The principle of progressive overload is perhaps the most important concept for anyone to understand when developing athletes or simply getting stronger. It is one of the most basic differences between training and simply exercising.
For both adult and youth athletes!!
Unfortunately, this concept is often misunderstood and misapplied, I’d like to simplify the concept of progressive overload and discuss how to most appropriately apply it as part of an overall training program.
The most simplistic way to explain progressive overload is to slowly challenge yourself to do more than you’re currently capable of doing. Without some system of progression, we’re just burning calories and making athletes tired. Sure, they may benefit from exercise, but the process of training or developing athletes should be more systematic so they progress in the safest and most efficient manner possible.
The variables that can be manipulated when applying overload include:
Frequency – how often the stimulus is applied
Intensity – either the percentage an athlete’s maximum capability or the degree of effort that goes into an exercise
Duration – how long the workout takes
Volume – the total amount of work performed. This is generally represented as the weight x reps for strength training, but it can also be represented by the total amount of sets, number of reps or distance traveled.
Most of this article will focus on progressive overload for strength development, but speed & agility will also be discussed briefly.
The essence of progressive overload is that your body adapts to a stimulus and slowly grows stronger or more efficient, depending on the goal. For example, if you can currently do 10 push-ups in a row, you would try to do 11. You would try to complete 11 push-ups until you can achieve that goal. The stimulus of attempting to do 11 forces the body to adapt and grow stronger. When you can complete 11, you begin working toward 12.
This is a very simple version of linear progression. Linear, meaning one variable, constantly moving in one direction. Many experts turn their noses up at this basic concept because progress eventually stagnates with most people, but it is a simple way to understand the underpinnings of progressive overload.
The story of Milo of Croton is another simple example of linear progression. Milo was a 6th-century Greek wrestler who picked up and shouldered a young calf when he was a young man. He picked up the calf every day as it slowly became a full-grown bull. Because he had lifted it every day, he gradually became stronger and was able to impress crowds of people by picking up bulls as an adult. The slowly increasing size of the bull provided a constant challenge that his body adapted to, and the concept of progressive overload was born.
Many athletes were developed through rough versions of this basic concept, and this was the inspiration for the adjustable barbell where small weights could be added to a bar in order to provide increasingly challenging stress.
Many coaches still take advantage of this simple strategy with relatively new trainees as they have athletes perform as many reps as possible of a single set of certain exercises. The results are recorded each day, and they are asked to “beat their score” in the next training session. This has the potential to turn into high-rep sets, but it works well when there is limited equipment and/or beginner lifters who will respond to even the lowest volumes. A basic workout for a young athlete could be one set of each of the following:
Hanging leg raise
Curl & press with dumbbells
Something as simple as this routine could be a great way to teach beginner lifters how to slowly progress, execute quality reps, and push through the discomfort of strength exercises. Many coaches use a “20-rep set” where they prescribe one set of 20 reps of each exercise. Instead of giving the athlete a weight that can be lifted 20 times, they pick a weight that can only be lifted 10-12 times. Once fatigue sets in and no more reps can be completed, the athlete puts the weight down, rests for a few seconds, then attempts a few more reps. This is repeated until the athlete has performed all 20 reps. Only the first “set” (when the weight was put down the first time) is recorded, but the athlete stays with the exercise until all 20 reps are performed. If the athlete performed 13 reps on the first set today, the goal is 14 at the next session.
This is a way to utilize linear progression but also add extra volume to the workout because the athlete is essentially performing multiple sets. When the athlete can complete all 20 reps in one set, weight is added, a new exercise is prescribed or something else changes to increase the demands placed on the athlete.
This system gets at the essence of the “double-progression” method of progressive overload in which the resistance is increased when a certain number of reps is attained. A typical example would be to select a range of 8-12 reps. You could choose a weight that could be lifted at least 8 times, but no more than 12. Let’s say you can complete 10 reps today, but cannot do 11. In the next training session, you attempt to complete 11 reps. Once 11 reps can be completed, you attempt 12 reps at the next training session. When 12 reps can finally be completed (which is the top of the rep range we selected), the weight is increased the smallest amount possible, and you start the process over again, gradually trying to perform one more rep than you were able to get in the last workout.
This is an excellent way to help young athletes choose appropriate weights for their workouts, which is actually a very common issue in many weight rooms. Beginner lifters usually have no idea what an appropriate weight would be for each exercise, so they end up choosing weights based on what others are using. Testing is another way to help athletes choose weights for certain exercises, where a 1RM is established and percentages of that number are prescribed. But, this takes a lot of time, can be dangerous with inexperienced lifters, and often isn’t very accurate with young lifters. It’s also difficult (and not recommended) to establish 1RM’s for every exercise.
So, this system of gradually increasing the number of reps performed, then slowly increasing the weight, is a great way to help athletes learn how to choose appropriate weights.
Multi-Set Double Progression
Another way to implement this system is by using multiple sets of each exercise. Using multiple sets gives athletes more opportunities to practice technique, and the additional volume can provide a great training stimulus, especially for athletes who cannot push themselves hard enough to get maximum benefit from a single set.
In this case, prescribe a number of sets and reps for each exercise, for example, 3 sets of 8 reps or 3 x 8. In this example, athletes will use the same weight for all three sets and attempt to perform 8 reps on each set. When all 3 sets of 8 reps can be completed, the athlete gets to move the weight up the smallest amount possible at the next workout. If an athlete using 100 lbs can only perform 8 reps on the first set, 7 on the second, and 6 on the third, he/she will stick with 100 lbs on the next workout.
Many coaches will encourage athletes to perform as many reps as possible on the final set as a way to challenge athletes to push a little harder. This will also help you determine when they’re ready to increase the weight and how much the increase should be. In the above example, an athlete who performs all three sets of 8, but cannot do 9 reps on the last set, should increase the weight the smallest amount possible. On the other hand, an athlete who performs 15 reps on the final set is probably ready for a slightly larger increase in order to provide a more appropriate stimulus.
Different versions of this scheme have been used by intermediate and advanced lifters for many years with exceptional results. The idea is that the first set should end up being fairly easy, and allows for some technique practice. The second set becomes more challenging, and the third set is where the hardest work is done.
It’s also important for athletes to record their results somewhere so they can look back at how many reps they performed in the last workout as a way to set goals for the current session. Most young athletes aren’t going to remember they did 7 reps on the second set of bench press with 115 lbs. Most young athletes already have enough on their minds, so that needs to be recorded. A workout card or training software like TrainHeroic are great options for recording workout results.
Teaching athletes about progressive overload is also an excellent way to teach the value of slow progression so they begin to understand the concepts of gradual adaptation, recovery, and super-compensation. Many young athletes think that they are going to get big and strong very quickly. Teaching them the value of consistency and gradual adaptation is an excellent concept for young athletes to understand so they begin to value small gains and how to schedule their workouts.
The graph below should be drawn out and explained to every athlete beginning a strength training program so they have a basic understanding of how the process works and why consistent training is so important.
Teaching athletes about progressive overload also gives coaches the opportunity to explain the value of recovery in the process of adaptation. Understanding how the cycle of stimulation – recovery – adaptation – super-compensation works is an invaluable lesson for athletes to learn. Most young athletes simply do not understand this cycle, and they end up either training inconsistently or too often. This also gives us the opportunity to explain how performance training fits into their overall schedule with sports practices, competitions, and other commitments. They need to see that all stress should be accounted for so they can create schedules that lead to progress in all areas.
Speed, Plyometrics, and Conditioning
While most of this discussion has been about strength training, progression should also be used with speed training, plyometrics, and conditioning. With plyometrics and speed training, progression is not quite as simple and easy to explain because technique and volume are so important to progression. You’re not adding another rep in every workout or increasing the number of repetitions every day.
Conditioning programs are a little easier to quantify because coaches can easily manipulate variables such as number of reps, work;rest ratios, and total volume to gradually increase the demands placed on an athlete. It’s important to gradually build this volume rather than creating dramatic spikes just to make it extra difficult. Of course, there can always be a case made for making training difficult, but coaches need to be aware of how athletes will respond to large spikes in volume or intensity, and ensure that there is adequate recovery after this kind of session.
As athletes get more advanced with their training, or enter their competitive seasons, we need to think about the concept of periodization. Through the years, I’ve seen coaches try to overcomplicate periodization and progressive overload with crazy set/rep schemes, charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and percentages that require a calculator. While certain systems of periodization can get very complicated for advanced athletes, we can (and should) keep things more simplified for most athletes who haven’t even entered college.
Most of these athletes would be considered beginners in the world of strength training, and some could be considered intermediate lifters at the very most. These trainees don’t need overly complicated programs, but we should definitely change the demands placed on them throughout the year. Off-season training programs (when athletes are not engaged in daily sport practice) can include a higher volume of strength training and the overall demands can be greater. During the pre-season, the amount of conditioning and sport-specific work will increase. Once daily practice begins during the in-season phase of the year, it’s important that we continue to train, but in a way that does not induce unnecessary fatigue.
This phase of training is difficult for both coaches and athletes to understand. Both groups often feel like brief training sessions are difficult to schedule and not worth it. Education is crucial here so they understand the importance of maintaining their strength gains without overly taxing their bodies. Inducing unnecessary fatigue will have a negative impact on both practice and competition performance, so the volume and intensity will be reduced. For example, an in-season athlete who has been training consistently for several months may still be able to squat during the season, but instead of doing multiple sets at a high rate of exertion, he/she may do only 1-2 sets, stopping each set before maximal fatigue sets in. This athlete also won’t train as often during the in-season phase. 1-2 training sessions per week are about all that’s possible during a demanding season.
Once athletes have a substantial training base, periodization becomes much more critical because experienced lifters will not make progress as easily as beginners. Complete books have been written on periodization, and many popular training programs have been devised, but most of these programs are unnecessary until athletes have trained consistently (without interruption) for at least a year and are no longer seeing significant progress. That doesn’t often happen before college, so we can do a much better with young athletes by simply monitoring training volume and intensity and understanding that strength training is meant to supplement a sport, not be the sport by itself.
Keep It Simple
When working with young or inexperienced athletes, it’s important for coaches to teach them about the training process so they have a better understanding of how they will make progress. Teaching athletes the basics of progressive overload, and using basic systems of progression, will give them an understandable framework in which to work from. They’ll be much better able to make consistent progress, choose appropriate weights, and train safely. They will also be much better prepared for more complex systems they may encounter if they advance in their athletic careers. It will also help them understand how to train for the rest of their lives.
Most coaches also see themselves as teachers or mentors, and teaching athletes the value of progression can be a gift that will pay dividends for the rest of an athlete’s life.
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Periodization is a controversial topic within our field and has been since I started training back in 1992. Whether you believe in periodization or not for your athletes, this article will shed some light on the topic. Enjoy!
Below are some of the critique points that I have come across in recent years:
Periodization is not scientifically proven.
Periodization is overrated and over studied.
Periodization is too rigid and does not work for our athletes.
Periodization is too time-consuming.
Periodization is too complex and only for people in lab coats
These critique points may be true if your understanding of Periodization is limited to Periodization as a tactic. However, Periodization is fundamentally a strategy.
From my personal experience as a strength coach, author, and lecturer over the last 25 years, I have found it incredibly useful – even absolutely necessary – to distinguish between principles, strategies, and tactics in order to really understand a particular topic.
Thus, the purpose of this article is to
Highlight the difference between principles, strategies, and tactics as it applies to Periodization.
Show that you can reject any one example of Periodization as a tactic, but you cannot reject Periodization as a strategy (and this insight will be extremely helpful)
What is a principle?
A “principle” is a basic truth, law or assumption (thefreedictionary.com). A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.
What could be deemed the first principle of athletic development? I recommend that you answer that in detail for yourself in a way that resonates with your work.
My background is strength and conditioning, not coaching a specific sport. Thus, here is a suggestion for the 1st Principle of Athletic Development as centered on the physical side:
Optimal development of bio-motor abilities (physical qualities) to support the ability to practice and compete (the specific sport/s) – with maximal quality – at the desired level, at a given age.
You could say that a principle is vague. However, the above phrase invites critical questions and consequences:
What does optimal mean? It is the balance of all involved abilities that support the young athlete’s ability to practice and compete.
Supporting the ability to practice and compete with maximal quality implies prevention of injury and the nourishment of motivation, joy and confidence.
Thus, the 1st Principle defines the overall objective of our work as coaches.
How are we going to achieve this objective?
Figure 1: The overarching task is defining the 1st Principle. The strategy is chosen to achieve the 1st Principle. Tactics are used to execute the strategy.
A Strategy is Chosen to Achieve the Objective That is Defined by the 1st Principle
A strategy is the larger, overall plan designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The strategy will be comprised of several tactics. A strategy is broad, big-picture and future-oriented (1)
The training literature contains multiple but related definitions of Periodization. (2) Fundamentally, the word periodization means “a division in to periods.”
If you do a web search with the word periodization, you will find books on sports training, history and geology.
Thus, “periodization” is a word similar to “categorization” (dividing items – for example, apples divided into categories) or classification (for example dividing athletes into age groups, levels or weight classes).
From the definition of periodization as a ‘division into periods” it becomes clear that, fundamentally, periodization is a strategy for organizing long-term training by dividing the training into shorter periods.
We can take this definition a step further and suggest a more training-specific definition of periodization:
“Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle into periods with different goals, structures, and content of the training program. When these periods are sequenced in such a way that the training adaptations in one period prepare the athlete for the training in the next period, then the selected physical abilities are optimized at the goal-attainment date.”
The above definition highlights why periodization as a strategy is virtually unavoidable unless your training programs always:
Are geared toward the same training adaptation
Have the same structure
Have the same content
Clearly, there are more decisions to be made before we have a finished program. These more detailed decisions are the “tactics.” The strategy can be executed with different tactics. Tactics are plans, tasks, or procedures that can be carried out. Tactics may be part of a larger strategy.
So far, Linear Periodization, Reverse Linear Periodization, Undulating Periodization, and Block Periodization are the only systems that have been researched in controlled studies. These systems are all periodization tactics.
I have never seen a critique of periodization as a strategy. When I have seen a critique of periodization, the critique has been of a particular periodization tactic.
As a trainer, you can look at any one of those systems and decide whether or not they are not ideal tactics for the athletes that you work.
However, once you make that choice, you still have to decide how are you going to organize your long-term training?
This article described a hierarchy of 1st principles, strategy, and tactics. It made the argument that periodization is fundamentally a strategy. Yet, the critique of periodization is typically centered on tactics rather than principles or strategies.
A “next step” in exploring periodization is the question about how to divide the long-term period into shorter periods as well as a deeper look into the characteristics of the mentioned periodization systems. More to come….
Jensen, K. Appendix 1. Periodization Simplified: How To Use The Flexible Periodization Method on the Fly. www.yestostrength.com
Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.
Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.
Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII). Find more information at www.yestostrength.com
Distance runners often intuitively feel that the only way to improve running performance is to increase mileage and run more.
Although this approach will work for a while, you will eventfully reach a point of diminishing returns. Once you’ve hit that juncture, any additional running will not bring many benefits in terms of improving performance, but the injury risk will continue to increase.
With each step, you make contact with the ground. Those contacts create impact forces that travel through your body and need to be absorbed somewhere. If your muscles are not strong enough to absorb this load, connective tissues like tendons and bones will suffer most. This may eventually lead to many of the most feared injuries amongst runners like stress fractures, IT band, and tendon problems.
The logical way to improve muscle strength and avoid many of the previously mentioned issues is to incorporate strength training into your routine. But distance runners often fear weight training will make them slow and bulky, as carrying the extra weight of added muscle mass means more work on every stride. However, research has found that if the strength training is performed complementary to your running, this won’t be the case. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that “40 weeks of strength training can significantly improve maximal- and reactive-strength qualities, (running economy) and (velocity at maximal oxygen uptake), without concomitant hypertrophy, in competitive distance runners.” That means the runners became stronger, more efficient runners without experiencing significant changes in body composition.
But stepping into the weight room and performing hours of Biceps Curls isn’t going to get distance runners the results they want. Exercise programs we create for runners need to take into account their running training, address specific weaknesses, and focus on specific physical qualities that will have a high transfer to running.
With that in mind, here are three benefits well-implemented strength training offers distance runners.
1. Better Running Efficiency
Like the fuel economy of a car, the less energy and oxygen used at a certain pace, the longer you can run at that specific speed. For distance runners, this means you can maintain higher speeds during your runs, which translates to better times. In addition to the study discussed above, a 2013 study found that runners who incorporated strength training as a part of their training improved running economy by more than 6 percent! And again, this improvement in running economy came about in the absence of any increases in body weight or muscle size.
2. Increase in Running Speed
Aside from incorporating hill running, tempo running, sprint and interval running, if you want to fully develop your speed potential, strength training is a must. Developing adequate muscle strength will provide a base for power training, which will rely on that strength to convert it to speed. Greater muscle strength relative to your body weight, as was achieved in the aforementioned study, means greater potential to further develop running speed.
3. Injury Prevention
A stronger body and stronger muscles are better able to absorb impact forces and resist injuries. By incorporating progressive overload with strength training, we are not just improving muscle strength, but also getting our tendons, ligaments and bones thicker and stronger.
Having adequate muscle strength means muscles are able to properly stabilize joints and allow expression of proper running form. This usually means reduction or prevention of pelvic drop, crossover, or even the heel strike pattern.
As a result of the repetitive nature of the sport, runners tend to develop asymmetries and weaknesses at specific points along the kinetic chain. This leads to an over-reliance on one side, which can cause overuse injuries on that side. Properly designed strength training will reduce or eliminate these asymmetries and weak points and thereby reduce the risk of injuries.
Aside from all the previously mentioned benefits to running, strength training has many other benefits that make it worth investing extra effort and/or energy in making it part of your exercise routine. The good news is that you don’t have to do much right away to experience these benefits. Start slow, make it a habit, and over time, as you get more advanced, start increasing the volume and intensity of your strength training.
Thanks to Stack.com and Nemanja Sambaher – Nemanja Sambaher is a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Kinesiologist in Toronto, Ontario with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology.
Part 1: Actual Drills to improve speed ASAP.
by Kevin Haag, CSCS. Speed and Agility Coach
We are starting with the actually drill so that our young athletes can practice them and improve on-field speed immediately. Be sure to check with your coach to make sure they are being done perfectly!!
I Believe, (Speed = Biomechanics + Force + Power)
Step 1) Learn Proper Sprinting Mechanics and Fundamentals
Step 2) Increase Power – You need muscles to move fast
Step 3) Generate force into the ground
Speed is a skill….Skills are learned……so, therefore speed can be learned:
Below are 3 drills to improve each of these areas. For you to elicit change in your body, you must perform these drills at 100% and with consistency. Not in any area of life, will 1 hour a week change or improve anything. Perform these drills 3 times a week for immediate results.
Fundamental Mechanics of Sprinting
Although not an individual segment of mechanics in sprinting, posture is the foundation that allows the other techniques to be performed properly. Listed below are components of posture:
Erect body with hips under the center of mass
The head is looking straight with the chin slightly in.
The pelvis should be neutral or slightly posterior to allow for complete cycling of the legs.
The chest should be up and the shoulders back (neutral) to allow for proper swing action of the arms from the shoulder joint.
Once proper posture is established, the actions of the legs and the phases in which they should go through will be more efficient.
Step 1: Mechanics Drills
Seated Arm Action. “Arm Speed Controls Leg Speed) 1) Rotation at shoulder 2) Elbow at 90 degrees 3) Thumb moves from cheek-to-cheek
A preseason basketball workout program should prepare your body for the movement skills of the game—jumping, landing, acceleration and deceleration.
“You need to prepare your body to be fluid and able to execute those skills with repetition,” he says. “This will prepare your bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles for those types of actions, which you’ll be doing more and more of as you get into the season.”
Many basketball players fail to take this into account with their training. They fall prey to old-school preseason workouts that emphasize long-distance running to improve conditioning, but fail to address the many other aspects of the game. Worse, they often set themselves up for injury by causing their bodies to break down before the season even begins.
“A lot of players come in and are more prepared to run a marathon than to play an acceleration-, deceleration-, jump- and landing-based sport with physical contact and short-burst energy system requirements,” he adds.
Exactly as we do at K2, DiFrancesco’s solution is a workout program that pairs plyometric and strength exercises together. He explains this formula is the ideal way to improve both performance and durability, which are equally crucial to a healthy and productive season.
Preseason Basketball Workout
DiFrancesco’s plan features three workouts per week. These workouts should be done in the four weeks leading up to your season, and can be completed if you’re currently playing fall basketball or another sport.
Each workout is broken up into two tri-sets—a tri-set is essentially a superset with three exercises. The first exercise is a lower-body strength move, which is followed by a lower-body plyometric (except for Farmer’s Walks on Day 3). The tri-sets finish with an upper-body strength or core exercise. Many of the exercises are single-arm/leg or lateral moves to prepare your body for moving in multiple directions in a game.
Here’s how to use the plan:
– You’ll notice that each exercise has four rep prescriptions separated by a forward slash (3×6/8/10/12), which indicates the number of reps you’ll perform on Week 1, 2, 3 and 4. In this instance, you’d do 3 sets of 6 reps on Week 1, 3 sets of 8 reps on Week 2 and so on.
– Perform the exercises back to back to complete a set of the tri-set. Then work your way back through the exercises for another set, and once again for a third set.
– Moving through this with minimal rest between exercises will provide an excellent conditioning effect, but make sure to rest when needed to maintain proper exercise form.
– These workouts are fairly short but that’s all you need. If you stick to the plan as written, this is more than enough to challenge your body and make you a better athlete.
– Choose a weight that allows you to complete every rep for each set with perfect form. The goal here is quality reps to build a stronger and more durable body, not to get hurt attempting to lift a weight that’s far too heavy.
– Do the workouts on non-consecutive days to allow your muscles to recover between workouts.
Written on September 25, 2017 at 6:27 pm, by Eric Cressey
As a kid, I was a big fan of “The Flintstones.” I loved how Fred and Barney could run so fast. I can remember when they were chased by a Sabretooth Tiger; it was amazing how they could escape so quickly. Hmm, maybe there is something to that…
Fast forward to 2017, I still love speed. But now, I actually study it. I continually ask myself the question; “Why were humans given the ability to have speed and quickness?” This question has taken me down a road not many speed coaches travel. Many of these coaches like the traditional route of current methods of training. That’s cool, and in most cases, proves to be quite successful. But…
What if coaches would investigate more down the road of our human history? What if they allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the ways of how we escaped or attacked for survival? How would they think differently about speed?
What if we asked the question, “Why were we given the ability to have speed and quickness?” What can we learn when we venture down that path?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Survival drives us through channels not so easily understood from a Central Nervous System (CNS) standpoint. We have to bow down to the subconscious effort that makes us move quickly on instinct or reflex. This is harder to understand, so we try to ignore it as a viable option for speed training.
2. Playing competitive sports actually taps into our CNS – or should I go deeper and say our “sympathetic nervous system?” This is where our heightened awareness of our surroundings kicks in. If I am caught in a rundown in baseball – or going to be tackled in football, or being chased during soccer i- it takes us to a level of effort we don’t commonly experience in our daily lives.
3. Our body kicks into what we call fight or flight: the survival mode. This occurs all the time during sports competition. It drives us to make incredible speedy plays. It forces us to react in such a way that our feet move quicker than our conscious mind can drive them. This is where I want to concentrate on for the rest of this article. I want to share with you strategies to make you faster!
Repositioning is a term I use to relate to how an athlete moves his or her feet quickly into a more effective angle to either accelerate or decelerate the body. Terms I have used to describe repositioning are:
Plyo Step: The plyo step is an action that occurs when one foot is repositioned behind, to the side, or at any angle behind the body. This act quickly drives the body in a new direction of travel.
Hip Turn: This is basically the same as the plyo step except the athlete turns and accelerate back away from the direction they were facing. Repositioning occurs to find an angle to push the body in that direction.
Directional Step: Think base-stealing. The athlete will face sideways but turn and run. The front foot opens to be in a greater supportive position to push down and back during acceleration steps.
The goal is to get into acceleration posture as quickly as possible to make a play when one of these repositioning steps occur.
A great drill to work on repositioning is what I call “Ball Drops.”
a. Simply have a partner or coach stand 10-15 feet away from the athlete with a tennis ball held out at shoulder height.
b. The athlete is in an athletic parallel stance facing the coach, turned sideways, or back facing- depending on the drill.
c. The coach will drop the ball and the athlete must accelerate to catch the ball before the 2nd bounce. I encourage the coach to use the command “Go” at the exact time of the drop to help when vision is not an option.
The action you will see 99.9% of the time is a repositioning or a hip turn or plyo step (the directional step is the act of preparing the front leg for push off; it angles in the direction of travel). Perform this drill facing forwards for four reps, sideways for four reps, and backwards for four reps (2 to each side for the side-facing and back-facing). Perform this drill 2-3x per week to tap into the “fight or flight” response.
Reactive Shuffle or Crossover
In this drill, the focus is on reacting to either a partner (like a mirror drill) or the coaches signal to go right or left.
a. The athlete gets in a great defensive stance and prepares to explode to her right or left.
b. The coach will quickly point in either direction.
c. The athlete will create quick force into the ground in the opposite direction of travel. Typically, there will be a repositioning step unless the athlete starts in a wide stance where outward pressure is effective in the current stance.
d. As soon as the athlete shuffles one to two times, he will shuffle back.
e. The same drill is repeated, but now using a crossover step.
Perform 3-4 sets of ten seconds of both the shuffle and crossover drill. Allow 40-60s of recovery between bouts.
Crossover with Directional Step
Hip Turn to Crossover
The final skill I want to write about might be one of the most important “survival” speed skills an athlete can have. It falls under the “retreating” set of skills where the athlete moves back away from the direction they are initially facing.
The hip turn can allow an athlete to escape or attack. The critical features are:
1. The athlete must “stay in the tunnel.” Do not rise up and down; stay level.
2. By staying level, the immediate repositioning that takes place allows for a great push off angle to move the body in a new direction.
3. The athlete should attempt to create length and cover distance quickly. Short choppy steps are not effective when in “survival mode.” GET MOVING!
4. In the snapshots below, the athlete is performing a hip turn based on the coaches command or signal. The athlete will perform a hip turn and either a shuffle, crossover, or run – and then recover back to the start position as soon as possible!
Perform 3-4 sets of 7-10s of work. If quickness/speed is the goal we want to do it in short bursts of time and not long duration where speed in compromised. Recover for roughly 45 seconds and repeat.
Now, I know it sounds kind of crazy to be talking about survival, cavemen, and “fight or flight” when we are referring to speed, but we have to always look at the genesis of all things. Animals that don’t have reactive speed have other ways to protect themselves. Humans have intelligence and the ability to escape or attack using systems derived out of our CNS to help us use our speed. Our job as coaches is to tap into this ability and use it to help our athletes “naturally” move fast!