Tag Archives: agility

Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room

26 Aug

squats-strength-training[1]Every summer, I get scores of calls and emails from athletes (and parents of athletes) asking me if I can help with speed development in preparation for fall and winter sports.  Invariably, they all want me to focus on the same thing — running form, mechanics, and technique.  They feel that if I can correct and improve mechanical shortcomings, speed will improve.

I don’t dispute that running form is important, but it should be viewed as the “fine-tuning” and not the main area of focus.  I train some very fast athletes whose technique isn’t exactly “textbook” perfect.  Same goes for my highest vertical jumpers and quickest, most agile athletes.  But all the fastest athletes I train have something in common: Strong, powerful hips and legs.  They all have the ability to generate a lot of force against the ground to propel themselves forward (upward, laterally, etc.).

In his article, Why Power Development Must Come Before Speed Work, strength coach Rick Scarpulla asserts that “Power can overcome a lack of technique to an extent, but technique cannot overcome a lack of power.”

If you want to lay the groundwork for speed development, start in the weight room.  Once you have built a solid foundation of functional strength and power with exercises like squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and plyometrics, then it’s time to break out the cones, hurdles, and ladders, and hit the track or turf for your field work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Improve Your Agility with Balance Training

13 Apr

airex_balance_beam_square[1]Balance should be considered as a potential predictor of agility, according to a new Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study.  The article also cited speed and power development as having an impact on agility; and gender-specific influences  — power development having a greater impact on agility in women, and balance training having a greater impact on agility in men.

Agility isn’t simply how fast you move.  It refers to your ability to accelerate (speed up), decelerate (slow down), and change direction; and how quickly you can recognize and react to a stimulus.  We also acknowledge that agility is contingent upon ground displacement: The stronger you are through the lower extremities, the more force you can generate against the ground.  With practice, increased ground force generation equals improvements in agility-related performance.

Balance training should include unilateral lower-body exercises, such as the single-leg squat, Bulgarian split squat, stepup, single-leg Romanian deadlift; and ankle, knee, and hip balance and stability exercises (pictured).

Speed training should incorporate max effort sprints, and assisted/resisted (uphill, parachute) running.

To increase power production, perform Olympic lifts (for example, the hang clean), squat jump, single-leg squat jump (also incorporates balance), and plyometrics.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Confuse Motion and Progress

11 Apr

tumblr_m1bwfq9uOV1qi2f8bo1_500[1]“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” – Alfred A. Montapert

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

Some players — and coaches — are enamored with “hustle” — bodies flying all over the court or field with reckless abandon.  To some, it looks like a lot of effort is being expended.  Unfortunately, as I observe scholastic sports, much of this activity lacks purpose… there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of it is nothing more than a lot of frenetic energy that, ultimately, doesn’t accomplish much.

Whether you’re practicing, playing, or training… have a goal.  Understand what it is you want (need) to accomplish and what is required of you to achieve the desired result.  Think situationally about the “why,” “what,” and “how.”  Your practice, game-play, and training should be purposeful.

For example, when you practice ball-handling and shooting, don’t just randomly dribble and throw the ball at the basket.  Work on your “off” hand, and practice moves that help you create your own shot (hesitation, step-back, etc.).

When you take batting practice, don’t just swing the bat to make contact.  Practice bunting, hitting behind the runner, hitting to the opposite field, and hitting the ball in the air (sac fly).

When you train, don’t just do random exercises.  Perform exercises and drills that are aligned with your goals, and reflect the demands and movement patterns of your sport(s) — whether they be strength, speed, power, agility, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

20 Jan

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!

Nutrition

Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Consistency is the Key

21 Dec

Consistency[1]I have a few clients who show up to train, sporadically, and are puzzled as to why they don’t seem to make any real progress.  I’ll see them maybe once or twice over the span of weeks or months.  Some of them think their exercise selection is the problem.  They want to try all kinds of different modes of exercise (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but they don’t stick with any of them on a regular basis.

The reality is, you don’t have to take an extreme or fanatical approach in the weight room to be productive.  Same goes for your speed training and diet. Establish a goal, create a plan, ensure that your plan is aligned with your goal, and commit to it on a regular basis.  I realize that’s easier said than done, but the process itself is not complicated.

Strength and Conditioning

Research shows that strength training two days per week — about 30 minutes per session — can help individuals build strength, power, muscle mass, and endurance.  Focus on exercises that work large and multiple muscle groups like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and row.  As a rule, choose free weights over machines.  Free-weight exercises generally require more balance and stability to perform, increasing the intensity level and degree of difficulty.

Speed and Agility

Strength training plays a key role in the development of speed and agility (remember, speed and agility is largely impacted by the amount of force you can generate against the ground; stronger legs generate greater force).  You can be more efficient with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), regardless of your mode of cardio training (run, bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc.).  Try this 10-minute approach: go hard (aggressive pace) for 30 seconds, and easy (very light pace) for 90 seconds.  Repeat four more times.

Diet and Nutrition

Follow the 80/20 rule.  Adhere to your diet and nutrition plan, strictly, 80% of the time.  Allow yourself a “cheat” meal every fifth day.  I’ve read about a physician who recommends 10% discretionary calories, every day, for his patients.  For example, on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, you could eat 200 calories worth of whatever you want, every day — but only 200 calories — as long as you stick to your plan for the other 1,800 calories.  This plan allows his patients to reward themselves for “good” behavior (positive reinforcement).

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Boost Strength, Speed, and Agility with This Move

13 Nov
Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat

The barbell squat is considered the gold standard of lower-body strength exercises, and deservedly so.

But, if you’re looking for some variety (and, even if you’re not), U.K. researchers found the the Bulgarian (rear-foot-elevated) Split Squat to be just as effective for increasing strength, speed, and agility.

This exercise can be performed as a body-weight movement, or weighted with dumbbells (pictured), kettlebells, a barbell, or a weight plate.

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a great exercise for anyone — regardless of strength training experience and proficiency — because it’s less technical and requires less mobility (than the barbell squat), making it safer.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand tall holding two dumbbells next to your sides
  • Place the top of your right foot on a bench behind you
  • Brace your core
  • Slowly lower your body as far as you can
  • Pause, and then quickly push back up to the starting position
  • Repeat for desired number of repetitions
  • Switch legs

Choose weight and repetitions according to your training goals.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Lateral Agility Ladder Drills

13 May

hqdefault[1]A component of our Speed and Agility training involves working on footwork and foot speed.  When using the agility ladder, we like our athletes to perform drills that involve both linearforward and backward — and lateral movements.

Here’s a short video clip in which one of our athletes demonstrates a few lateral agility ladder drills.  This particular progression involves the following drills, performed in both directions:

  1. Lateral shuffle
  2. Lateral crossover (foot over foot)
  3. Lateral crossover (foot under foot)
  4. Carioca

The “foot under foot” drill becomes more challenging when performed at high speed, as your muscle memory will try to turn it into carioca.

These drills should be performed as quickly as they can be done, cleanly (without mangling the ladder).  For the purpose of this video, I asked our athlete — a local high school football player — to demonstrate the drills at a slower speed to better show the correct footwork.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Sprint-Hurdle-Sprint Agility Drill

8 May

hqdefault[1]Here’s another Speed and Agility drill we like for our athletes.  The Sprint-Hurdle-Sprint Drill emphasizes acceleration, deceleration, change of direction (lateral phase), and foot speed.

In the video, one of our athletes — a high school junior football player — demonstrates each phase of the drill.  Here’s the progression:

  • Left foot over hurdles, right foot outside hurdles
  • Right foot over hurdles, left foot outside hurdles
  • Both feet over hurdles, left foot first
  • Both feet over hurdles, right foot first
  • One foot over hurdles, left foot first (left-right-left)
  • One foot over hurdles, right foot first (right-left-right)
  • Lateral shuffle over hurdles, left foot first
  • Lateral shuffle over hurdles, right foot first

Distance between first cone and first hurdle = 5 yards

Distance between hurdles = 1 yard

Distance between last hurdle and last cone = 5 yards

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Speed and Agility with These Drills

27 Apr

hqdefault[1]Here are two variations of a speed and agility drill we use with the athletes who train at our facility.  Both iterations of this drill focus on acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and foot speed.

Sprint/Lateral Slalom-Shuffle Drill

In this drill, our athletes start with a five-yard sprint; lateral (side-to-side) slalom-shuffle five yards (cones placed one yard apart); sprint five yards; lateral slalom-shuffle five yards; and finish with a five yard sprint.

Sprint/Linear Slalom-Shuffle Drill

In this drill, our athletes start with a five-yard sprint; linear (forward-backward) slalom-shuffle five yards (cones placed one yard apart); sprint five yards; linear slalom-shuffle five yards; and finish with a five yard sprint.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Foot Speed With This Agility Drill

7 Jan

mqdefault[1]Ideally, the purpose of an agility drill should be to develop the athlete’s proficiency in as many of the following skill areas as possible:

  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Change of Direction
  • Reaction
  • Foot Speed

Here are two of our student-athletes — both high school sophomore football players — demonstrating an agility cone drill, performed both laterally and linearly.

Lateral Shuffle Agility Cone Drill

Linear (forward/backward) Agility Cone Drill

The following coaching tips should be emphasized:

  • Fast feet — short, quick steps — NO long strides
  • Maintain arm action/pump — don’t leave them down at your sides
  • Stay in a low, athletic stance
  • Chin up, chest up; don’t look down at your feet

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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