. After moving to New Orleans, then Arizona, the National Invitational Camp was moved to its current home in Indianapolis in 1987.
How do you test athletes for camp? How do you hold them accountable in todays culture in which they want it all? Jobs, social life, family time, hobbies and sports all vie for their limited attention spans and quality time. Larry Smith, the head coach at Arizona, Southern Cal and Missouri first introduced this to me as my boss at USC. After spring testing, the scores are set and the goals for the fall are determined for the fall. I have used this system very successfully with men and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and football at the collegiate level. IF the head coach buys in, it is very easy to get athlete buy-in. I have had various head coaches put their own spin on the test so that it better reflects their culture and system. For example, in soccer, the 110’s were 1:00 minute turnovers in which after running the distance, the athletes had the balance of the minute to return to the starting line. We did not max basketball athletes in the clean at times so we did a trap bar pull off of boxes (like a dead lift but more centered with the trap bar and from a higher starting point than the floor).
I feel this system works very well as the lifters need to run and the runners need to lift. Everyone needs to be aware of their body weight and body composition. Great performance is rewarded and laziness is penalized. In case of injury, the test that is not allowed will be thrown out and the scale will reflect the change in total points possible as well as the passing score. In the spring, we encouraged our athletes to test for max effort lifts. In the summer, we counseled them to max for points. Once you max out on points – why go higher? It is time to play ball. We squatted all summer, but on Fridays we did leg circuits as well as some type of total body circuits (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar, body weight and mixed methods circuits). With camp approaching, I was not as concerned with how much weight an athlete could lift in the squat as how much work the legs could handle and recover in a short time bout and hit it again.
PRE-SEASON REPORTING POINT SYSTEM
1. BODY WEIGHT – IF YOU ARE WITHIN 2% OF YOUR GOAL WEIGHT WHEN YOU REPORT YOU GET 1 POINT.
2. BODYFAT PERCENTAGE – IF YOU ARE ON OR BELOW YOUR ASSIGNED BODYFAT PERCENTAGE YOU GET 1 POINT.
3. STRENGTH TESTS – IF YOU ACHIEVE YOUR STRENGTH GOALS YOU WILL GET 3 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU WILL GET 4 POINTS, 10 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU RECEIVE 5 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 – 10 POUNDS BELOW YOU ONLY GET 2 POINTS, 15 – 20 POUNDS BELOW IS 1 POINT.
PTS. POWER CLEAN BENCH PRESS *LEG CIRCUIT
5 +10 POUNDS +10 POUNDS 5 SETS IN 90 SEC.
4 +5 POUNDS +5 POUNDS 4 SETS IN 90 SEC.
3 GOAL WEIGHT GOAL WEIGHT 3 SETS IN 90 SEC.
2 -5 POUNDS -5 POUNDS 2 SETS IN 90 SEC.
1 -15 POUNDS -15 POUNDS 1 SET IN 90 SEC.
*YOU WILL BE EXPECTED TO PASS ALL 5 LEG CIRCUITS IN 90 SECONDS W/2:00 REST!
4. CONDITIONING TEST – 16 TIMES MODIFIED 110 TEST IN 15 SECONDS. LINEMEN RUN 90 YARDS; QB, LB, TE, FB, K, RUN 100 YARDS; SKILL RUN 110 YARDS. EVERYONE FINISHES @ GOAL LINE IN 15 SECONDS WITH 45 SECONDS RECOVERY TIME.
5. YOU GET A FREE POINT IF YOU HAVE NO MISSES FOR THE ENTIRE SPRING. IN HIGH SCHOOL YOU COULD REWARD SUMMER TRAINING. IN COLLEGE, SUMMER REWARDS AND/OR PUNISHMENT IS FORBIDDEN.
YOU MUST SCORE 23 POINTS OUT OF A POSSIBLE 33.
THAT IS A SCORE OF 70% IN ORDER TO PASS.
IF YOU FAIL TO PASS, EACH POINT YOU FAIL BY WILL BE AN EXTRA DAY OF RUNNING AFTER PRACTICE.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SCORE 20 POINTS YOU WILL RUN EXTRA THE FIRST 3 DAYS AFTER PRACTICE.
THE HIGH POINT ATHLETE WILL RECEIVE THE BEST CONDITIONED ATHLETE AWARD ! !
I hope this sparks you to create your own system of testing prior to camp. Over the course of almost 15 years of collegiate coaching after I was taught this system, it worked for us. Good luck! Robb
Recovery and Regeneration are the limiting factors to much of our training prescriptions. I know with more control over the athletes’ recovery and down time, the better quality and quantity of training I can prescribe. When our NBA and NFL athletes are here for combine preparation we greatly influence their rest, nutrition, supplementation, recovery and regeneration as well as their training programs. This allows us to prescribe programs of great volume that include intense quality movements and exercises.
Sleep is a critical part of recovery. Most athletes need 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night beginning and ending at about the same times. Too much sleep, too little sleep or long naps can inhibit the bodies ability to adapt to the stresses of training. Deep sleep will encourage the release of hormones for recovery of muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the immune system. Lighter sleep stages will help to reinforce neural patterns stimulated during training sessions. Drugs, alcohol, environmental changes, delayed bed times and illness can all disrupt normal sleeping patterns and recovery.
General Post Training Strategies
Ten to fifteen minutes in a swimming pool of movement consisting of large general movements of the body can relax, refresh and speed the process of recovery. A
3 – 4 minute hot tub alternated with a 30 – 60 second cold plunge repeated for three reps can greatly foster the recovery process. For relaxation, end with a warm environment which will encourage sleep. For recovery between training sessions, end with a cold bout. The cold tub should not exceed 10 degrees Celsius.
Specific Post Training Strategies
Metabolic fatigue – is volume related such as training for over an hour in length, multiple training sessions as well as the overall cumulative effect of fatigue and can be recovered by the use of re-hydration and refueling immediately after training and competition. Metabolic fatigue can be recognized by early onset of fatigue, normal training seems more difficult or the athlete struggles to complete the session.
Neural fatigue of the peripheral nervous system – is also volume related and caused by high intensity sessions or long low to moderate sessions of training and can be recovered by hydrotherapy, light active and static stretching as well as massage. Neural fatigue is expressed by low power output, heavy/slow feet and poor technique.
Neural fatigue of the central nervous system – is caused by low blood glucose levels brought on by high pressure training sessions involving rapid decisions and reactions or just training monotony. This type of neural fatigue is expressed by lack of motivation/passion and can be recovered by steady intake of carbohydrate during and after training, rest and alternative activities such as music, movies and video games.
Psychological fatigue – is caused by team conflict, competitive pressures or other outside stressors such as school and personal or social conflicts. This type of fatigue is expressed by loss of confidence and/or lowered self esteem; poor interaction and communication among team members; negative attitudes; increased anxiety and poor sleep patterns. This fatigue can be recovered by activities such as reading, movies, books, video games, etc.
Environmental and Travel fatigue – is caused by disruption of normal routines such as sleep patterns, meal timing, increased sitting or standing requirements, cultural changes, climatic differences and time change. This fatigue is usually expressed with longer warm-up needs and slower starts to the workout, increased unforced errors in early competition and earlier onset of fatigue. Recovery strategies for this type of fatigue include proper preparation and planning for training and travel: adequate hydration and refueling patterns; limiting climate stressors such as extreme heat or cold; minimize visual fatigue with sunglasses and limited computer time and minimizing hearing fatigue by wearing ear plugs on long flights and limiting loud music on mp3 players.
Post Training Recovery Schedule
Restore fluid and glycogen levels by drinking .6 –1 L of sports drink
Eat quality protein and low glycemic carbohydrate snack
Stretch lightly with active and short duration static (10 seconds or less)
Walk or jog lightly to assist lactate recovery
Check weight to gauge sweat loss
Listen to relaxing music
Continue to rehydrate and refuel
Shower and end with alternate hot/cold showers (30 seconds each) for 3 – 5 reps
Have a balanced meal of quality protein, low – moderate glycemic carbohydrate
Utilize a relaxation or music to unwind
Bath to relax
Long stretches and/or PNF
Self massage – foam roll
Prepare for bed
Incorporate visualization and/or relaxation techniques
If unable to sleep – get up – jot down the problem(s) or make a list
Monitor your body – respiration and heart rate as well as how you feel
Record in your training journal
I hope this article will help give you insight into the art of the application of the science of recovery and regeneration. It is easy to read but can be very difficult to put into practice. I would like to thank Angela Calder of the University of Canberra in Austrialia for much of the body of this article. She is an expert in the field of recovery and regeneration. For more information see www.ais.org.au or the reference for this article “Recovery and Regeneration” in FHS issue 22 from 2003.
Triangle Circuits is an excellent tool to use in order to build your circuit and control the volume of exercise that is prescribed. Steve Myrland (the inventor of the agility speed ladder) first introduced me to this training design concept. It is very simple in concept but can be very complex in the application. The first exercise (1) has the highest priority since it will be executed the most times during the circuit. The second exercise (2) has the second highest priority and so on. Below is a schematic drawing of this type of circuit design.
2) 1 2
3) 1 2 3
4) 1 2 3 4
5) 1 2 3 4 5
6) 1 2 3 4 5 6
7) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
This is an example of a 10 series circuit that builds up to 10 exercises or drills. It is easy to teach as the athlete builds one exercise/drill upon another, but always begins at the start which is always exercise/drill one. Exercise/drill one will get 10 sets, exercise/drill two will get 9 sets, exercise/drill three will get 8 sets, etc. So for instance if core is my main emphasis, followed by single leg strength, upper body pulling and pressing then the circuit with exercises/drills might look something like this.
2) Lateral Plank Hold
3) Prone Plank Hold
4) Lateral Lunge Squat
5) Inverted Pull – Ups
6) Single Leg Balance Squat
7) Push – Ups on Medballs
8) Alternate Step – Ups w/a weight vest
9) Alternate Tubing Pulls with Feet Staggered
10) Alternate Tubing Punches with Feet Staggered
This type of circuit can be time driven or rep driven in order to control either the total time of the workout or in order to increase the quality of the repetitions. I have found that time creates a sloppiness in reps but can also increase the mental stress of the work bout as the athlete does not know exactly how many reps are left to execute. If it is timedriven, I have an excellent chart in my “Power Conditioning Handbook” that details exactly how long any timed circuit will take in order to complete. An example from this table is below.
Number/Exercises Work Bout Recovery/Exercises Recovery/Sets
2 sets 3 sets 4 sets
4 :15 :30 2:00 7:00 11:30 16:00
6 :15 :30 2:00 11:20 18:00 24:40
8 :15 :30 2:00 13:00 20:30 28:00
10 :15 :30 2:00 16:00 25:00 34:00
4 :30 :30 2:00 9:00 14:30 20:00
6 :30 :30 2:00 13:00 20:30 28:00
8 :30 :30 2:00 17:00 26:30 36:00
10 :30 :30 2:00 21:00 32:30 44:00
4 :45 :45 3:00 13:30 21:45 30:00
6 :45 :45 3:00 19:30 30:45 42:00
8 :45 :45 3:00 25:30 39:45 54:00
10 :45 :45 3:00 31:30 48:45 66:00
This chart is designed to be utilized in conjunction with the old style straight circuits that we are all used to using. In order to construct a triangle chart, it would need to look something like this:
Time :15 on and :15 off
Time :30 on and :30 off
Number of Total
Time 1:00 on and 1:00 off
Here is another tool to use in order to develop and implement workouts for your clients.
A special thank you is in order to Steve Myrland for sharing his expertise with me concerning the development of this topic.
The way many of you cannot know,
I’ve seen death take others
But still left me here below.
I’ve heard many screams and many cried
But death refused to hear.
And in my life I’ve seen faces
filled with many a tear.
After death has come and gone
the tombstone still left for many to see.
It’s no more than a symbol of a persons memory.
I’ve seen my share of tombstones
But never took the time to truly read.
Under the person’s name
it read the date of birth, dash
and the date the person passed.
The more I think about the tombstone
the only important thing is the dash.
Yes, I see the name of the person
but that I might forget
And I also read the date of birth and death
But even that might not stick.
But thinking about the individual
Because it represents a person’s life
and that will always last.
So when you begin to chart your life
Make sure you’re on a positive path.
Because people may forget your birth and death
but will never forget your dash.
-Alton Mayden Univ. of Notre Dame Football 1989
Olympic lifting is a sport consisting of the Clean and Jerk as well as the Snatch. The clean is two movements, pulling the bar from the floor and catching it in a front squat position and recovering to a standing position followed by the Jerk. At this point a consolidation of the grip is allowed as part of the recovery. The Jerk is a short dip and drive accomplished by flexing the knees and driving the bar overhead to a locked out press position. The catch in the Jerk is usually a split squat stance in which the athlete pushes back from the front leg before moving the rear leg in the recovery. The Snatch is a wider grip lift (so the bar does not have to be pulled as high) with essentially the same mechanics as the clean, the difference is that the bar is racked or caught overhead in a wide grip, fully locked out press position in a deep squat. Recovery is accomplished by standing up out of the squat and moving the feet into a comfortable standing position. Some of the key technique cues are to pull the bar by pushing the feet through the floor, not pulling or jerking the bar as this generally disrupts the flat back, pillar core needed to execute the lift safely. Always maintain pressure on the bar by either pulling or pushing. In heavy loads the breath must be large and locked and held in order to support the spine as the loads are on the shoulders and transferred through the spine to the legs, feet and floor. The arms do little other than hold the weight. For novices, it is easy to cue them that they are jumping with weight and speed and technique are the keys, not strength.
Weight lifters in the lighter weight classes generate some of the greatest power outputs measured in sport.
Why Include Olympic Lifting as a Part of the Training Process
In Olympic lifting, the athlete is jumping with weight. In other words, Olympic lifting can be viewed as loaded, in-place plyometrics. In athletics, rate of force development (RFD) is the key to power. Jumping is the key for lower body RFD. What is sprinting other than jumping from foot to foot? The greater the variety of drills imposed on the athlete that optimizes the RFD at varying loads, speeds, angles and directions, with consistent dosage, will increase the athletes ability to be explosive, quick, fast and powerful. Olympic lifting is one tool that can be used to increase vertical plane RFD in the extensors of the lower body and in creating “triple extension” at the hip, knee and ankle in a parallel stance. Single leg power is generally developed by agilities and plyometric drills. In order to measure actual power output abilities and adjust the prescription for an athlete for any given workout the use of the Tendo unit is currently the only practical device that can be utilized to quickly determine an athletes’ ability to generate force at that moment.
The clean is a pull from the floor, a re-bending of the knees (or scoop) for the explosive second pull to lift the bar above the hips as the body is pulled under for the catch or rack. During the second pull, great hip extension will result in the bar brushing the mid to upper thigh. Pressure is kept on the bar at all times by either pulling or pushing. The depth of the squat during the rack is determined by the load. The lighter the load, the higher the squat during the catch phase as the bar is pulled higher. Cleans can be classified in a number of different ways. Olympic clean is usually executed by going deep in the hole (deep squat) to catch the rack, a power clean is usually caught higher as the athlete lacks the squat skills to go low, a hang clean is executed above the scoop from just above the knees/mid-thigh and a muscle clean is executed by using more back and upper body than legs. The snatch is essentially the same with the exception that the grip is wider, there is more flexion at the hip, the weight is lighter, the amplitude of movement is greater and the speed of the bar is faster. For athletic development, the snatch is rarely if ever loaded above 70 – 75% of max as speed is essential in the snatch. Remember, it is being prescribed to enhance RFD.
Teaching Olympic Lifting
Olympic Lifting is taught backwards or from the top down. The athlete is generally taught with a dowel rod before moving to a bar. Many times the snatch is taught before the clean as it is the more technical of the lifts. The general techniques are to teach, in order the following cues:
Stance Feet 7-15 degrees external rotation
Legs Knees Knees bent to kneecaps even with toes
Posture Chest Pull shoulder blades back or lift chest up
Grip Wrist Turn wrists down/flex forearms for wide elbow pull
Now the athlete has two techniques to execute one at a time, a slight to moderate RDL followed by a jump. The arms at this point do not bend at the elbow as posture and jumping are the keys. After this is mastered, the athlete will be allowed to repeat (with verbal feedback of each cue from the athlete to you) and add a shrug to the jump. After this is mastered a standing, medium grip upright row is executed followed by a standing medium grip upright row with an elbow whip to a front squat position, holding the bar on the front shoulders for the clean. In the snatch, the techniques are the same but the bar is pulled with a wider grip upright row, the whip occurs to move the elbows under the bar and it is pressed overhead as the body is pushed under the bar for an elbow extended, overhead catch.
Problem Coaching Cue
Using too much upper body Use more legs, jump
Hit belly or belt with 2nd pull Too much back, too little leg, use more legs
Elbows too low in rack Either lazy elbow/forearms too long
Hitting knees in pull Trying to clean from floor, pull from floor, clean from the hang position
Jerking from floor Push feet through the floor – do not pull from the floor
Loss of posture/pillar core Lock in breath, retract shoulder blades, big chest
Lack of power Cover bar with shoulders until 2nd pull, then cover bar with hips by great triple extension. (FASTER!)
Soft rack/catch Put force into the floor – stomp your feet on the catch
Can’t get low Move feet wider after pull for rack/catch
Assist lift for the Olympic Lifts
The assist lifts for Olympic lifting include pulls from the floor and boxes or plinths; various deadlifts, various squats, various presses and jerks as well as a bendover back side chain movements.
Pulls – Pulls are prescribed for loading more than the athlete can catch or to train triple extension without the catch in order to save the athlete from getting beat up by catching rep after rep. However, the eccentric ability of the legs to absorb the force of the clean is paramount for translation to generating force at the tendon in plyometric, change of direction, sprinting type activities. In pulls, the technique is the same as in a clean from the floor, box or plinth but the bar is guided back down with no attempt at a rack.
Deadlifts – Deadlifts are executed from the normal squat stance, wide sumo stance, off of boxes/plinths or from the top down in the RDL (Russian or Romanian deadlift). The grip is either an overhand grip or an over/under alternate style grip. Usually the former grip is assigned. Deadlifts are utilized to stress the back, glutes and hamstrings of the back side chain. Reverse hypers and glute ham raises are other examples of this type of bendover exercise.
Squats – Squats are used to increase the ability of the athlete to catch or rack the load in a low position. Power squats are done with the bar low on the back and usually a wide stance. Power squats involve the back to a great degree. Olympic squats are executed with the bar high on the shoulders and the stance is usually somewhat narrow, thus putting less stress on the lower back. Front squats are executed with the bar in front of the neck with the bar supported on the shoulders and high elbows and is least stressful on the lower back. This squat may be difficult for long forearmed athletes. Overhead squats are executed with the bar extended overhead in a locked out position. Overhead squats put the greatest stress on the functional mobility of the shoulders, hips and ankles as well as the core to support this squat. The Safety Bar squat is used to stress the thoracic spine more than the lower back. It allows the athlete to use greater loads on the hips and legs than normal squats, put less stress on the lower back, spot themselves for a great degree of safety with the handles and are generally a great addition to Olympic lifting. Single leg squats (Bulgarian squats) are executed with one foot elevated to the rear without rotation at the hips, so the load is supported on the front leg only. This puts greater stress on the loaded leg and much less stress on the low back. The Soviet Bloc coaches tended to prescribe many more single leg exercises to their lifters once they were able to back squat 500 pounds (225 kilos) in order to save their backs for the lifts and pulls.
Jerks – Jerks are overhead presses in which the bar is driven up by flexing (dip) at the knees and using the legs to drive the load overhead while assisting with the shoulders and arms. The feet will rapidly split forward and backward in order to lower the center of mass for the catch in a lunge or split squat stance. The push jerk is an overhead press in which the legs assist the press, the feet even leave the floor, but there is no split. The push press is executed the same with out foot movement off of the floor. The press is executed by just using the upper body, no legs.
Combination and Complex Lifts
Combination lifts are exercise in which two or more techniques or lifts are combined in order to create a series of exercises. For example, 3 hang snatches + 3 overhead lunges + 3 good morning to a press could be prescribed. This would include speed pulling, core stability, push back lunges for recovery and bendovers with speed to a wide grip overhead press. A complex lift is similar with the exception that each technique is executed in a row 3 times. For example, 1 hang snatch + 1 overhead lunge on each leg + 1 good morning to a press x 3 repetitions. The complex lift is more demanding on the strength fitness of the athlete. Combination and complex lifts are excellent for stressing technical aspects of the lifts, fitness of the athlete, build up sets, as well as increasing time under tension at light to moderate loads. In order to increase time under tension (TUT), prescribe a hold for a certain time at each change of direction, from eccentric to concentric, in the lift. Usually it is best to prescribe a three second hold as the athlete will count too fast. Three seconds is usually about 1 – 1.5 good seconds. Combination and complex lifts are excellent ways to prescribe corrective exercise for athletes that are time challenged and need/want results in measurables and are not as interested in screens, assessments and injury prevention.
Why assign or prescribe Olympic Weightlifting exercises as a part of the workout or training program?
In a word – POWER.
In addition, postural strength, work capacity and mobility/stability are all byproducts of good weightlifting exercises as a part of the training program.
Speed can be developed – if it is trained first and foremost in the training program. Speed should be considered first in the plan daily, weekly and monthly. Speed must be trained concurrent with other systems in order to maximize the ability. If speed training is delayed in the training cycle until the athlete is “in shape” or until the athlete perfects their form, then it is usually too late to incorporate the speed protocol due to the demands of the season. Speed should be started early in the training cycle, first in the day and early in the week. The rest and recovery from each bout of speed repetition should be a minimum of 3:00 – 5:00 minutes, depending upon the distance covered and the fitness level of the athlete.
Key Techniques of Speed
Posture – the correct posture for starting, transition, change of direction and absolute speed must become an automatic response. This posture requires a braced core, flat back, retracted shoulder blades in a “tall” posture attitude.
Core strength – is a key in order to limit energy leakage from shoulder to opposite hip as the athlete attempts to put force into the ground.
Stance – The stance is the key to the start and the start is the key to race to the finish line, the base, the ball and/or the opponent. Whether starting up or down, linear or laterally, the stance determines the ability of the athlete to impart force into the ground, the length of the ground contact time and the ability of the athlete to maintain the proper techniques for acceleration during the second or get away step.
Casted ankle – this technique of “toe up” is key in order to impart force into the ground in a short amount of impulse time.
Thigh Separation – this cue is excellent in creating mastery of individual stride length abilities. It tends to enhance both knee punch as well as glute extension which are critical techniques in linear speed.
Arm Drive – Arm drive is from shoulder height with the hand in front to almost shoulder height in back with the elbow (which is very limited in many over bench pressed athletes) with the hand passing even with the shorts pocket during the downward stroke.
Leg Drive – Leg drive consists of knee punch, thigh separation, high recovery with the ankle crossing above the knee and the heel just brushing the buttocks. During the drive phase the toe never gets ahead of the knee. In fact, as the knee begins the downward drive to the ground the knee and toe should be in a perpendicular line to the ground.
Head Position – is in the anatomical position with the “eyes on the prize”, be it the finish line, the ball or the opponent.
Speed Progression of Training Pyramid
(thanks to Dr. Bob Ward)
Absolute Speed for Speed
Plyometrics for Power and Acceleration
Resisted Sprints for Power and Acceleration
MediBall Drills for Speed, Power and Acceleration
Moderate Load Olympic Style Strength Training 2 – 10 sets of 1 – 3 reps
Big Load Heavy (Power Lift Style) Strength Training 3 – 8 sets of 1 – 5 reps
Flying Stick Drill – Set up a series of sticks or strips that begin at 7’6” between each stick. Allow for an acceleration zone of a minimum of 15-20 yards. The total number of sticks should allow for a minimum of 7 sticks and a maximum of 16 sticks. The number of sticks will be determined by the speed fitness of the athlete. If the athlete is fast and fit, the number of sticks will be in the mid-teens. If the athlete is slow or does not possess adequate speed fitness, then the number of sticks will be in the high single digits. Once the athlete becomes comfortable, the next lane of sticks is set at +6” or 8’. The next lane is 8’6”, the next lane is 9’. If the athlete is national class and/or tall, then the stick drill can be increased in 9” increments – 7’6” to 8’3” to 9’. As soon as the athlete loses form and begins to reach then he must move back down one level, increase his speed or maintain better form.
10, 20, 40 and 60 yard sprint – from a start utilizing either a 2 (upright) or 3 point stance, begin timing on the athletes first movement. Stop timing as the athlete’s core passes the finish line.
Flying 20 and 40 yard sprint – utilizing a 15 – 25 yard acceleration zone time the athlete from one end of the flying sprint zone to the other end.
3 Step 5 and 5 Step 10 Drill – Have the athlete with national or world class speed attempt to 3 step the first 5 yards and 5 step the first 10 yards of the 20, 40 or 60. Do not count the first step (which just gets the athlete to the start line).
Stride Length – Utilize a 20 – 25 yard acceleration zone and measure the 2 longest strides from the tip of the rear toe to the tip of the front toe. This should equal out to 1.265 multiplied by the athletes height in inches, + or – 4 inches.
Sample Speed Training Programs
Absolute Sport Sport
Sport Speed Special
Speed Endurance Endurance I
Intensity 95% + 90 – 95% + 90 – 95% +
Distance of Run 15 – 35 yds 40 – 100 yds 100 – 200 yds
Reps 3 – 6 3 – 6 1 – 5
Sets 1 – 3 1 – 2 1
Total Distance in Session 45–630 yds 120–1200 yds 100–1000 yds
Recovery / Reps 2 – 5 min. 2 – 5 min. 5 – 10 min.
Recovery / Sets 8 – 10 min. 8 – 10 min. N / A
The key to speed and acceleration is to train it first, foremost and it must be the overall focus of the program. Strength is easy, lift heavy stuff and people get strong. Hypertrophy is up to the athlete and what food choices they make and how they utilize nutrient timing. Power is the combination of speed and strength and should be a by focus of the focus on speed. If speed is to be enhanced, then it must be a focus of the program.
It is important in prescribing exercise programs to be aware of several variables and the impact the exercise prescription can have on a person that is not ready to execute certain drills, movements, loads and intensities due to lack of training age, poor general fitness and/or inadequate movement patterns due to lack of mobility and/or stability. Some popular exercise programs assign exceedingly large loads of volume and/or intensities (resistance, speed and/or range of motion) with little regard to the ability and state of preparation of the end user. The human body is a superb machine, able to compensate for many inadequacies and still execute some form of the movement, even though the pattern is less than ideal. Over time, especially with increasingly larger loads/volumes, the body will begin to exhibit symptoms that relate back to these less than ideal patterns of movements. Poor compensation patterns of movement may ask muscles to do jobs they were not designed to do, in a sequence and order that is not optimal for the pattern, or put joints in poor positions in terms of their designed function. These symptoms include low back tightness; hamstring tightness and pulls; tendonitis and bursitis in various areas; stiffness in joints; and over time, the inability to execute certain movements due to pain and restrictions in muscles and/or immobility in the joints themselves.
Let me explain. If a person is unable to squat in a normal squat pattern because they tend to load the front side by bending the knees first (rather than hinging at the hip), collapse forward at the trunk due a weak core or tend to shift onto one leg due to a lack of flexibility in a muscle group or lack of mobility in a joint, is it wise to load them with 40-50 reps, added resistance, speed as in jumps or large range of motion movements? They may be able to execute the prescribed workload (4-5 x 10 with a 20 pound vest and squat below parallel) and not immediately have any noticeable ill effects. However, over time, the cumulative effect of repeated poor movement patterns will cause training adaptations that may not be ideal and could contribute to muscle, tendon, ligament, joint and disc problems.
If the professional tasked with prescribing exercise programming is aware of some simple parameters when implementing the exercise prescription, then the program designed for the athlete will not only prepare them for the rigors of their occupation and hobbies, but can also enhance the athlete’s ability to stay fit, healthy and active at an exceedingly high level for as long as they choose.
Observing the athlete moving in any skill or pattern begs the question, is the pattern optimal and clean in its execution. If the answer is yes, it is ok to execute that pattern. However, if load is added in terms of speed, additional ROM, volume, TUT (Time the muscle is Under Tension – i.e. heavy and slow, light and fast or medium loads with pauses or stops in the range of motion) or some other variation and the pattern changes for the worse, then the athlete is not prepared adequately. This compensation is due to a weakness, imbalance, lack of mobility or stability and negatively impacts the ability to execute that exercise prescribed. At this point, a decision must be made to either restrict the load/intensity or regress in the progression and periodization of the exercise prescription.
However, in some instances, the movement improves, providing a clue as to the cause of the poor pattern. If the athlete is unable to perform a decent squat pattern, i.e. collapses forward in the trunk region, but when load is added in the form of a medicine ball or weight held at bent arms length which subsequently improves the movement pattern, this tell us something. The front of the core (abs) is a spring built for resistance to collapse. With the addition of external load at bent arm’s length, many times the body will compensate by engaging the core and resisting the collapse, thus causing improvement in the squat pattern in terms of the anterior core no longer collapsing.
As a professional tasked with assigning exercise, if optimal pattern awareness is made a part of the exercise prescription process, then managing the physical ailments by our athletes as they age will be made easier by the type and quality of training the end user does in their younger years. No pain – no gain is no way to prepare the people we are entrusted with improving their fitness abilities. No train – no gain combined with train for stability/mobility for enhanced physical ability to bend, rotate and extend with strength, power and fitness is a way to approach program design and exercise prescription for the diverse population that presents itself each and every day. Pattern, progression and periodization pave the way to optimal movements, continued progress and few injuries.
Many performance professionals include track type drills as a part of a dynamic warm-up. Drills such as skips, butt kicks, shuffles, carioca and back pedal are a staple of many dynamic warm – up programs. But, why do we do those drills for performance athletes and performance clients? Riding a bike, jogging on a treadmill and calisthenics are all good options for raising core temperature, increasing heart rate and upping the respiration rate, which are the goal of a good warm-up.
Most performance athletes and performance clients compete or are very active in ground based endeavors such as sports or exercise classes or have hobbies and/or jobs that involve moving with speed and efficiency. Most of the drills we use in dynamic warm-up patterns are repeat opportunities for first step and get away step mechanics practice. If done with focus, technical proficiency and power, the athlete can repeatedly practice the posture, mechanics, arm drive and core stability needed in order to become a better athlete in terms of moving with efficiency.
The drills and what they are doing follow:
Skips – Single and double leg skips are repeat first step mechanics for linear movement. Knee punch action with a toe-up casted ankle are critical for proper force to be imparted into the ground which will in turn drive the body forward. If the glute is engaged on the back side as the foot makes ground contact, the body will be propelled linearly and cover ground. If not, the ground reaction forces of the foot contact will cause the body to move vertically as much as linearly. Common errors include no force into the ground (this is huge), poor casted ankle/foot drop, collapsed posture, poor arm action.
Butt Kicks – Single and double leg butt kicks are to reinforce the cyclic action of sprinting. When sprinting, the heel will almost brush the buttocks as the ankle crosses above the opposite knee. When running, the ankle will cross at the opposite knee. When jogging, the ankle will cross below the opposite knee. If the athlete has a casted ankle with the toe-up, then the butt kicks will be springy upon ground contact. Most athletes will let the ankle drop and allow the foot to “reach” for the ground as contact is made. This will add to ground contact time and is a major difference between running and sprinting. Posture should be tall with a braced core, good arm action and hips over the toes. Common errors include flat-footed ground contact, poor arm action, excessive knee lift with the butt kick and too much forward lean and/or flex at the hips.
Slide Kicks – Double Leg slide kicks are excellent for training transition from starting acceleration to absolute speed in sprinting. This occurs for most team sport athletes beginning at the 10-20 yard mark. With a toe-up casted ankle, the athlete stands tall and begins to jack hammer the foot up and down above the ankle. Quickly the amplitude of movement will increase as the foot/ankle will go up to the opposite knee and jackhammer to the ground. The athlete will begin to lean at the hips and the jackhammer force will begin to propel the athlete linearly. As the lean increases, the amount of ground covered between each step will increase as the force the athlete imparts on ground contact will propel the body forward. The jackhammer action does not change as the speed increases. Common errors include dropped foot for contact (no casted toe-up ankle), collapsed posture, obvious change of gears from acceleration to a run rather than acceleration into a sprint, poor arm action and flat–footed ground contact.
Cycle Kicks – Single and double leg cycle kicks are the most technically difficult to learn to execute and usually takes 4-6 weeks of mastering the other three linear drills before this drill is incorporated into the dynamic warm-up. Cycle kicks are a combination of the other three drills and are a mimicking of the sprint cycle action. The difference is that this action is done in warm-up and is fast in execution but does not impart the force that is used in acceleration and sprinting. Focus on tall hips, braced core, heel-up, toe-up, arm action can all be the focus of this drill which creates a slightly different exercise on each rep as the focus is changed. Common errors include uneven leg cycles, poor high ankle recovery and collapsed posture.
Lateral Drills –
Pull Shuffle – Pull shuffle is what we normally think of as a shuffle drill. The front leg is pulling the body forward. This is what is used in basketball defense as the athlete shadows an offensive player that is a comfortable distance away. Common errors include too much external rotation of the legs, over striding with the front side pull leg,
Push Shuffle – The push shuffle is much more violent and explosive as the back leg will impart great force into the ground in order to move the body laterally. Knee punch, toe-up casted ankle technical emphasis is reinforced. The knee of the push leg will be ahead of the toe in order to impart force on the push. Again, think of the basketball athlete on defense, but this time the offensive player is very close and the defender is attempting to beat the offensive player to a spot in order to redirect his movement. Common errors include too much external rotation of the legs, pulling with the front side leg rather than pushing with the back side leg and being too outside dominant (usually due to too much double leg squatting) thus being bow legged with the knee outside the foot rather than on the inside edge of the foot for the push-off.
Lateral Skip – Is a repeat action of the first step in push shuffle in order to cut off an opponent. Keeping the shoulders and chest perpendicular to the acceleration direction as the arms drive from front to back. The lateral movement occurs from the backside leg putting force into the ground. The front side leg will cover the ground in relation to the force imparted by the back leg. As in any acceleration drill the front side leg should have a knee-up/toe-up focus with the foot contacting the ground under the hips. In other words, don’t overreach or overt stride with the front side leg and attempt to pull the hips forward. Common errors are no backside knee punch, poor rhythm, over striding with the front side foot and bad arm mechanics.
Carioca – The carioca drill is an opportunity to repeat the first step mechanics for the crossover step. High knee action across to the opposite hip with the little toe up focus to keep the knee ahead of the toe for good acceleration mechanics is critical for optimal acceleration mechanics. The back side arm action must be with a 90 degree flexed elbow in a front to back action rather than crossing the mid-line in order to prevent the shoulders from rotating toward the direction of acceleration, thus creating unwanted motion during this repeat drill. The rotation should occur below the hip while the torso above the hip is relatively perpendicular to the direction of acceleration. Common errors include poor casted ankle/foot drop, low knee recovery, poor landmark placement of backside knee-punch, poor arm mechanics and collapsed posture.
Crossover Run – the Crossover run is the front side/back leg of the carioca drill repeated. It is imperative for the backside elbow to drive back and not cross the mid-line in order to prevent torso rotation. The backside knee should punch up and across the hips aiming for the front side hip. The little toe should be the focus and in a toe-up position. This allows the knee punch to be optimally in front of the foot in order to impart force back into the ground in a backward vector. The shoulders should stay perpendicularly square to the direction of acceleration. The downward knee punch and rearward elbow punch should be equally forceful in order to create maximal acceleration in reaction to the ground contact force.
Crossover Skip – The crossover skip is usually easier to learn than the crossover run for most people. This is more of a pattern drill than an acceleration drill in order for athletes to become comfortable with the rhythm of the crossover pattern. It is a drill to introduce in the progression in order to make the coordination of the crossover run easier for the athlete to internalize. The focus is on the rhythm of the drill first, followed by cueing the knee punch, arm action and finally the little toe up mechanics. Since a skip is slower than a run, it is easier for the athlete to be aware of the movements and techniques needed to optimize the pattern. Common errors include not skipping or skipping with only one leg.
Back Pedal – The back pedal is to teach stopping mechanics for change of direction. Hip, knee and ankle flexion as well as posture is critical in order to prevent the collapse and possible internal rotation that occurs all too often as athletes attempt to absorb force. Many time this poor force absorption pattern results in an ACL rupture. The key points of cueing are chest over knees, knees over toes. The feet should be forward and the arms should be driven backward forcefully at the elbow. The posture should mimic as if the athlete were doing a good morning or in other words the tall, braced core, flat back attitude should be apparent.
Backward Run – The backward run is prescribed to emphasize and create awareness of backside mechanics. Explosive elbow drive, heel – up and reach, posture and ground contact point are all similar, but much more critical to locomotion when attempting to go fast backwards. In order to execute this drill, it is much easier to start with a back pedal and as the speed increases, instruct the athlete to get tall, hammer the elbows back and get the heels up and reach. Instruct the athlete to lean in the direction of acceleration with the hips tall and great posture as top end speed is attained. Common errors include leaning away from the direction going (which results in a lot of work and very little locomotion), low heel recovery, poor arm mechanics, poor posture and externally rotated feet.
Backward Skip – the backward skip is a drill that is prescribed in order to allow the athlete to feel the heel brush off of the buttocks. Optimal posture is easier to attain, arm mechanics are slower and can be emphasized and foot contact is much easier to correct. The common error is a lack of rhythm for the movement pattern.
Backward Butt Kicks – This drill will correct a lack of heel brush off of the buttocks. Long-term joggers and bigger athletes such as offensive linemen in football will benefit greatly from this drill. The emphasis on backside heel to buttocks brush will pay dividends for these athletes as high speed, absolute sprinting will show mechanical improvement with high ankle recovery which in turn allows for stride length optimization as well as better ground force production due to the corresponding optimal knee punch.
External Rotation of the Legs – This is usually due to too much double leg squatting or leg pressing and a corresponding dominance of the outside sling or outer, lateral areas of the hips and legs which create tighter TFL, IT band and vastus lateralus causing the external rotation expressed in the lower leg and foot contact mechanics. In order to correct this the addition of single leg exercises such as Bulgarian (also known as pitcher squats), multi-direction lunges and multi-direction single leg squats are critical. Especially useful to correct this is the lateral lunge or squat and the scorpion lunge or squat. Additionally, the lateral leg musculature needs to be lengthened and/or released via stretching, massage and/or application of vibration.
Rhythm/Drill Mechanics (walk before run) – Just as in learning any new skill, it is best to execute it walking before trotting, jogging before running and running before sprinting. The addition of the skip application of the drill allows more explosive forces to be applied but at a slower tempo of movement allowing for corrections to be cued and internalized before sprinting is attempted.
Posture (Strength/awareness/age & maturity) – Posture is more complex as there are a variety of issues that could contribute to a collapsed posture. The easiest correction is just due to a lack of awareness. Creating focus via a verbal cue many times is all it takes to correct this problem. Tight hip flexor complex is also a reason for collapsed core as the front side core above the hip will flex on the hip opposite the knee punch as a reaction to the tight hip flexors on the straight leg side. Poor front side low core strength and stability will also contribute to postural collapse as the upper core attempts to assist in the lifting of the heavy lower limb during acceleration mechanics and the corresponding drills. Many times the growth spurt experienced by emerging athletes will exacerbate this problem as the rapid lever lengthening will make stability strength much more difficult to master and/or maintain in these drills. At full speed/absolute speed the athlete should be tall, chest over the hips, hips over ground contact point and be “planed out” like a boat on water. In other words, the athlete should be sprinting up on top of the ground/track/field/court for a short distance. This is not sport speed but speed development and is different than the speed that is used in sport competition.
Poor Arm Drive – This is usually due to lack of awareness and/or front side shoulder tightness. Front side anterior deltoid and pec stretching will allow for additional ROM. To create greater awareness, add a very light weight (1-2 lbs) to the hands of the athlete or place an ankle band from the webbing between the thumb and forefinger to the elbow which will not allow arm straightening during the hammer back phase of the arm drive. Arm drive should be from “cheek to cheek” or shoulder height in front with the hands and almost shoulder height in back with the elbow.
Foot Drop or Poor Casted Ankle – Have the athlete rub the toes up on the top of the shoes. Have them march in place with a casted ankle. Why is this so critical? When the foot drops and “reaches” for the ground, the ground contact time is increased and the tendons are not loaded as much as the muscles are loaded. When the mucles are loaded, the athlete is running. When the tendons are loaded, the athlete is sprinting. That is why conditioning is concerned with volume and sprinting/speed development is concerned with quality.
These drills will assist the client/athlete to improve first step and get away step quickness if done with focus, effort and intensity. Impulse into the ground, posture, mechanics and being engaged mentally will greatly increase the quality of the efforts which will increase the abilities of the client/athlete, if done with consistency.