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.
WOD Circuit 1 Dakota Meyer
MB Scoop Toss
Feet Up Push Up
MB Chest Pass (off floor)
Tubing Speed Pulls Horizontal
DB Push Up + 2 Rows
2:00 Cardio (Row-Run-Bike-Etc)
Recover for 2:00
All Reps are 10
Do 3 – 4 Rounds
WOD Circuit #2 Paul Ray Smith
Plate Chops Rt/Lft
Plate Overhead Lunges Rt/LFt
Plate Squat Jumps
Plate Sit Ups
DB Hang Snatch
DB Push – Up + 2 Rows
1 DB Turkish Get – Up Rt/Lft
MB Push – Ups
MB Twist Toss Rt/Lft
Pull – Ups
Reps are all 10
Rest is 2:30
Do 1 – 2 Rounds
WOD Circuit #3 Michael A. Monsoor
TRX Push – Ups
TRX Pull – Ups
TRX Curl Unders
KB Cln+ Sqt+Prs Rt/Lft
KB Turkish Get Up Rt/Lft
MB Scoop Toss
MB Twist Toss RT/Lft
All Reps 10
Do 3-4 Rounds
What is neuromuscular training? How do I do it? What makes it different? Neuromuscular training or neural training is training the nervous system rather than the muscular system. Are both still involved? Yes, of course. The muscles are still contracting, load is involved and the neuromuscular system is being stressed. The basic difference is twofold: 1. The volume is in terms of sets over reps and 2. There is speed or extreme load involved in the movement.
Volume in terms of reps over sets
The workout is prescribed as 10 sets of 3 rather than 3 sets of 10. The volume is the same, but the load/speed of the movement is much greater in 10×3 than in 3×10. The greater the load/speed, the greater the neural demand.
Since the reps are so low, the speed and/or the load is going to be very high in terms of neural demand, especially when combined. High speed/load sets are extremely demanding and need increased rest and recovery in order to train for quality.
Rest between sets is generally 2-3 minutes when very high speed/load sets are prescribed. Why? Remember, the ATP-CP energy system takes 3:00 minutes to be 93-97% recovered. Recovery can take 48 – 72 hours in order to be ready to train again above 93% in any given session. Doubt this? Compare your vertical jump or long jump on any given day in order to determine your nervous systems readiness for training. If it is not above 90+% of your best, why attempt to train above 90%?!? You are under recovered or over trained for any given days training session.
Why train neuromuscularly?
Only if you want to train for speed or power. Only if you want to train fast twitch muscle fiber. Only if you want your intermediate muscle fibers to mimic fast twitch muscle fibers. Only if you want to be explosive and have burst. Only if you train for performance. If you just want to work out, never mind.
Workouts are often designed by fitness enthusiasts that are not coaches, do not have training in human performance or are workouts to test you rather than train you for a specific goal. In performance training, there are rep ranges based upon loads that should be followed for performance enhancement of strength, speed and power. If ignored, overtraining often occurs at best, while illness or even injury occurs at worst.
Alexander Prilepin was a coach for the USSR junior national team from 1975-80 and the national team from 1980-85. During his career as an Olympic weightlifting coach he worked with 9 Olympic champions, 3 silver medalists and 7 world champions. In addition to actually getting it done at the highest levels as a coach he revolutionized training. His chart is still widely accepted as the key to training volumes when volumes are related to load.
Prilepin’s Weight Training Chart
Percentage Approximate Optimal Total Training Effect
of 1 Rep Max Number of Reps per Workout
Reps (with range)
95-100 3 – 1 7 (4 – 10)
Max Strength (power if Olympic lift)
85-95 6 – 3 10 (6 – 14)
75 – 85 10 – 6 5 (10 – 20)
Hypertrophy and Endurance
65 – 75 20 – 10 18 (12 – 24)
Explosive Power, Endurance and Hypertrophy
55 – 65 35 – 20 24 (18 – 30)
45 – 55 50+ – 35 100 (50 – 150) Endurance
Great chart for squats, dead lifts, cleans, pulls, etc.
Bench can be a little more volume.
Can you do more volume than is recommended? Sure. Are you then training or working? If you do more than is recommended, what is your reasoning? Remember, volume is the cause of injury, not load! Just because you can does not mean you should!!
When an athlete suffers a burner or stinger, it is usually due to the nerve being traumatized in some way. If there is disk involvement in the cervical spine, then this program will not be beneficial and could even be detrimental to the athlete. Make sure that the integrity of the cervical spine is good via communication with the athletic trainer and/or a physician.
The exercises are simple to implement, but it is crucial to err on the side of caution. When this program was first implemented back in the mid- 80’s for college level football athletes, the information we were given from the medical staff was that the damaged nerve only recovers at 2-5 mm per week. In severe cases there was tingling, numbness and weakness to the hand, meaning the athlete could be out several months. The second caution the medical staff advised us to be cognizant of was that the nerve would tire rather quickly. So many exercises were done to the limit of the damaged side with dumbbells that were unequal in weight so that the nerve was allowed to progress in recovery and regeneration. Neural tiredness is characterized by a heavy, tired, dull, dead and/or weak feeling. When this happens it can actually slow or even harm the recovery process of the nerve.
The exercises are as follows:
Manual Neck –
This drill is done four ways emphasizing both the concentric and eccentric resistance range of motion. The anterior version wraps the towel over the forehead and on the chin for grip and for sanitary purposes. The athlete will lie on their back and concentrically go from almost full extension to almost full flexion with resistance. Then the partner will provide the force to eccentrically push the head back to almost full extension. Do not get to full extension as this may trigger the nerve and cause the burner/stinger symptoms again.
The prone version requires the athlete to roll over onto their stomach. The towel is placed upon their posterior skull and the athlete will go from almost full flexion with resistance to almost full extension. The partner will again provide resistance for the eccentric portion of the range of motion. Again, the purpose behind going from almost full extension to almost full flexion is that no additional stinger event will be caused by the exercise program, as this would set the recovery process back.
Lateral is accomplished by having the athlete sit upright at the end of a bench and grab the front of the bench so there is no lateral flexion of the upper body. The towel goes over the head and the resistor places one hand on the outside of the head and the other will support the outside of the opposite shoulder. The athlete will attempt to go from ear on the shoulder to ear on the shoulder with concentric and eccentric resistance just as in the anterior and posterior versions of the exercise.
Shrug Series –
There are four versions of shrugs that are incorporated into the burner/stinger program. The first is the overhead shrug. This is not a strength exercise as much as a motor learning exercise. In contact sports the upper shoulder complex must brace and support the neck upon contact. This is accomplished by elevation or “bowing the neck” and many athletes are unable to do this movement with the arms in an overhead, extended position. Holding a bar overhead in a fully extended, locked out snatch grip, have the athlete attempt to press the bar using shoulder elevation. As the athlete does this, the spotter should place each of his index fingers on either side of the neck under the ears. The athlete should attempt to pinch the spotter’s fingers between the traps and neck muscles. The load is a bar only. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement.
The second shrug to learn is the hang shrug. This shrug is done from the hang clean position with dumbbells in order to force the athlete to shrug up and back to increase the strength of the upper and mid trap in order to support the elevation/bowing action. This is also a motor learning drill that once learned, can be moderately loaded. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement.
The next version is the bent over shrug. Just as the name implies, the athlete is bent over so that the back is parallel to the ground and the dumbbells are hanging from the shoulders in the hands. Varying of the grips by rotating the dumbbells will challenge the motor learning part of the exercise. Emphasis should be put on contracting the traps/shoulder blades down and back for full contraction. This drill can be moderately loaded. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement. The dumbbells will go from the hang position in front of the thigh to the outer hip, almost to the back pocket.
The final version is the upright row, again with dumbbells in order to allow each side to be appropriately challenged without over stimulus of the nervous system. This version can be loaded the most in relation to the other drills. The spotter technique of placing the fingers on the traps is again recommended here so that full ROM contraction of the traps is accomplished.
Recommended Training Program –
The sets and reps are determined by the ability of the athlete and the traumatized nerve(s) to withstand the level of stimulus with out being over trained. Manual neck sets and reps are 1 set of 8-10 reps. As the athlete progresses, this becomes a max effort drill in which the athlete can only do 10 reps each direction. For each of the shrugs, begin with 1 set of 8-10 reps. As the athlete becomes accustomed to the training prescription, the volume can be progressed up to 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Remember that quality is much more important than quantity as the rehabilitation program progresses.
In injury prevention programs, emphasize ROM, optimal patterning and quality movements. The loads can be moderately heavy as long as full ROM is performed. Prescriptions can be 3 x 8-10 down to 4 x 5-6 or even 10-8-6-4.
Dr. Greg Rose stated in one of his great lectures for the Perform Better team that motor learning (i.e. muscle memory) is never erased. One pattern can be overlaid upon another, but our basic motor patterns are archived and remain with us for our lives. For example, piano lessons when we are young and our nervous system is so plastic stay with us. Same with the ability to ride a bike, learn multiple languages fluently and form certain sounds with our mouths (think of accents from people that learn a second language well into adulthood and have trouble with some sounds).
Why is this point important? In many instances from sport to law enforcement to Special Forces novices are put in situations in which extreme stress is a part of the test in order to determine the motor pattern that will emerge under times of such duress. A current popular example is Tim Tebow’s throwing motion. When in a closed drill in which the outcome is set, the motion improves. When the drill is open, such as in competition, the throwing pattern reverts to the earlier learned pattern typical of a baseball windup.
Many Special Forces and military selection courses include high levels of stress in which the candidate is deprived of sleep, food and given tasks that are extremely difficult and in some instances even impossible to accomplish. Why? To determine if the candidate can function at a high level in times of extreme discomfort; to determine what muscle memory patterns will emerge and finally, to get a glimpse into the will power of the individual candidate.
What does this have to do with sports teams? It is becoming more and more difficult to put high school and collegiate athletes under duress in order to determine how they will respond in terms of will power, motor patterns and ability to function. The high school coach in many instances is not backed up by his administration if even one parent complains. In college, the NCAA has mainstreamed the athlete into the student-athlete collegiate experience to such an extent that in the summer, when school is paid for, the athlete does not even have to workout one time, while all expenses, room and board are paid for during the summer semester. Many coaches do not support making athletes uncomfortable since they end up in their offices complaining.
It is imperative our young people are put in situations of distress that are planned, well thought out and have a purpose in order to create young people with confidence, competence and will power in order to face the challenges of adulthood.
The last winter ball in football I participated in had 9 stations with a goal of 7-8 reps at each station. This created a load of 63-72 reps in less than 35 minutes. This workload mimicked a football game in 1/6th of the time. When warm up and cool down was included as well as penalty runs, this was a 60 – 65 minute workout. This was done 3 – 4 times per week and the athletes had to come back in the afternoon and lift weights 3 – 4 times as well. The lifting was not as difficult as the focusing and commitment to doing it right, doing it hard and doing it with a positive mental attitude. This was done to create toughness in the eyes of the coaches, but I now know it creates hard motor patterns that are difficult to peel back.
During the 2013 spring game at Ohio State University, Urban Meyer stood just behind and over from the holder on each and every field goal attempt. Why – To put pressure on the new kickers of course. What happens when the kicker feels the pressure? He reverts back to his worst pattern, which may result in a miss, much like when he is iced before the big kick to win the big game.
What is our lowest level of motor pattern? The fetal position. When there is too much stress for our ability to cope, too much stress for our level of training, too much stress for our experience level, too much stress for our mind to comprehend, we will revert to the fetal position. Remember the culmination of the final battle scene in “Saving Private Ryan”? Why did Steven Spielberg Show Matt Damon in his foxhole screaming? What position is he in. . . . . ?
Making it tough in a well thought out progression that is appropriate for the age group, the ability level and culture of the team/individual will go a long way toward preparing a team, group and individual for the trials and tribulations of the future.
Credit to co-worker Logan Brodine for the 6-8-10 Push up. This is just push-ups but with weight placed on your back in the form of plates. Put two plates on your back and do 6 push-ups. Remove one plate and keep going for 8 more push ups. Remove the last plate and do 10 more push-ups. Now, for the variations. Put the heavy plate on top of the lighter one, for example to make it easier. To make it more difficult, put the light plate on top of the heavier one. Maintain good push up form throughout the movement. Excellent drill to do followed by the medicine ball partner bench press for power and fast twitch muscle fiber training.
Many people interchange the usage of the RDL and the SLDL. Is this accurate? In a word, no. Let’s examine the lifts and their heritage. The RDL comes from Russia or Romania (depending on who you ask what the R stands for) and the SLDL comes from the bodybuilding world.
The RDL is meant to simulate the top of the second pull in the clean and the snatch. The RDL is a heavy version of the kettlebell swing. The RDL SHOULD be executed down to the top of the knees with a moderate tempo and up with a quick, explosive movement, much like the kettlebell swing. The feet stay on the ground as the hips drive the bar up to the high pocket position. Remember, it is a partial movement lift prescribed to assist the second pull in the clean and snatch.
The SLDL is designed to load the glutes and hams throughout the entire ROM of the backside chain. The knees MUST be UNLOCKED in order to load the muscles and tendons and NOT the ligaments and discs. Executed from the ground or on a small box depending on the flexibility of the hamstrings. Proper form is to shift the weight back loading the heels while hinging at the hip. The lumbar spine should NOT flex, the core should stay braced throughout the entire movement. The grip should be shoulder width and the tempo should be controlled.
So, in essence, the two lifts come from different heritages and are designed for two different reasons, impacting vastly different neural patterns. While using the same musculature, the ROM, loads and tempo of movement should be very different in execution.
If you want a nice butt and hams, do both lifts. If you want a bigger, faster, better clean or snatch, focus on the RDL.
NO NO NO – Legs too straight!! Single leg version of the SLDL Traditional Version of the SLDL
One of the most accurate ways to estimate your max at any given time is to do indicator sets. An indicator set is a heavy load where you will do 2 – 5 reps and cannot do another. The reason you do less than 6 is at six reps, due to time under tension, the energy systems begin to switch from ATP-PC to the lactate system and the variability is greater.
After you do your heavy indicator set for as many as possible for 2 – 5 reps, just use some simple math. Take the total number of reps and subtract one. Multiply what is left by 3%. Then multiply this number by the load used in the heavy indicator set. Add this number back to the load used in the set. For example:
5 reps at 225
5 – 1 = 4
4 x 3% = 12%
.12 x 225 = 27
27 = 225 = 252
This works very well and can give you an idea of where you are in your strength development during training without having to prepare to max or max.
What if I want to know what my max is on a lift in which I do not max? This is quite common, as many lifts are not tested, but an athlete wants to cycle this lift. Here are the percentages for a couple of lifts to train percentages off of without having to max on those lifts.
Incline is 80% of bench press
Snatch is 70% of the Clean
Squat is 80% of the Dead Lift
These are excellent rules of thumb to use in order to train with percentages without having to test several different lifts.
Many people like to resistance train 3 days per week as a part of their lifestyle training program. I believe that 3 days per week of resistance training done in the giant set or circuit style training program which will keep your heart rate up while you are training for strength, thus accomplishing two things at once. If the Giant Set philosophy is utilized, where a push, pull, leg and sometimes core and/or total body exercise are added to the training session, strength and power can be emphasized at the same time fitness is being improved. The key is how to periodize the strength training program when not using percentages of your max.
When resistance training (using bodyweight, DB’s, KB’s, bars, etc.) and not using a one rep max to figure the percentages OR with a mixed group showing up to train that are at a variety of strength and fitness levels this system is relatively easy to implement. It does not utilize a set time per set, rather it uses the fitness of the athlete to determine the pace and tempo of the circuit. The fitness level, exercises and loads will determine the pace of the circuit for each individual. Next, the ingenious part of the formula for maximizing the strength gains for each individual without spending hours on programming.
Each day will have an emphasis based on the exercises selected and instructions imparted to the group. The heavy day will use big muscle group, heavy lift type exercises such as squat or dead lift (basically the same lift), bar bench press, pull – ups, for example. The rep scheme will be moderate such as 4-6 reps, a pyramid (8-6-4-2-4-6-8), work up/work out sets (10-8-6-4 5×5), etc. The loads will be determined by the individual as they move from the squat/deadlift to the bench to pull-ups (usually done with rubber band assistance for the weaker people and with added load or pauses on the way up and way down by the stronger people). This is the heavy day of training.
The medium day utilizes medium loads, but the time under tension for the muscle will go up. The athlete will control the tempo of the lift by pausing/holding half way up and halfway down on the movement as well as at the top/bottom of the lift. The load is medium, so posture, form and quality of the pattern should not be an issue but as always is critical. For example, the pause/hold workout will be written 3 hold bench press 5 x 5 – 4 second hold. In this workout the athlete would lower the bar halfway, hold for 4 seconds, lower to the chest, holding for 4 seconds, come ½ way up and hold for 4 seconds and then finish the rep. This will make the time under tension for each rep 12 seconds, much longer than most 1 rep max attempts. As the reps go up as in 4 x 8 hold for 3 seconds, the hold/pause time will go down. As the rep scheme prescribed goes down, the hold time will go up as in 8 x 4 hold for 6 seconds. This will also control the load the athlete puts on the bar. These giant set circuits will also be controlled by the athlete and their choice of loads. If the load is too heavy and/or the form is compromised, then the athlete will lag beyond the group and have trouble finishing.
The light day will utilize much different implements for resistance. However, the pattern and angle of the exercise will remain essentially the same. The bench press would become medicine ball bench (where the athlete will lay on their back with their legs bent and as a partner drops the ball to their chest, the athlete will catch the ball, bring it to their chest and punch it up to the ceiling), clap push-ups (done on their knees if they are not strong), tubing punches from a standing position, etc. Air squats or squat jumps will replace back squats or the dead lift and tubing pulls for speed will replace the pull-up. The pattern of movement is the same, but the stimulus will be quite different. This is the day the timer is used and the work bout is controlled by the instructor/coach. The work bouts should be no more than 20 seconds with up to 60 seconds to recover. Why such heresy? They won’t get fit you say? This is not about fitness by the work bout, it is about quality of the work bout and can the athlete recover in the time allotted to have great quality in the next work bout. As time progresses, the work bout remains 10-20 seconds and the rest can be squeezed down to 40, 30 and for short sets, even 20 seconds.
Why do such training for “normal” clients?? I believe we can all agree fast twitch fibers have been proven to respond quicker to hypertrophy training and are designed to contract quickly and with high force for short bursts of time. Slow twitch fibers respond poorly to hypertrophy training and contract with relatively low force for long periods of time. Intermediate fibers can mimic either fast or slow twitch fibers, correct? Now, just based on looks alone, which type of fibers will make you look better – slow twitch or fast twitch? Do you want to look like a muscled up, cut up sprinter or a smooth, skinny long distance athlete? Easy answer – muscled up, cut up for any of our people, whether they are athletes or soccer moms. So, if we always train at the same speed, using relatively the same loads, the fast twitch fibers never get stressed and the intermediate twitch fibers will begin to take on the characteristics of the slow twitch fibers. So, the programming, over time, will create fit people that can work for 30 – 60 seconds at a time that have fewer and fewer fast twitch acting fibers to call upon in training, performance and life.
So, to summarize, have a heavy, slow big lift day; implement a medium load day with extended pauses and holds; and have a fast explosive day with light, fast explosive exercises and reps done for short burst intervals (think Tabata style training, but with breaks if needed for fitness levels) and the emphasis is on quality, quality and quality!!
After just a month of this change in quality and emphasis of training, you will find your muscles thicker and dense (thanks to the holds and explosive reps) and your fitness and strength levels breaking through to new plateaus due to the giant sets increasing the tempo of the workout and training all the muscle fibers!!
Remember . . .