The 5-yard hop has been an accepted measure of a person’s ability to accelerate since the early 80’s. The 10-yard and 20 yard sprint have also been accepted measures of the ability to accelerate in a sprint. The question becomes how does one prescribe exercise to enhance this ability? Over the years, I have come up with some drills and exercises that when combined tend to positively impact this ability.
The Exercises / Drills
Single leg RDL: This exercise is done as an RDL (meaning the hands go no lower than the kneecaps and the eccentric movement is controlled while the concentric movement is quick. *see my article on the difference between RDL and good mornings for clarification) The reps are linear with a relatively intense load using a bar or two dumbbells / kettle bells while hinging at the hip with the knees flexed. The core is braced and the spine is natural and tight. I usually begin by prescribing 25 – 35% of the power clean max.
Single leg rotational good morning: This is executed with a lighter load than the RDL using 2 dumbbells / kettle bells and rotating at the hip and lifting the swing leg up in order to hinge at the hip while reaching both implements inside or outside of the foot. This will better engage the full musculature of the hamstring. I usually begin by prescribing 25 – 35% of body weight in dumbbells / kettle bells.
Single leg box hop: This drill is used to improve the hips ability to impart force into the ground when using only one leg in a range of motion similar to the sprint. I understand it is vertical, but I have found an athlete must learn to summate force vertically before we ask the athlete to summate force linearly. I train the athlete to make use of not only the arms in an explosive / ballistic manner but also the swing leg should be reach back in hip extension and forcefully driven into extension to assist the jump. The athlete can land on one leg or two, but we do NOT jump down. Rebound box jumps can very easily lead to calf injuries and are an elite drill which, in my opinion, have a very high risk to benefit ratio.
Single leg long jump: This is a single response hop like the single leg box jump up in which the athlete can land on one leg, two legs or run through the landing. The key is to summate force on a linear plane and explode out. This is a learning or strength drill prescribed prior to the learning to execute the multiple hop drill or used exclusively in place of the single leg box hop up.
Stump run: Before the multiple response hop or full bound is introduced, I have the athletes do stump runs. The stump run is executed by trotting forward in a slow jog and bending one leg at the knee and continuing to run quickly (NOT necessarily fast) while hopping on one leg and driving the swing leg explosively front to back while keeping it flexed and never touching the ground as if the flexed leg did not exist below the knee. This teaches single leg impulse (without the cycle of the actual sprint when the heel recovers above the knee near the glute), short impulse time upon ground contact in the support leg and intensely stresses the hip flexor of the “stump” leg.
Single leg linear hop: This is executed for distance and power covering ground is similar to the stump run but more force is imparted into the ground resulting in more air time. This drill can be prescribed for reps or a distance. For example, if I assign a distance of 20 yards, then I will have asked the athlete to “sprint” on one leg a similar number of ground contacts as they would do in a 40 yard sprint.
Bounds: This is the highest level drill of a plyometric nature that I ask my athletes to do as the rhythmic ability and neural stress is extreme and can take several sessions before an emerging athlete or one that is not a natural motor athlete can master. Unless the drill is mastered, the training effect is certainly dampened at best and could be non-existent in many cases.
When I am combining or programming theses drills – I first must look at the athlete’s abilities. If they lack strength – then more strength volume (in sets – NOT reps) will be assigned. I will do 5 x 5 or 6 x 4 or 8 x 3 type of strength work in the double or single leg RDL or good morning exercises. If the athlete is strong yet not very powerful in terms of starting / explosive strength then I will assign more single response plyometric drills. If the athlete has some strength and power yet is lacking elastic power, then the multi-response drills will be assigned to a greater degree.
Contrast / complex training versus linear stacking of the drills: This is usually dictated by the space in which we train. If the drills can be done contrast / complex in nature – then we will alternate the loaded exercise with the plyometric drill and finish with some sprints. If the area does NOT lend itself to contrast / complex training then we will do the loaded exercises first, then the in place plyometric drills (which I will alternate with the multiple response drills in order to go from strength speed to speed strength) and then finish with the sprints.
Frequency and Dosage
These drills are usually done in some fashion once or twice a week in the off-season. They are always done early in the workout (after activation, warm – up and build up) and after a rest / recovery day. Remember, the nervous system is being trained, not the musculature system. Therefore the nervous system must be fresh and recovered to above 90-95% in order for a training effect to occur.
Full rest is required between drills and exercises for maximum training effect to occur. I do this by prescribing upper body exercises, core exercises, stretching or corrective exercise drills in order to maximize time, focus and training and minimize discipline problems.
Remember it is the quality of the efforts we as coaches are interested in, not the quantity. These drills and exercises are for strength and power and it is counter productive to prescribe this in team building, competitive and “mental toughness” training sessions as the technical aspects /recover requirements of the drills are paramount. Increasing the density of sets or the volume of reps will dampen the stretch reflex as well as the neural rate of force development ability and will increase / solidify the ability of the athlete to exhibit the “slowness” in ground contact time when sprinting and jumping.
Heart Rate is Heart Rate – Whether you are running your athletes, doing a circuit, riding bikes or just doing super or giant sets – as heart rate responds to the workload, fitness (work capacity) is being trained. Can you be in great shape running but not in doing agilities? Yes! Doing distance work but unable to maintain tempo in executing a giant set workout (legs, push, pull)? Yes! In post season – general physical preparation (GPP or working to work) is very acceptable. Even in very early off-season it is OK. But, with time becoming such a cherished commodity, special fitness / work capacity training focused on the energy systems of the competition is the key to elite performance preparation.
How Much Fitness is Enough? – Aerobic Base is a waste of time. Distance in virtually every sport has NO place in the preparation plan. A recovery run for soccer or basketball in the post season around campus wearing your gear to have fun and look good is great. But the other 11 months of the year distance is compromising speed and power. Building the intervals of training, be it short burst agilities or long intervals of 1:30 – 2:30 in order to train the energy system to work and recover is critical. What is the rest interval? It can be heart rate (recover to 121) OR just watch the quality of the work. The quality MUST remain high or you are doing crap reps. A competent coach would never load a bad squat pattern, so why continue to do reps when the speed, turnover and quality is less than optimal? To make them tougher. . . . ? On occasion, yes. I think that if you want tough people, recruit tough people.
Frequency and Dosage of Training – Physical preparation is like medicine. It must be the correct amount, taken in the correct timing for the optimal period of time. Training fitness and work capacity is easy. More is better in terms of volume. Less is more in terms of rest. However, what if you are training speed, acceleration and power? Then the QUALITY of the rep is the MOST important factor of training. How do I increase quality? Rest longer or break the reps up into sets. How do I rest longer when sport coaches are watching? Make the groups bigger, add planks, or insert shoulder body weight alphabets or stretching between work bouts. The athletes are “working” but are recovering the energy system and nervous system for the next rep. Muscles and fitness take more reps and fewer sets while the nervous system (speed/power) require more sets and fewer reps.
Training Effect – It takes about 6 weeks to effect a training effect that will be a long-term change in the status and abilities of the athlete. Anything less tends to be temporary. Recovery is critical to the training effect. If the athlete is not allowed to recover, the rebound effect to the training stimulus is muted and the results of training are dampened. This in turn will create less buy in as testing results will suffer. And, of course the sport coaches will not think you know your stuff if your numbers are not outstanding!
Rest – In training volume, once the volume goal is attained in terms of distance, loads, sets/reps, etc. the next step is to begin to shorten the rest bouts. In sport, it is generally not who can dothe most work in the shortest time (crossfit, cross country, distance racing) but rather who can do the highest quality work and recover in the time allotted in order to be ready to perform again at an elite level (this is also the definition of work capacity).
Running – Most sports are based on running and sprinting. The nervous system must be re-set after a heavy leg session to be elastic and dynamic in the run/sprint pattern. If the athlete is allowed to do nothing after a heavy leg session, the next days workout is compromised and over time, the athlete will begin to lose the elasticity required to run, jump, start, stop and change direction in a fluid, dynamic and explosive ability. So, run what after a heavy leg day? 6-8 x 50m, 6-8 x 100m or something in that volume range (300 – 800m). Run, walk, run walk and as the athlete loosens up, the speed will come to them and make their last one their fastest one and look like a sprinter again.
Running II – If you are working with an older population and doing interval ladder sprints (50-100-150-200) or pyramid interval sprints (50-100-150-200-150-100-50) always go from long intervals to the short interval in order to protect the calf from strains and pulls. If you want to work on speed and turnover, start short in terms of distance and go up because when you prescribe the workout this way, the athlete will maintain the faster turnover through the longer intervals. When the workout is prescribed from long to short, the athlete will tend to run rather than sprint the shorter distances.
Special Strength – Special Strength is loading an athlete so that the rep is above 90% of the best effort in terms of speed, power and quality. Hill sprints and agilities, loaded jumps, sled and parachute sprints, resisted starts. The load is usually 10% or less of body weight.
Volume – Many injuries are a result of volume. Generally, only in competition will accidental injuries occur (getting rolled up, shoved, tripped, etc.) or catastrophic non-contact injuries happen (the dreaded ACL). Training injuries are almost always volume related. Volume is training age and sexual maturation age related. A novice emerging athlete that is a late maturing child will need much less volume than a child with a training age of 3 years and is an early maturing child.
These are some of the things I have learned over the years in training athletes of all ages. I hope it helps! Robb
The following items are philosophical tenants I apply to all my training prescriptions and programs. I have found that when I keep these items at the forefront of my process of training, my athletes and clients are trained to a much higher level with less volume and fewer problems.
1. The first 5:00 minutes of the workout sets the tone for the entire session and the last 5:00 minutes of today’s workout is the start of tomorrow’s session.
2. Pattern Before Power
3. 20% of Corrective Exercises applied during the training session will tend to positively impact 80% of the problems and complaints of the athlete/client.
4. Just because you can does not mean you should.
5. The quality of the focus, effort and repetition are the key to optimal performance.
6. Body weight before external loading.
7. Build in fun and competition.
8. Speed, power, strength, core and fitness sequencing are the key to maximizing the performance training prescription.
9. After clean patterns and added volume and load – integrate time under tension, speed, unilateral loading, complex and combination patterns of training for added stimulus and improvement.
10. More is Better – more rest, more recovery, more quality and more nutrition
The first 5:00 minutes of the workout sets the tone for the entire session and the last 5:00 minutes of today’s workout is the start of tomorrow’s session. The first 5:00 minutes set the tone, tempo and focus of today’s session. Many corrective exercise strategies can be seamlessly integrated into the warm up process. The last 5:00 minutes of the workout can be focused on passive recovery and/or active regeneration techniques in order to maximize the benefits of the session as well as begin to train the athletes that warm – up and recovery are a part of every training session.
Pattern before power. If the athlete/client does not have clean movement patterns, why load them, increase their volume, add speed, etc? It makes absolutely NO sense to have the athlete continue to execute crappy reps. Good to great reps are acceptable, depending upon the athlete/client. The novice can get away with good, but not the veteran.
20% of Corrective Exercises applied during the training session will tend to positively impact 80% of the problems and complaints of the athlete/client. Most of the poor compensation/movement patterns I have encountered are from ankle immobility, hip immobility, low core instability, T-spine immobility, anterior shoulder tightness and scapula instability. Addressing these items during the warm up, cool down or the training session with a few easy to do exercises will tend to address most of the issues that people have when it comes to movement and overall muscular-skeletal health.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you can do 50 snatches in a row, should you? Why? 100 hang clean and squat presses? 100 burpees? Why? To get smoked? Ok, that makes a little sense. Very little. Are you training or are you working out? If you are working out – go ahead. If your focus is to increase work capacity – fine. But just doing it to do it or for work capacity is like running around the goal post to warm – up. It accomplishes the goal and nothing else. If you are training and you have a goal or have an issue or have a technique or pattern problem – then why do a bunch of unfocused, crappy reps? When you get tired and keep going – you most likely are doing crappy reps.
The quality of your focus, effort and repetition are the keys to optimal performance. Not only do your patterns need to be optimal but your effort needs to be intense and your focus needs to be great in order to get the most out of your training session. If your effort is average, your return on your effort will be average. If your focus is poor, generally your execution and pattern will suffer. If you are training with great effort, optimal focus and executing great reps, your return on your training will be maxed. Effort and focus can pertain to speed, power, pauses and holds as well as rounds and reps.
Body weight before external loading. If an athlete cannot execute 20 reps of air squats and push-ups properly, then why prescribe loaded squats or bench press? If they cannot execute 3 good pull-ups, why let them continue to bench press 225 and do lat pulls with 90 pounds? If an athlete cannot execute a single leg sit down squat onto a bench for 5 reps, why load them with dumbbells for lunges? Body weight before external loading.
Build in fun and competition. If it is not fun, why do it? If the person does not like to compete, why are they in performance training? If you are just working out, then you do not need to compete. If you are not going to be graded or measured in any type of physical parameter, then you do not need to compete. But it always MUST be fun, or, why do it?
Speed, power, strength, core and fitness sequencing are the key to maximizing the training prescription. Would you time a mile and then test a 40? Would you test bench press max and then test seated mediball push test? Would you smoke the core and then test a dead lift max? NO! Then why set up your training sequence so that the athlete trains in a poor order or sequence of stimulus? If they do not improve on test day, then the training program was flawed. The Russian coaches felt that if 60% PR’ed, it was a poor training cycle. If 70% Pr’ed it was an average training cycle. If 80% PR’ed then the training program was outstanding. How do your training cycles compare?
After optimal movement patterns are established and/or volume and load are added – integrate time under tension, speed, unilateral loading, complex and combination patterns of training for added stimulus and improvement. If the same workout prescription is done time after time, with similar progressions, similar loads and similar exercises – why would you ever expect different results? New stimulus must be applied and training emphasis focus must be integrated and weaved in and out of the program as speed, power, strength and fitness are all vital components for competitive athletes to improve during the off-season.
More is Better – more rest, more recovery, more quality and more nutrition. It is America and yes more is better. However, it is not always just more volume or more load. What is critical to integrate is more quality stimulus at the optimal time, more proactive recovery and better nutritional support at the times that it is critical and the body is starving for nutrients.
These are some of the tenants that I judge every one of my training programs and workouts by as I prescribe them to my athletes and clients. They have helped me over the years and I hope they are of some inspiration to you.
The clean should be taught from the top down. The human mind can only focus on one cue at a time when learning new skills. I prefer to keep it simple in order for the athlete to internalize the cues quickly and remember them easily. When teaching any ground based skill it is critical to teach the base of support/stance first.
The stance can be taught several ways. Have the athlete jump up 3 times and land in a quarter squat on the third jump. Have the athlete assume their high bar squat stance. Have the athlete place their heels under the hips and externally rotate the feet out at 7-15 degrees. External rotation of the feet is important any time the athlete has load through the spine. Being able to squat with the feet straight ahead is a function of hip external rotation mobility. Squatting with the feet straight ahead with load is an excellent way to cause back strain and injury. Back to teaching the clean stance. This stance is the basic athletic stance for jumping and landing.
The knees are flexed with the kneecaps even with the toes. The torso is upright at this time. The abs are braced, the shoulder blades are retracted and the wrists are turned straight down OR the elbows are turned out. Why are these the cues and why are they important? The knees are flexed so that they are in a position to jump, but will not move/flex in the slide of the bar down the legs. The abs are braced in order to protect the lumbar spine and transfer force. The shoulder blades are retracted in order to better transfer the power from the legs and hips through the shoulders to better move the load on the bar with speed. The wrists turned down/straight OR the elbows are turned out in order to create an upright row path of the bar in order to keep the bar close to the center of mass, a much stronger position to impart force.
When the athlete understands and can execute the stance and the posture, the hang clean techniques can be introduced. The first is to hinge at the hip and execute a bend over. The body weight should stay centered on the foot with the load being full footed but NEVER “on the toes”! The body weight can be SLIGHTLY forward on the forefoot (I will grab the athlete and let them feel their weight centered on the foot, back on the heel and forward on the forefoot by having them lock their body and rocking them back and forth so they can understand how slight the change is in their center that can change the entire movement). I have them bend over, bend over and then jump. We will execute this movement several times. Then the athlete will execute an upright row, putting the “hands in the armpits” with a grip so that the hands are outside the edge of the legs. The elbows will be high and wide. This can be done with body weight, a dowel rod or a bar. Next I will have them put it together so that they will say OUT LOUD “Feet”, “Knees”, “Chest”, “Wrist” in order to set up and then they ONLY NEED TO DO 2 MOVEMENTS – ONE AT A TIME! The movements are “Bend Over” and “Jump” and the jump should be HIGH! The bar should remain close, go to the mid-chest area and the elbows should be high and wide. The jump will cause the athlete to leave the ground, but the stance upon returning to the ground should be the normal clean stance, which is also the normal squat stance.
The RackThe rack is a rack – NOT A CATCH! Many times people will “catch” the bar, and it will land on them with a thud on the shoulder, which is very uncomfortable for young athletes or very lean athletes, both of which have very little muscle mass on the upper shoulders. The key to the rack is to keep pressure on the bar at all times. The pull converts to a push as the bar passes the upright row phase into the rack onto the shoulders. This in turn allows the athlete to rack the bar at a position in which the load is absorbed at the highest level of the front squat. If the rack is smooth, the load will be absorbed by the legs and hips; with the torso being stabilized and braced for protection. When the load is heavy, the rack will be accomplished with a low front squat where if the load is light, the rack will be in a high front squat position. In other words, the load will determine the depth of the squat on the catch.
Flaws, Problems and Corrections –
Weight misplaced in the base of support – Too far forward and the athlete will have to jump to the bar, lean back on the rack or reverse curl the load up to the rack position. Too far back and the bar will hit the belt or belly on the way up or there will be no power transferred into the bar.
No Shrug – The shrug is a key component of the high pull and the last bit of force imparted to the bar on the upward path before the pull force changes to the push force of the rack.
Lazy Elbows – The elbow quite often gets lazy and the bar will begin to drift away from the center or torso, requiring the athlete to again reverse curl the bar or lean back on the rack.
Rounded upper back or lazy shoulder blade retraction – This results in a portion of the power generated in the hips and legs being lost in the upper back as the torso flexes and the taps stretch, absorbing force that should be transferred into the bar. If the flex continues down the torso into the lumbar spine, injury can occur and could be quite serious.
Soft Core – Many times a beginner will not maintain a braced core, and the body will look as if it is flexing through the torso as the lift is executed. This flex is wave like in appearance and is due to the abs not being braced. While not too dangerous in terms of injury (unless it is excessive or the load is great), the resultant lack of transfer of force will seriously limit the ability of the athlete to generate force into the bar and move the weight with speed.
Landing in a wide stance after the pull/jump – this denotes a lack of leg strength in the ability of the athlete to squat with load. This is remedied by prescribing more squatting activities.
Teaching Drills –
Slide, Slide and Shrug, Slide and Hang Clean – This drill is just like it sounds. First, slide the bar down to the hang and then up; Second, slide the bar down to the hang and then up with a shrug; Third, Slide the bar down to a hang and then clean it.
Hang Clean and Front Squat – Again, Just like is sounds. Do a normal hang clean and follow it up with a squat – or multiples of both the squat and/or the clean. If they are weak in the squat, do 1-2 Hang Cleans and 2-5 Front Squats.
Slide, Pause and Hang Clean – This is for starting strength. A normal hang clean is elastic (think rubber band/ball – elastic). Do a normal slide and then hold the hang position for up to 5 seconds before executing the hang clean. This will train the athlete to have excellent form, great back side chain strength in the hang position and good explosion out of the hang or athletic position.
Bar – the traditional implement for use in the hang clean.
Dumbbells – ok to use but will change the elbow position and foster a lazy elbow, which is a common error.
Kettlebells – a somewhat “new” implement for hang cleans and this does mimic the general hang clean pattern that a bar requires for optimal execution.
Ground based trainers – such as a bar type implement that is anchored on one end (think land mine set-up). This is ok in general, but can restrict the ability of the bar to move naturally in the “S” shape if the anchor point does not rotate in a 360 degree ROM but it does enforce good mechanics.
Summary – The hang clean is the usual starting place for learning the clean from the floor, blocks and with other implements. Once the hang clean is mastered, it is relatively easy to introduce the clean from below the knees and then the clean from the floor. The hang snatch is super easy to learn when the hang clean becomes natural as the hang snatch is really even easier to learn.
Over the past several years of emphasis in speed development the concept of training a linear day followed by a lateral day has become well established. A linear day is nothing more than straight ahead speed while a lateral day is agility and mobility drills. Another concept that is also a staple is the idea of assisted and resisted drills. Assisted drills are towing or downhill sprints and starts in which the athlete is assisted which enables the athlete to actually run faster than they are capable. Resisted drills are exercises in which the athlete is made to put more force into the ground than they normally would by the addition of a parachute, sled, partner in front or running up a hill. The final concept that is somewhat newer (at least to me) is the idea of front side and back side mechanics. Front side mechanics are drills that emphasize the lift phase of sprinting such as the knee-toe punch and front side arm drive. Back side mechanics are drills that emphasize the push phase which include hip-knee extension, glute contraction and back side arm drive. Naturally, backside mechanics are much more difficult to coach and master.
When designing a speed development training progression I believe all of these parameters should be factored into the equation. How much of each is determined by the individual needs of the athlete. Let’s consider the linear days first. For sake of discussion, Monday is going to be the Assisted Linear day (AL) and Thursday will be the Resisted Linear day (RL). Sunday is a full recovery day in which no activity is planned. Wednesday is a recovery day in which active regeneration activities are scheduled. Each training session will begin with dynamic warm – up which will have activation and integration exercises, technical warm – up drills, loosening activities and build – up sprints. At this point, the athlete is turned on, warmed up, loose and ready to go full speed. A word of caution, the hamstrings must be prepared to go full speed. To begin a training block with an athlete that is not prepared with several days of basic speed training foundation is begging for a hamstring injury. The athlete must be in condition, having done quality backside chain training (RDL’s, One Leg Good Mornings, Glute Hams, Reverse Hypers, etc.) and been in a stride/sprint running program. Finally, this is speed development, not conditioning. The athlete must be allowed, encouraged and made to recover for 3 – 5 minutes between reps for optimal speed enhancement. Let the fun begin!
Assisted Linear Day
Assisted drills will be assigned in both starts and overspeed sprinting. The tools used to assist the athlete can be a slight downhill grade (no more than 3-5 % grade, less is more for the beginner), tubing and other specialized tools designed for assisted drills. Another word of caution, tubing breaks, strings can tangle in the sprinters feet; athletes can stumble and fall if they are towed too fast. It will take at least one session to become familiar and somewhat comfortable with assisted training. Remember, speed is month to month (according to Tudor Bompa and I happen to agree), so you will not see results for 4 – 6 weeks of quality, intensive drills.
The key to the training program is the mind. The coach must get the athlete to focus on a certain technique on each and every rep. When prescribing absolute speed drills on AL day it is relatively easy to create front side focus on the hands for front side arm drive. The athlete can see them, people are naturally very hand dominate and can readily attune to the cue that hand speed will improve foot speed. Knee punch is also relatively easy to cue for an athlete. The knee is so large it is easy to be aware of and focus on knee punch. The difficult focal cue is the toe. If the knee is up and the toe is down, the assisted front side mechanics are poor at best. Front side mechanics focus will encourage better quality assisted speed drills as they will create focus on the part of the athlete and improved quality of efforts. Only when the mind and body are focused together on quality repetitions can the efforts prove to be optimal in performance enhancement training. One more key coaching point when prescribing assisted drills. Have the athlete run at 90 – 95% of full effort and the coach will add the additional 7 – 12% of assistance to take the athlete just over 100%. Remember, be quick, don’t hurry (John Wooden) and be smooth, because smooth is fast (Ray Evernham). When prescribing assisted starts on AL day, the cues include hand punch toward the finish line, knee punch, toe up, short – quick first step and chest up – flat back for posture.
Resisted Linear Day
Resisted linear days will be assigned on Thursday in our mock training week. Resisted linear exercises can be accomplished by prescribing hill running (up an incline about equal to a parking garage ramp), parachutes, sleds, harnesses, rubber bands or partner resistance drills. This day is dedicated to back side technical emphasis. The focal points are hammer drill with the hands, glute extension, power into the ground and heel up action during the recovery phase. The hammer hand drill is very similar to the front side arm drive drill but the emphasis is all on the down stroke of the arm drive phase which corresponds well with the impulse into the ground on the support leg during the drive phase. Glute contraction, hip extension and power into the ground are very difficult to quantify and master. A partner holding a harness and requiring the athlete to march and then skip will begin the process of teaching the athlete how to impart force into the ground. Posture and body lean are critical to acceleration. To engage the center of mass and provide kinesthetic feedback to the athlete a belt harness or giant rubber band at the waist is an excellent tool to encourage glute contraction and corresponding hip extension. A sled with 35 – 50% of the athletes bodyweight loaded on it will create additional mass for the athlete to overcome in the start and acceleration phases. As the athlete becomes more accomplished, more resistance can be added, as long as the form continues to hold true, technically. The heel up coaching point is relatively easy to master for most athletes. This is the glide or stride phase as opposed to the strike or power phase of sprinting. The athlete is not focused on imparting force to the ground as much as maintaining stride length and turnover. In the start drills the focus is on arm drive back, flat back – chest up posture, heel extension – big toe push off, power into the ground. The three steps in five yards and 5 steps in 10 yards drill is a key testing component to acceleration starts.
Contrast drills start with assistance or resistance and then the help or hindrance is removed in order to “trick” the nervous system into imparting maximal force impulse (force into the ground in very short time) and optimal turnover during the ground contact and recovery phases. These drills are prescribed as sprints uphill onto flat or slight downhill surfaces; chutes, sleds and harnesses with release mechanisms applied during the start or sprint; tubing or tow string that will fall to the wayside at max velocity.
How do I create focus on front side and back side mechanics?
These cues are emphasized beginning with the execution of the wall drill. Front side drills of the lower body knee and toe punch are executed by cueing the athlete to focus on the knee and then the toe during the drive phase on the wall. Backside technique emphasis comes in response to cueing of the glute contraction and corresponding hip extension and power into the ground are much more difficult for the athlete to master. The total complexion of the drill will change as you coach the athlete to change their focal point. If the coach cues the athlete to contract the glute for hip extension, the coach must palpate the glute to determine if the glute is indeed contracted. It is excellent feedback for the athlete and nine times out of ten the glute will be flaccid in beginners. Full extension at the hip knee and ankle joint are much more difficult to master. Many times the athlete will lack knee extension and will be unable to dorsiflex the ankle as the drive leg contacts the ground. Often times the support legs will be unequal in their distance from the wall as the athlete has imbalances in their flexibility or proprioceptive feedback mechanism.
The key to speed is to determine if the athlete is more front side or back side focused and coach them accordingly for optimal acceleration mechanics. It is very important to coach the athlete to cue their backside mechanics for power and front side mechanics for turnover in order to optimize their mechanics.
It can be argued that everything in sport training, development and competition can be related back to the jump in terms of the lower body and movement. The squat is a jump – type movement, only in slow motion. The clean, jerk and the snatch are jumps with weight. Most sports possess some type of jumping action in the normal course of action. Plyometrics are a variety of usually linear jumps that come to us from the discipline of track and field. Agility and mobility drills are just multi – directional plyometrics developed by sport coaches over the years to mimic the demands of sport. Even the action of sprinting can be argued to be nothing more than jumping from foot to foot. We have noted for years there is a very high correlation between the ability to jump high and/or far and the ability to accelerate for 10, 20, 40 and 60 yards. If we accept these statements as true, then if we increase the ability to jump (and land) then will this translate to an increased ability to accelerate, sprint and change direction? If we accept this premise as probable, then is it the jump that is the training stimulus or the landing?
Observe pre-schoolers as they play. They absolutely love to jump down off of stuff and land in a deep squat position. They will spend many minutes climbing up on playground equipment, walls, steps, bleachers and even the couch and jump off and land in a deep squat position. However, they spend very little time trying to jump up and touch stuff. Now observe any athlete in competition as they jump up. They will gather themselves eccentrically to load the musculature, jump up concentrically to execute the movement and then (remember – what goes up must come down) they will land and again load the system eccentrically. Many experts in the field of athletic development have stated that the better able the athlete is in accepting load and absorbing force the better the athlete will be in producing force. Many of our accepted plyometric experts have for years taught us the progression of teaching the landing first when introducing plyometric training.
In order to develop the ability to jump (and the corresponding ability to accelerate and change direction) we must first teach the skill of landing. We must then refine the skill of landing and then begin to repeat (or rep) the skill of landing. Finally we must master the skill of landing in a variety of stances and a variety of ranges of motion while accepting a variety of loads. We can increase the time under tension by holding the landing position for time. We can increase the load by jumping up in the air, jumping down off of a box or adding weight via a weight vest or dumbbells (I would recommend only adding up to 10% of fat free weight as a starting point). We can increase the volume by adding reps and doing multiple sets. We can progress from squat stance activities to split squat or lunge stance activities in order to increase the difficulty and load. We can increase the functionality by jumping off of two legs and landing on one, since many sports skills are executed off of one leg. Proper posture is paramount as is equal weight distribution through the foot with the big toe, little toe and heel supporting the body weight in a 60 – 40 distribution from the fore foot to the heel.
As far as a training progression is concerned, I would recommend the following:
Can the athlete physically get into the position with:
even and equal weight distribution
stamina for up to a 30 second hold
Can the athlete hold and pulse up and down in the squat or split squat position for:
up to 30 seconds
up to 20 repetitions
Can the athlete drop down into a squat or split squat position?
Can the athlete drop down into a squat or split position and hold and pulse?
Can the athlete execute the above protocols with added weight?
Can the athlete jump up and land in and hold a good squat/split squat position?
Can the athlete execute the drill jumping down off of a low box?
Can the athletes execute the drill jumping down off of increasing box heights?
I would recommend a ratio of two holds/drops for every jump type activity for beginners or at the beginning of a training period. Remember, the more force the athlete can absorb, the more load the athlete can accept, the more force they will be able to produce as the muscles and tendons become trained to store the elastic/kinetic energy and produce the force with great impulse into the ground in a short amortization phase during the stretch – shortening cycle.
Some of the landings and holds will be low or deep in nature as it takes a greater range of motion to accept the force placed on the system as the athlete lands. Other landings will be higher in the squat or split squat position as the forces are not so great. Coach the athlete to land as “softly” as possible, in as “high” a position as possible. Other times coach the athlete to land soft in a “low” position.
In order to run fast and jump high the athlete must be able to land strong and accept load. In order to convert strength into power as the training cycle progresses, the athlete must possess the ability to accept load/absorb force first, before converting it to power in an efficient manner. The quicker the impulse, the shorter the amortization phase the more powerful the athlete. This is a trainable commodity, but the foundation is the ability to demonstrate eccentric strength and the foundation must be developed first and must be strong and stable.
As he warmed up Thor could still feel the effects of his last squat workout. He knew from past experience that he couldn’t go heavy again this week. He knew that if he did push through the pain all he would gain would be poorer and tougher workouts. That is the exact opposite of all of his training goals with the championship competition coming up in a few short months. As he began to load the bar Thor decided that he must back off, but he still needed to train hard. Thus the dilemma, the paradox of training. Thor knew the max repetition for a squat workout is about 50 reps and since he just did 5 sets of 5 at 85% he decided that he would back off 15% to only 70% for today’s load. But, since he still wanted, no needed to train with intensity, he decided on 4 sets of 10 reps. What do you think? Did Thor accomplish his goal of backing off for this particular training session?
The concept of “Relative Intensity” is an easy concept to use and one that experienced lifters come to know and appreciate with their advanced training age. Almost everyone becomes familiar with the basic terms of lifting early on in training. Repetitions are each movement of the bar or dumbbell. Sets are groups of repetitions that are clustered together such as 5 sets of 5 reps. Loads or percentages are the amount of weight that is placed on the bar or used via the dumbbell. 5 sets of 5 reps at 85% of the one rep max is the same for everyone. If my max is 100 pounds then the load on the bar is 85% of 100 or 85 pounds. If your max is 300 then the load will be .85 multiplied by 300 or 255 pounds. Intensity is either load or volume. It can also be speed, but that is another topic for another day. Volume is expressed as the number of sets multiplied by the number of reps. Therefore 5 x 5 is a volume of 25 and 4 sets of 10 reps is a volume of 40. Relative Intensity is different. Relative Intensity takes into consideration the relationship of the load to the volume and the volume to the load. More is better, right? But the whole question is more what? Is it more sets, more reps, more load, more volume, more speed, more rest, or more what?
What relationship does volume have with load? Is there a relationship? Is it an important consideration in order to reach my training goals? YES! Olympic lifters and power lifters spend the majority of their training reps in the 1 – 3 rep range. Why? Because their goal is max weight lifted. Most body builders spend the majority of their training in the 5 – 10 rep range. Why? Because their goal is to pack on the most mass possible. How does relative intensity relate to these two diverse groups? Relative Intensity can smooth the transition from high to low volume and can create a common language between workouts that can be easily quantified and understood. If Thor does 5 sets of 5 at 85%, that is a relative intensity of 97%. Just follow the highlighted lines from 5 down to 85% and over to the left to 97% on the chart. When he “unloaded” with 4 sets of 10 at 70% what was his relative intensity? Go down from 10 to 70% and over to the left hand side to find . . . 97% ! So, Thor “unloaded” to 70%, but when you take the volume of each set into consideration, he was actually training at the same “relative intensity” ! Is this a critical component of training? For a competitive lifter and body builder it is absolutely critical. It can mean the difference between health and injury, the fine line between champion and also – ran. According to A. S. Prilepin , the optimal number of lifts at various loads for Olympic lifting athletes are:
70% loads (3 – 6 repetitions) 18 total lifts
80% loads (2 – 4 repetitions) 15 total lifts
90% loads (1 – 2 repetitions) 7 – 10 total lifts
Prilepin further feels that if the total “number of lifts in one exercise is significantly above or below the optimal, then the training effect decreases.”* Through his research he recommends the following volume totals (sets times reps) in relation to loads:
70% loads no less than 12 reps – no more than 24
80% loads no less than 10 reps – no more than 20
90% loads no less than 4 reps – no more than 10
In building workouts it is important to recognize the role of relative intensity as the sets, reps and loads are added onto the exercises. If the rep range is great from workout to workout or week to week then relative intensity is critical to understanding the relationship of load to volume, workout to workout and week to week. According to Alexsei Medvedyev in “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting”, as well as the USA Weightlifting manual Volume III “Training Program Design” regarding big lifts using the legs, the total number of reps divided by the all the percentage loads should equal 75%. In other words, your average load in a squat, dead or clean for a month of training should be 75%. This rule can be violated, but over the long haul for optimum performance and injury free workouts, this rule is inviolate. This is due to the fact that we use our legs for standing, walking, running, jumping and changing direction. On bench pressing, the average load can be skewed slightly higher (+2-4%). In other words, the load should be a bell curve off of 75%. From 70% – 80% about 35% of the reps should fall in this range. With loads of 60% – 70% and 80% – 90% the volume of loads should be approximately 25% of the total volume for the month. Below 60% load is 10% of the volume and above 90% is 5% of the volume. What would change each month and with each year of training is an increase in the total volume of repetitions that can be executed with squats, deads, and/or cleans.
Now that we have a feel for the loads for the lifts, let’s examine the role of relative intensity. If Thor did the 5 x 5 @ 85% workout, then his relative intensity was 97%. That is extremely high. Here is a good time to invoke the 10% rule. Any time you feel the need to back down, 10% is the MINIMUM that is needed to create a recovery/compensation/super-compensation effect so that the strength that is being developed can be expressed. In ranges above 85% relative intensity, the recovery workout should be more in the range of 15% off of the peak load. In light of this, what load should Thor have selected for his load at 4 x 10? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 55% – 60% of his 1 rep max needed to be loaded onto the bar. This may seem too light, but remember, we must take into account the volume that Thor wants for today’s workout . . . 4 x 10 or 40 reps. This is almost exactly 80% of what Thor knows from experience he can handle in a volume squat workout (remember, 50 reps total is the max number of reps in a volume squat workout, unless you want that workout to carry over into next week or even next month).
In devising your training programs, it is critical that your record your workouts. As you begin to progress in your training age, you will begin to know and understand your limits. If I decide to squat 5 x 8 @ 76%, what is that in relation to my 8 x 3 @ 85% workout from last week? (It is 40 reps at a relative intensity of 97% versus 24 total reps at a relative intensity of 91%). In light of this, maybe I would be better served to do 8 x 3 @ 82% with a R.I. of 88% followed the next week by 5 x 8 @ 58% with a R.I. of 79%. According to Tudor O. Bompa in “Periodization of Strength”, all strength training occurs above a load of 80%. Power training effects occur at loads of 50 – 80%. The concept of relative intensity creates a common language that unlocks the relationship of volume to reps and reps to volume. Incorporating this tool in building your workouts enables you to train harder, train smarter and train longer with fewer plateaus and less staleness and injury. After all, isn’t that what it is all about? More is better.
Baker, Gene USA Weightlifting Coaching Manual Volume III “Training Program Design” USA Weightlifting Colorado Springs, CO 1980
Bompa, Tudor O. ‘Periodization of Strength’, Veritas Publishing Inc. Toronto, Ontario Canada 1993
Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs” Human Kinetics Books
Champaign IL 1987
*Laputin, Nikolai and Oleshko, Valentin “ Managing the Training of Weightlifters” Sportivny Press
Livonia MI 1982
Medvedyev, Alexsei “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting” Sportivny Press Livonia MI
Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs” Human Kinetics Books
Champaign IL 1987
IN – SEASON TRAINING IDEAS
The goals of our in – season football training program depend on who is doing the training. For the upper classmen that have been in the program and are playing, the focus is injury prevention and strength maintenance. For our underclassmen that are not competing as much, it is strength/power improvement as well as injury prevention. The athletes that are not competing but are red shirted or on the scout team will spend time on fitness as well as strength/power development.
Typically we train strength and power on Monday with snatches, squats and bench being our big lifts. We follow that up with power and speed on Thursday with cleans, single leg lifts and incline presses. We always include lots of back pulling in order to prevent imbalances in the shoulder girdle. The modality will change from bars to dumbbells, the loads and volumes will fluctuate and the exercises will also change. For instance, in an in-season cycle that changes every 3 – 4 weeks, we could do the following:
Exercise Week 1 – 3 Week 5 – 7 Week 9 – 11
Monday – big lifts
Snatch Bar – hang 1 Arm DB – hang Bar floor
Squat Safety bar Back squat Front squat
Bench Bar Db’s Floor
Thursday – big lifts
Cleans Bar – floor Bar – hang Db’s – hang
Single leg Bar squats Db hi box step – ups Db 3 way lunges
Incline Db’s Bar Db alternate
We keep the sets and reps low as we are attempting to keep our strength and power levels high while not wearing out the athletes with the volume. Typically, our in-season volume is about 35 – 45% of an off – season workout. A Monday workout will be about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the work capacity of the athlete. A Thursday session will typically take 30 – 45 minutes. The fitter and fresher the athlete, the quicker the athlete will finish. The prescribed loads will be in the mid to upper ranges (80 – 90%) on occasion.
Weeks 4 and 8 are transition weeks. They typically coincide with exam weeks in school. The coaches cannot pull off on practice and the game is the game. Therefore, we give our athletes off Thursday from lifting. This allows for mental, physical and emotional recovery as well as some extra time for studying.
The athletes in football not involved in competition will workout Friday either at 6:00 am if the game is away or at 2:30 in the afternoon if we are at home. This workout is purely for fitness. We emphasize strength with dumbbell and bodyweight circuits and conclude with a big interval sprint session. For most of this group, this is the hardest day of the week.
The practical goals of our program depend on which athlete we are focused upon. For our upper classmen it is constantly adjusting the training modalities from bars to dumbbells, machines or tubing in order to accommodate the various injuries, bumps and bruises the game of football imposes on the human body. For our new players it is adjusting to the demands of scheduling their time and getting accustomed to actually lifting weights in a scientifically designed, demanding program with structure. For our non – competing athletes we are training toward a max in the strength/power lifts while attempting to build upon their foundation of fitness.
Each athlete gets an individualized workout based upon his or her maxes sport and position. This workout prescription is further adjusted on the floor in consultation with the strength coach as the athlete begins their training session. We have set times for each team or group to train. Most of our athletes train before practice. Occasionally we have teams that train post – practice. At the end of each training session the athletes are required to get their workout sheet initialed upon completion. This insures one on one interaction between the coach and the athlete each and every workout. At the end of every workout the athletes will get a recovery drink and stretch for 5:00 to aid in restoring their body to pre – workout levels in time for practice
SUMMER TRAINING IDEAS
During the summer months we usually have 65 – 75 football athletes here, depending on the summer school schedule. By July both basketball teams are here in full force and we generally have 30 – 40 athletes from other teams that are here for various reasons. We open at noon since the morning is devoted to classes and have our first group of women athletes at 1:15. Our first group of football players is at 2:30. At 4:00 we have our second group of women, at 5:00 our men’s basketball team and at 5:30 our second group of football athletes. This allows for plenty of room, good safety and lots of coaching, instruction and supervision. We usually wrap up the day between 7:00 and 7:30.
We are a “mid – major” school and our athletes are in summer school or, in the case of some of our athletes, working. Therefore, our athlete’s mornings are taken up with class or work. That is the reason for the late schedule. Other schools I have coached at had all of their athletes in summer school, which caused our football schedule to be a 1:30 lifting/running group followed by throwing at 3:30 and a 4:30 lifting/running group. On that schedule our day wrapped up about 6:00. In that model the morning was again slotted for classes, tutors and studying. I know some of my colleagues have early groups or are exclusively early workout teams with football finished by 10:00 a.m. each day. We do that in the winter, on Fridays, but in the summer we generally become an afternoon and evening team.
The athletes that go home are given a separate workout plan that is more generic in nature. This is due to the fact that they will not have access to the same type of modalities (sleds, chains, rubber bands, hills, sand pits, etc.) that we have access to here. However, when they return they are accountable for their level of fitness by the point system we use as they begin their workouts for the fall. Larry Smith, my head coach at the University of Southern California taught me the point system. I thought it was an ingenious way to help make competitive what could be a negative at the beginning of the year. It is evenly weighted with 15 points for the weight room and 16 points for the running. Each athlete must attain a score of 23 of 33 points or 70% in order to pass. We accomplished all of our testing as a part of the voluntary training program so no practice time was used.
During the summer we use a lot of variety to foster compliance and excitement. We expect our leaders to lead and our followers to follow. We have always built in breaks and use every toy that we can think of to make it different and fun. We have watermelon on occasion and Popsicles after big running days. I have had guys go to nearby schools and throw with their guys and it is generally a fun time of preparation.
What is the importance of plyometric training and where does it fit in your program?
Plyometric training is one way to bridge the gap between the strength training program and the field of competition. It is essentially speed – strength training, with the load fairly constant (bodyweight) and the training stimulus being speed of movement and volume (sets times reps). Several years ago I was talking to some of the coaches at Nebraska, Mike Arthur and Brian Bailey and they had instituted an outstanding concept with their linemen. Instead of a lot of traditional plyometrics, they implemented more agility training due to the size of the athlete they were dealing with at the offensive and defensive line positions. They quantified the plyo’s by sets, reps and foot contacts and the agilities by sets and reps in order to keep track of training loads and volumes.
Since plyometrics are from track and field, which is a predominantly linear sport, they tend to develop speed and acceleration linearly. Agilities are traditionally rooted in court/field sports that involve change of direction and acceleration. Garret Giemont, the long time NFL strength coach organizes his agilities into speed angles and shuttles. Angles being the W drill, the L drill, etc. which tend to conserve speed through the angles of the cuts. These drills tend to be less demanding than the shuttle type drills (the 5 – 10 – 5 20 yard short shuttle) that require the athlete to change direction and come back down a line that is 180 degrees opposite of the one he or she was originally on.
Implementing these two concepts into the training program has elevated our return on training. This coupled with the influence of Mike Boyle’s concept of a predominantly lateral day alternated with a linear day have produced even better results.
Our training progression is landing first emphasizing bend at the hip – knee – ankle and land soft. This is followed by the simple drills such as box jump – ups (and step down), which are done year round. In the off – season we implement hurdle jumps and for the lighter athletes we also include hurdle hops. The heavier athletes (football linemen) do more agilities. In our total program, time – wise or rep wise, plyo’s only comprise a minute share of emphasis. We implement a lot more agility training into our program because we feel we get more bang for our buck with agilities than plyometrics. The ability to maintain speed through a cut or change of direction while maintaining a low athletic position is much more important than the ability to generate speed linearly. We use the plyo’s to develop elastic strength in our athletes more than to enhance their ability to accelerate or develop speed.
What is your philosophy of training to develop power in your athletes?
Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport. The ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement is central to most sporting endeavors. In designing a program, there are many variables, but only a relative few will create a training effect of power. Power development involves some load/resistance and a lot of speed of movement. The load can be as light as body weight or as heavy as up to 60 even possibly 70 percent of a one rep max in certain speed – strength exercises.
In Olympic style weight lifting (which is speed – strength in nature) as the load increases, the nature of training will move from speed – strength to strength – speed as the movement slows with the corresponding increase in resistance. In order to maximize the power output (or the speed variable in speed – strength) then two things are paramount in selecting the exercises, drills, protocols and modalities. These are the load, which must be kept relatively light (depending on the exercise/drill selection) and whether the skill involves release of an implement or leaving the ground. If at any point in the drill the movement slows more than 10% from optimum then the power output drops dramatically. In the case of release skills such as throwing a medicine ball or squat jumps, the power output can be dramatic and measurable.
Any type of plyometric training is by its very nature power development. Boiled down to its simplest form, almost every sport is based on some type of jumping, hopping, bounding and throwing. Sprinting is bounding from foot to foot. Cleans, snatches, jerks are jumping with weight. Squatting is a very similar movement, but you don’t leave the ground. In order to create power, you would need to do squat jumps, the same movement as squats, but with “release” off of the ground and a much greater power output. Medicine ball training can be plyometric in nature such as mediball bench press, twist toss and crunch sit – ups with a toss. Mediballs can also mimic cleans with forward and reverse scoop tosses. The load is much lighter than cleans and snatches and the implement is released so the power output is greater with a very similar movement.
As with any quality training parameter, the rest/recovery bout should be long enough to allow for maximal restoration in order to keep the quality of the efforts very high in regards to speed and/or distance. The volume is relatively low in total and especially within each set. Remember, less is more in regards to volume in relation to power development. In Olympic lifting the optimal rest is 2:00 for snatches and up to 3:00 minutes for heavy cleans. Sets in Olympic style training usually have reps that are generally 2 + or – 1. I have taken the same approach with mediball training, if it is total body exercises. Remember, power training is for quality, not quantity of effort. How many times do you come out of your stance as a football lineman every 40 seconds? How many times do you come out of the blocks as a sprinter in 2:00? How many times in a row do you jump for a rebound if you were a basketball player? 3? 5? If it’s 10, maybe you are training the wrong basketball team.
The order of training is critical in a day as well as within the week. In a workout, the order is warm – up, loosen – up and build – up to sport speed. This warm – up is followed by technique work, speed training, and power development. Strength training and work capacity, fitness or conditioning is always last. In any particular week, the order is speed first, followed by power second. After this (or the second day) then there is some leeway in the composition of the final days of the workouts based on time of the year, training age of the athletes and number of days left in the program for the week. If it is based on the European week, then Wednesday is fitness, Thursday is recovery, Friday is strength and Saturday is fitness, again. In America, it usually is Wednesday is recovery, Thursday is strength and Friday is fitness.
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.