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.
Here is a warm up menu for flexibility and injury prevention I have developed over the years.
We always spent 12-20 minutes in warm up and injury prevention drills prior to the work out.
My last few years in college we had NO major surgeries in any sport – any athlete.
That was a very proud event for our staff.
Foot Work Drills – Pick 1-2
# 1 Ladder Drills –
L1 Shuffle R/L Scissors R/L Hop Scotch
L2 Qtr Eagle R/L Crossover R/L Carioca R/L
Do Each 1X
L3 Ins & Outs R/L Over & Backs R/L Icky Shuffle
#2 Line Hops
L 1 In – Place X20 Scissors Skiers Front to Back
Hammer R/L Hammer Crossover R/L Lateral Hop
R/L Front/Back Hop Qtr Eagle R/L *180-240-360 R/L 1xRt/1xLt
L 2 Moving X10 Yds Scissors R/L Skiers F/B Hammer R/L/X-Over F/B R/L Hop F/L/B R/L Zig Zag Hop F/L/B
Qtr Eagles R/L Circles R/L
L 3 Hop and Stick L 4 Jump Rope moving
#3 Platform Step Ups X20 Seconds
R/L Ft Forward R/L Ft Lateral R/L Ft Crossover
SGL Leg Frwrd R/L SGL Leg Lat. R/L SGL Heel Tap Lat. R/L
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
#4 Jump Rope X 120 Jumps
(2 Ft, Scissors, Rt, Lft, X-OVR Rt & Lft) 20 each
L1 2 sets L 2 3 sets L3 4 sets
Shoulder Drills – Pick 1 – 2
#1 Shoulder Activation Series – Do each Drill X 10
Short Wings 90/90 Pec Dck Ret. Pump It Up
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets OR Add weight
# 2 Shoulder X’s 10 Reps Each
X Retraction rt up X Retraction lft up T Retraction
Hip Hinge – Bent Over
Posterier Shoulder Y’s T’s A’s
Prone TD’s Angel Wings
L1 Body weight/20’s L2 2.5 lb X 10’s L3 5 lb X 10
# 3 Standing BW Series
Empty Can Bnt Ovr Empty Can T’s Bent Over T’s
Int/Ext Rotation Hip to Lip 90/90 Rotation
Bnt OVR 90/90 Rot. Bnt OVR Angels
L1 Body weight/20’s L2 2.5 lb X 10 L3 5 lb X10
# 4 Shoulder Tubing Series x 5 – 10
Int/Ext Rotation 90/90 3 Way Int/Ext Rot.
Hitch Hiker 90/90 3 Way Retraction
Y’s, T’s, A’s
Level 1 LITE Tubing 5-10 Level 2 Lite + Tubing 5-10
Level 3 Medium Tubing 5-10
Core Exercises – Pick 1 – 2
# 1 Body Wt Core
McGill Sit Ups: Rt/Lft Straight & Rt/Lft X-OVR 10’s Ea. X 10
Lat. Leg Lifts R/L Each X 10
X Superman’s: Same Arm/Leg & Opp. Arm/Leg 10 – 20 per set
Parachutes: X Superman 10 – 20 per set
Level 1- 1 set Level 2 – 2/3 sets
Level 3 – Hold on Coaches count
# 2 Planks
Prone Leg Abduction, Chicken Wing, Alternate Reaches
Lateral Outside Hip Leg Up, Leg Swings, Apple Pickers
Lateral Inside Hip Hip Up, Leg Swings, Apple Pickers
L1 all x 3’s L2 all x 6’s L 3 all x 9’s
# 3 Chop-Lift-Twist Ea. 1-2 X 10
Use Keiser, Cable Trainer or Tubing
Twist stance parallel Chop/Lift stance half kneel
Knee/foot/ankle L1- 1 Fist apart stance L2 Either side of a line stance L3 In-line stance
Hip Hinge Training – Pick 1
# 1 Bridges Ea. X 5
Two Feet Rt/Lft X-OVR Rt/Lft X-OVR Rotate
Skips(Knee Punch) Rt/Lft Leg Up Rt/LFt Leg Out
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
# 2 Tip to a T L1 ½” Band Ft to Shldr – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
L2 1/2 ” Band Ft to Neck – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
Ea. X 5 L3 ½” Band Ft to Hand – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
# 3 AB/AD Series Squat and Squeeze Bridge and Squeeze Good Morn & Squeeze
Ea. X 5 Ankle Band Shuffles X – Band Shuffles
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Knee Flexion / Stopping – Pick 1
# 1 1 Leg Balance Squat Series Reach Front, Lateral, Back, Scorpion Each 3’s Right and Left
L1 1 x 3 of each L2 2 x 3 of each L3 3 x 3 of each
# 2 Push Back Lunge Series Forward Push Forward Diagonal
Ea. 3’s Lateral Reverse Diagonal
Drop Step Scorpion
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Crawling Planks Forward/Backward Shuffle R/L Cross Over R/L
10 YARDS Each Carioca R/L Spiderman F/B Alligator F/B
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Functional Flexibility Series – Pick 1
#1 Squat Flexibility L1 Cat to a Squat to a 1 Arm Reach and Stand
L2 Stick, Bar, Band, Rope, Jump Rope Overhead Squat
Ea. X 10 L3 ½” Super Band O – Overhead Squats
#2 Windmill L1 Get up with 10% of Body Weight
L2 Get up with 15% of Body Weight
L3 Get up with 20% of Body Weight
#3 Turkish Get Up L1 Get up with 10% of Body Weight
L2 Get up with 15% of Body Weight
L3 Get up with 20% of Body Weight
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
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.
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.
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.
Speed can be developed – if it is trained first and foremost in the training program. Speed should be considered first in the plan daily, weekly and monthly. Speed must be trained concurrent with other systems in order to maximize the ability. If speed training is delayed in the training cycle until the athlete is “in shape” or until the athlete perfects their form, then it is usually too late to incorporate the speed protocol due to the demands of the season. Speed should be started early in the training cycle, first in the day and early in the week. The rest and recovery from each bout of speed repetition should be a minimum of 3:00 – 5:00 minutes, depending upon the distance covered and the fitness level of the athlete.
Key Techniques of Speed
Posture – the correct posture for starting, transition, change of direction and absolute speed must become an automatic response. This posture requires a braced core, flat back, retracted shoulder blades in a “tall” posture attitude.
Core strength – is a key in order to limit energy leakage from shoulder to opposite hip as the athlete attempts to put force into the ground.
Stance – The stance is the key to the start and the start is the key to race to the finish line, the base, the ball and/or the opponent. Whether starting up or down, linear or laterally, the stance determines the ability of the athlete to impart force into the ground, the length of the ground contact time and the ability of the athlete to maintain the proper techniques for acceleration during the second or get away step.
Casted ankle – this technique of “toe up” is key in order to impart force into the ground in a short amount of impulse time.
Thigh Separation – this cue is excellent in creating mastery of individual stride length abilities. It tends to enhance both knee punch as well as glute extension which are critical techniques in linear speed.
Arm Drive – Arm drive is from shoulder height with the hand in front to almost shoulder height in back with the elbow (which is very limited in many over bench pressed athletes) with the hand passing even with the shorts pocket during the downward stroke.
Leg Drive – Leg drive consists of knee punch, thigh separation, high recovery with the ankle crossing above the knee and the heel just brushing the buttocks. During the drive phase the toe never gets ahead of the knee. In fact, as the knee begins the downward drive to the ground the knee and toe should be in a perpendicular line to the ground.
Head Position – is in the anatomical position with the “eyes on the prize”, be it the finish line, the ball or the opponent.
Speed Progression of Training Pyramid
(thanks to Dr. Bob Ward)
Absolute Speed for Speed
Plyometrics for Power and Acceleration
Resisted Sprints for Power and Acceleration
MediBall Drills for Speed, Power and Acceleration
Moderate Load Olympic Style Strength Training 2 – 10 sets of 1 – 3 reps
Big Load Heavy (Power Lift Style) Strength Training 3 – 8 sets of 1 – 5 reps
Flying Stick Drill – Set up a series of sticks or strips that begin at 7’6” between each stick. Allow for an acceleration zone of a minimum of 15-20 yards. The total number of sticks should allow for a minimum of 7 sticks and a maximum of 16 sticks. The number of sticks will be determined by the speed fitness of the athlete. If the athlete is fast and fit, the number of sticks will be in the mid-teens. If the athlete is slow or does not possess adequate speed fitness, then the number of sticks will be in the high single digits. Once the athlete becomes comfortable, the next lane of sticks is set at +6” or 8’. The next lane is 8’6”, the next lane is 9’. If the athlete is national class and/or tall, then the stick drill can be increased in 9” increments – 7’6” to 8’3” to 9’. As soon as the athlete loses form and begins to reach then he must move back down one level, increase his speed or maintain better form.
10, 20, 40 and 60 yard sprint – from a start utilizing either a 2 (upright) or 3 point stance, begin timing on the athletes first movement. Stop timing as the athlete’s core passes the finish line.
Flying 20 and 40 yard sprint – utilizing a 15 – 25 yard acceleration zone time the athlete from one end of the flying sprint zone to the other end.
3 Step 5 and 5 Step 10 Drill – Have the athlete with national or world class speed attempt to 3 step the first 5 yards and 5 step the first 10 yards of the 20, 40 or 60. Do not count the first step (which just gets the athlete to the start line).
Stride Length – Utilize a 20 – 25 yard acceleration zone and measure the 2 longest strides from the tip of the rear toe to the tip of the front toe. This should equal out to 1.265 multiplied by the athletes height in inches, + or – 4 inches.
Sample Speed Training Programs
Absolute Sport Sport
Sport Speed Special
Speed Endurance Endurance I
Intensity 95% + 90 – 95% + 90 – 95% +
Distance of Run 15 – 35 yds 40 – 100 yds 100 – 200 yds
Reps 3 – 6 3 – 6 1 – 5
Sets 1 – 3 1 – 2 1
Total Distance in Session 45–630 yds 120–1200 yds 100–1000 yds
Recovery / Reps 2 – 5 min. 2 – 5 min. 5 – 10 min.
Recovery / Sets 8 – 10 min. 8 – 10 min. N / A
The key to speed and acceleration is to train it first, foremost and it must be the overall focus of the program. Strength is easy, lift heavy stuff and people get strong. Hypertrophy is up to the athlete and what food choices they make and how they utilize nutrient timing. Power is the combination of speed and strength and should be a by focus of the focus on speed. If speed is to be enhanced, then it must be a focus of the program.
Many performance professionals include track type drills as a part of a dynamic warm-up. Drills such as skips, butt kicks, shuffles, carioca and back pedal are a staple of many dynamic warm – up programs. But, why do we do those drills for performance athletes and performance clients? Riding a bike, jogging on a treadmill and calisthenics are all good options for raising core temperature, increasing heart rate and upping the respiration rate, which are the goal of a good warm-up.
Most performance athletes and performance clients compete or are very active in ground based endeavors such as sports or exercise classes or have hobbies and/or jobs that involve moving with speed and efficiency. Most of the drills we use in dynamic warm-up patterns are repeat opportunities for first step and get away step mechanics practice. If done with focus, technical proficiency and power, the athlete can repeatedly practice the posture, mechanics, arm drive and core stability needed in order to become a better athlete in terms of moving with efficiency.
The drills and what they are doing follow:
Skips – Single and double leg skips are repeat first step mechanics for linear movement. Knee punch action with a toe-up casted ankle are critical for proper force to be imparted into the ground which will in turn drive the body forward. If the glute is engaged on the back side as the foot makes ground contact, the body will be propelled linearly and cover ground. If not, the ground reaction forces of the foot contact will cause the body to move vertically as much as linearly. Common errors include no force into the ground (this is huge), poor casted ankle/foot drop, collapsed posture, poor arm action.
Butt Kicks – Single and double leg butt kicks are to reinforce the cyclic action of sprinting. When sprinting, the heel will almost brush the buttocks as the ankle crosses above the opposite knee. When running, the ankle will cross at the opposite knee. When jogging, the ankle will cross below the opposite knee. If the athlete has a casted ankle with the toe-up, then the butt kicks will be springy upon ground contact. Most athletes will let the ankle drop and allow the foot to “reach” for the ground as contact is made. This will add to ground contact time and is a major difference between running and sprinting. Posture should be tall with a braced core, good arm action and hips over the toes. Common errors include flat-footed ground contact, poor arm action, excessive knee lift with the butt kick and too much forward lean and/or flex at the hips.
Slide Kicks – Double Leg slide kicks are excellent for training transition from starting acceleration to absolute speed in sprinting. This occurs for most team sport athletes beginning at the 10-20 yard mark. With a toe-up casted ankle, the athlete stands tall and begins to jack hammer the foot up and down above the ankle. Quickly the amplitude of movement will increase as the foot/ankle will go up to the opposite knee and jackhammer to the ground. The athlete will begin to lean at the hips and the jackhammer force will begin to propel the athlete linearly. As the lean increases, the amount of ground covered between each step will increase as the force the athlete imparts on ground contact will propel the body forward. The jackhammer action does not change as the speed increases. Common errors include dropped foot for contact (no casted toe-up ankle), collapsed posture, obvious change of gears from acceleration to a run rather than acceleration into a sprint, poor arm action and flat–footed ground contact.
Cycle Kicks – Single and double leg cycle kicks are the most technically difficult to learn to execute and usually takes 4-6 weeks of mastering the other three linear drills before this drill is incorporated into the dynamic warm-up. Cycle kicks are a combination of the other three drills and are a mimicking of the sprint cycle action. The difference is that this action is done in warm-up and is fast in execution but does not impart the force that is used in acceleration and sprinting. Focus on tall hips, braced core, heel-up, toe-up, arm action can all be the focus of this drill which creates a slightly different exercise on each rep as the focus is changed. Common errors include uneven leg cycles, poor high ankle recovery and collapsed posture.
Lateral Drills –
Pull Shuffle – Pull shuffle is what we normally think of as a shuffle drill. The front leg is pulling the body forward. This is what is used in basketball defense as the athlete shadows an offensive player that is a comfortable distance away. Common errors include too much external rotation of the legs, over striding with the front side pull leg,
Push Shuffle – The push shuffle is much more violent and explosive as the back leg will impart great force into the ground in order to move the body laterally. Knee punch, toe-up casted ankle technical emphasis is reinforced. The knee of the push leg will be ahead of the toe in order to impart force on the push. Again, think of the basketball athlete on defense, but this time the offensive player is very close and the defender is attempting to beat the offensive player to a spot in order to redirect his movement. Common errors include too much external rotation of the legs, pulling with the front side leg rather than pushing with the back side leg and being too outside dominant (usually due to too much double leg squatting) thus being bow legged with the knee outside the foot rather than on the inside edge of the foot for the push-off.
Lateral Skip – Is a repeat action of the first step in push shuffle in order to cut off an opponent. Keeping the shoulders and chest perpendicular to the acceleration direction as the arms drive from front to back. The lateral movement occurs from the backside leg putting force into the ground. The front side leg will cover the ground in relation to the force imparted by the back leg. As in any acceleration drill the front side leg should have a knee-up/toe-up focus with the foot contacting the ground under the hips. In other words, don’t overreach or overt stride with the front side leg and attempt to pull the hips forward. Common errors are no backside knee punch, poor rhythm, over striding with the front side foot and bad arm mechanics.
Carioca – The carioca drill is an opportunity to repeat the first step mechanics for the crossover step. High knee action across to the opposite hip with the little toe up focus to keep the knee ahead of the toe for good acceleration mechanics is critical for optimal acceleration mechanics. The back side arm action must be with a 90 degree flexed elbow in a front to back action rather than crossing the mid-line in order to prevent the shoulders from rotating toward the direction of acceleration, thus creating unwanted motion during this repeat drill. The rotation should occur below the hip while the torso above the hip is relatively perpendicular to the direction of acceleration. Common errors include poor casted ankle/foot drop, low knee recovery, poor landmark placement of backside knee-punch, poor arm mechanics and collapsed posture.
Crossover Run – the Crossover run is the front side/back leg of the carioca drill repeated. It is imperative for the backside elbow to drive back and not cross the mid-line in order to prevent torso rotation. The backside knee should punch up and across the hips aiming for the front side hip. The little toe should be the focus and in a toe-up position. This allows the knee punch to be optimally in front of the foot in order to impart force back into the ground in a backward vector. The shoulders should stay perpendicularly square to the direction of acceleration. The downward knee punch and rearward elbow punch should be equally forceful in order to create maximal acceleration in reaction to the ground contact force.
Crossover Skip – The crossover skip is usually easier to learn than the crossover run for most people. This is more of a pattern drill than an acceleration drill in order for athletes to become comfortable with the rhythm of the crossover pattern. It is a drill to introduce in the progression in order to make the coordination of the crossover run easier for the athlete to internalize. The focus is on the rhythm of the drill first, followed by cueing the knee punch, arm action and finally the little toe up mechanics. Since a skip is slower than a run, it is easier for the athlete to be aware of the movements and techniques needed to optimize the pattern. Common errors include not skipping or skipping with only one leg.
Back Pedal – The back pedal is to teach stopping mechanics for change of direction. Hip, knee and ankle flexion as well as posture is critical in order to prevent the collapse and possible internal rotation that occurs all too often as athletes attempt to absorb force. Many time this poor force absorption pattern results in an ACL rupture. The key points of cueing are chest over knees, knees over toes. The feet should be forward and the arms should be driven backward forcefully at the elbow. The posture should mimic as if the athlete were doing a good morning or in other words the tall, braced core, flat back attitude should be apparent.
Backward Run – The backward run is prescribed to emphasize and create awareness of backside mechanics. Explosive elbow drive, heel – up and reach, posture and ground contact point are all similar, but much more critical to locomotion when attempting to go fast backwards. In order to execute this drill, it is much easier to start with a back pedal and as the speed increases, instruct the athlete to get tall, hammer the elbows back and get the heels up and reach. Instruct the athlete to lean in the direction of acceleration with the hips tall and great posture as top end speed is attained. Common errors include leaning away from the direction going (which results in a lot of work and very little locomotion), low heel recovery, poor arm mechanics, poor posture and externally rotated feet.
Backward Skip – the backward skip is a drill that is prescribed in order to allow the athlete to feel the heel brush off of the buttocks. Optimal posture is easier to attain, arm mechanics are slower and can be emphasized and foot contact is much easier to correct. The common error is a lack of rhythm for the movement pattern.
Backward Butt Kicks – This drill will correct a lack of heel brush off of the buttocks. Long-term joggers and bigger athletes such as offensive linemen in football will benefit greatly from this drill. The emphasis on backside heel to buttocks brush will pay dividends for these athletes as high speed, absolute sprinting will show mechanical improvement with high ankle recovery which in turn allows for stride length optimization as well as better ground force production due to the corresponding optimal knee punch.
External Rotation of the Legs – This is usually due to too much double leg squatting or leg pressing and a corresponding dominance of the outside sling or outer, lateral areas of the hips and legs which create tighter TFL, IT band and vastus lateralus causing the external rotation expressed in the lower leg and foot contact mechanics. In order to correct this the addition of single leg exercises such as Bulgarian (also known as pitcher squats), multi-direction lunges and multi-direction single leg squats are critical. Especially useful to correct this is the lateral lunge or squat and the scorpion lunge or squat. Additionally, the lateral leg musculature needs to be lengthened and/or released via stretching, massage and/or application of vibration.
Rhythm/Drill Mechanics (walk before run) – Just as in learning any new skill, it is best to execute it walking before trotting, jogging before running and running before sprinting. The addition of the skip application of the drill allows more explosive forces to be applied but at a slower tempo of movement allowing for corrections to be cued and internalized before sprinting is attempted.
Posture (Strength/awareness/age & maturity) – Posture is more complex as there are a variety of issues that could contribute to a collapsed posture. The easiest correction is just due to a lack of awareness. Creating focus via a verbal cue many times is all it takes to correct this problem. Tight hip flexor complex is also a reason for collapsed core as the front side core above the hip will flex on the hip opposite the knee punch as a reaction to the tight hip flexors on the straight leg side. Poor front side low core strength and stability will also contribute to postural collapse as the upper core attempts to assist in the lifting of the heavy lower limb during acceleration mechanics and the corresponding drills. Many times the growth spurt experienced by emerging athletes will exacerbate this problem as the rapid lever lengthening will make stability strength much more difficult to master and/or maintain in these drills. At full speed/absolute speed the athlete should be tall, chest over the hips, hips over ground contact point and be “planed out” like a boat on water. In other words, the athlete should be sprinting up on top of the ground/track/field/court for a short distance. This is not sport speed but speed development and is different than the speed that is used in sport competition.
Poor Arm Drive – This is usually due to lack of awareness and/or front side shoulder tightness. Front side anterior deltoid and pec stretching will allow for additional ROM. To create greater awareness, add a very light weight (1-2 lbs) to the hands of the athlete or place an ankle band from the webbing between the thumb and forefinger to the elbow which will not allow arm straightening during the hammer back phase of the arm drive. Arm drive should be from “cheek to cheek” or shoulder height in front with the hands and almost shoulder height in back with the elbow.
Foot Drop or Poor Casted Ankle – Have the athlete rub the toes up on the top of the shoes. Have them march in place with a casted ankle. Why is this so critical? When the foot drops and “reaches” for the ground, the ground contact time is increased and the tendons are not loaded as much as the muscles are loaded. When the mucles are loaded, the athlete is running. When the tendons are loaded, the athlete is sprinting. That is why conditioning is concerned with volume and sprinting/speed development is concerned with quality.
These drills will assist the client/athlete to improve first step and get away step quickness if done with focus, effort and intensity. Impulse into the ground, posture, mechanics and being engaged mentally will greatly increase the quality of the efforts which will increase the abilities of the client/athlete, if done with consistency.