Archive for “Youth Speed Training” Category

Building Agility From the Ground Up – Brett Klika

As youth strength and conditioning coaches, we often find that the basic skills of athleticism we once took for granted with youngsters are now underdeveloped or missing altogether.  This is most apparent in pre-pubescent athletes as inactivity and lack of physical education has left them at a developmental detriment.

When we have a chance to work with these children, our role now includes introducing and building the most foundational constructs of many athletic skills. In essence, we have to be able help kids build athletic skills from the ground up.  

Agility is an athletic skill that many deconditioned or underprepared young children struggle with. As opposed to more absolute skills like speed and strength, agility requires fast, efficient, and frequent communication between the brain and body in response to varying demands. Building a foundation for this and other athletic skills requires an understanding of a developing child’s underlying sensorimotor circuitry.

The sensorimotor system, made up of various Perceptual Motor Skills, is responsible for linking the information a child takes in through their senses to an effective motor output. For example, a child tracks and focuses on a ball moving toward them (visual awareness). This visual information is used to develop a sense of where the ball is in relation to themselves and the surrounding area (spatial awareness). A sense of internal timing (temporal awareness) uses this sensory data and works with the proprioceptive system to move the right joints and appendages at the right time to have a glove meet the ball at some point in space.

Kids used to develop this sensory foundation through frequent free-play, physical education, and multi-sport participation. Unfortunately, fewer modern children have access or interest in all of the above. Facilitating this brain-body process has now become part of our job as a youth strength and conditioning coach.

To begin building an important athletic skill like agility, consider the different sensory-based perceptual motor skills listed below. Understanding and targeting these skills provides valuable insight as to how to build athleticism, regardless of a child’s ability.   Integrate activities like the ones listed during warm ups, or other strategic times during training to start building the underlying skills for agility.

(For a list of the 9 perceptual motor skills and how they impact performance, click here). http://spiderfitkids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Intro-Module-for-Powerful-Play-Final-8-dragged.png

Body awareness: Knowledge of the different body parts and what they do provides a child endless options for how to move their body to maneuver the demands placed on them from the environment.

Body awareness activity: Body Letters

Visual awareness: An ability to focus, track, and take in information from a full field of vision provides essential sensory information telling a child what movement adaptations are needed to navigate the changing demands of the environment.

Visual awareness activity: *Group Tag (Hand Signs)

*Divide kids into three groups. Whichever number you are holding up, that group is “it” and tags the other groups. When tagged, perform 5 push-ups, then back in game. Change frequently.

Directional awareness: Being able recognize and respond accurately to directional cues, in addition to being able to move efficiently in different planes of motion is essential for multidirectional speed, a key component of agility.   

Directional awareness activity: *Quick Feet Reaction

 

*Progress to not using visual cues, i.e. pointing, gesturing, etc.

Temporal awareness:  Developing an internal sense of timing, rhythm, and precision helps children adapt their movement tempo based on the demands of the environment. Honing this skill also increases a child’s ability to anticipate other’s movement.

Temporal awareness activity: *My Gears

*Use different locomotion patterns, i.e. jumping, skipping, running, etc.

Spatial awareness: When a child is familiar with how much space their body takes up, in addition to their relation to other things in their environment, they are able to use this information to fine-tune movement.

Spatial awareness activity: Hop Guesser:

Proprioceptive awareness:  The proprioceptive system provides constant feedback as to where joints are in relation to one another and what the load demands are for each of them. This internal feedback helps youngsters adjust movement elements like body position and force. This ability is essential in improving agility.

Proprioceptive awareness activity: 4-Way Balance 

While other perceptual motor skills are involved with developing agility, start creating a foundation of those listed above. Add these activities as part of a warm up or game to get kids engaged prior to more tactical work. Consider how common games and activities performed during training could be slightly modified to focus on these and other sensory skills.  Asses how a child’s level of development with these individual skills is impacting their performance.

A youth strength and conditioning coach with the knowledge and practical know-how for engineering athletic skills for all levels of youngster can inspire more kids to be athletic for life.

 

Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.

 

 

If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

 

Top 10 Tips for Training Young Athletes – Jim Kielbaso

The IYCA has produced hundreds of articles and dozens of courses/certifications on important topics related to training young athletes.  There is a lot to know and understand about long term athlete development (LTAD) and creating exceptional training experiences for young athletes.  While it’s impossible to have a full understanding of everything involved in this process, this article boils it down into the Top 10 tips for training young athletes.
Whether you’re a trainer, coach, administrator or parent, this list will give you a basic understanding of the most important concepts involved in training young athletes.  training young athletes
1.  Progress over Performance: Focusing on wins and losses is like fools gold.  You may have won the game or race, but that doesn’t mean you made progress or performed your best.  Celebrate progress rather than performance.  Have a plan and goal for training, and don’t let unimportant competitions get in the way of sticking to the plan.  For young athletes, competitions should be viewed as opportunities to use what has been worked on in practice rather than judging who is good or bad.
2.  Think Long-Term:  Rather than taking shortcuts to see some short-term success, build a strong foundation that will allow an athlete to build upon. Young athletes need to develop fundamental motor skills, coordination and all-around athleticism that will enable them to perfect sports skills later in their development.  Athletic development takes time and can’t be rushed.  The goal shouldn’t be winning the game this weekend.  Instead, build athletic qualities that will allow for continued growth.
3.  Balance General & Specific:  Many coaches want to focus exclusively on one sport or event in order to achieve early success.  While this may help children perform well at a young age, you cannot go back and develop foundational skills like coordination and motor control once the window has closed.  While sports skills certainly need to be taught, be sure to include “general athleticism” drills when training young athletes to build a stronger capacity to learn and perfect skills later.  These two concepts should not be mutually exclusive.  It’s absolutely possible to use the warm-up period to enhance athleticism by including fundamental motor skills, plyometrics, coordination activities, strength development, and mobility work.

kids meeting athletes

4.  Ignite a Fire & Develop Confidence: The goals of every youth sports coach should always be to inspire a desire to excel and to keep kids coming back for more.  Give them examples of what they can be by introducing them to older athletes, taking them to events, and painting mental images of what their future may hold.  Get them to see where they could be someday.  Keep dreams alive in every child until they decide to move on.  Many athletes mature late, and just need to stay with a sport long enough for their strength, size, and power to develop.

5.  Teach Young Athletes More Than Sports: Sports are metaphors for life.  Use sports to teach lessons about the value of hard work, listening, cooperation, repetition, and other life skills.  If all you focus on is the sport, you are missing an opportunity to make a much larger impact on a young athlete.
6.  Focus on the Nervous System: While young athletes can improve strength and endurance, their hormones and anaerobic energy systems are not fully developed yet, so they will not see major improvements in muscular size or anaerobic capacity until adolescence.  Before that time, focus on developing the nervous system by training technique, coordination and fundamental abilities like balance and kinesthetic awareness.  Gradually change the focus over time as the athlete matures.
7.  Balance Variety & Repetition: Variety is an excellent way to stimulate the developing nervous system, but repetition will develop technique.  Young athletes need both and should be taught the value of repetition and the enjoyment of variety.
8.  Basic Scientific Principles Apply: The two most important scientific training principles to understand when training young athletes are Systematic Progression and Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D. Principle).  The S.A.I.D. Principle states that the body will adapt very specifically to the stimulus it encounters.  In other words, we get better at what we practice.  For example, if we want to increase strength, we must consistently put the muscle under tension with intensity.  It will respond by adding more protein strands which will eventually manifest as a stronger, larger muscle.  On the other hand, performing low intensity, high volume exercises will increase muscular endurance rather than muscular strength.  Both are good, but you need to understand the goal before you choose the training method.
progressive overload for training young athletes
Systematic Progression is the concept of systematically increasing the demands placed upon the athlete in order to stimulate constant adaptation.  As a very simple example, if an athlete wants to increase her pull-up strength, and can currently do 5 pull-ups, she should eventually strive to get 6 reps.  When six reps are achieved, she should try to do 7 reps.  This is a very basic example, but the point is that athletes should constantly be challenged to do that which they are not currently able to do.  This concept holds true for all physical attributes.
9.  Slight Overreach:  This concept works hand-in-hand with Systematic Progression, but can include practices and competitions as well.  The idea is to push athletes barely out of their comfort zone – both in training and competition.  Have them compete against opponents that are slightly better than them so they are always striving to improve.  Be very careful not to put them in too many situations that are completely out of their reach as this often leads to frustration and decreased self-esteem.  It’s also important for young athletes to feel successful, so give them opportunities to succeed as well.  There should be a healthy balance between a young athlete feeling confident and knowing he/she can improve.  Great coaches are able to keep confidence high while helping the athlete work toward larger goals.
10. Use Volume, Don’t Abuse It:  The volume (or amount) of work is one of the most misunderstood concepts in athlete development, and it can be highly individualized.  A volume of work that is too low will not elicit progress.  On the other hand, a very high volume of work is often unnecessary and leads to injuries, boredom, and burnout.  An athletes biological age, training age, genetics, nutrition, sleep patterns, and outside activities are all factors in how much volume is appropriate.  Coaches and parents need to constantly monitor a young athlete’s physical, mental and emotional well-being, and be prepared to make adjustments at any time.
These 10 tips provide an overview of the most important concepts to understand when training young athletes.  For more in-depth information on the concepts and specifics on how to implement them, the IYCA encourages you to go through the Youth Fitness Specialist Level 1 certification and look into the Long Term Athlete Development Roadmap.
Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

Jumping Progressions – Jordan Tingman

When a new athlete comes into a collegiate program, one thing I have noticed is their lack of ability to properly execute correct jumping mechanics. When jumping incorrectly, an athlete is at a much higher risk of injury, but also is at risk of not achieving their full athletic potential.

 

These are the flaws I noticed most often in jumping technique:

  • Valgus knees on load and explode
  • Lack of postural strength
  • Poor eccentric strength
  • Not getting to full extension on explode
  • Loading with the upper body dropping forward and not with the legs
  • Incorrect arm swing on load to explode
  • A lack of single leg strength

When helping an athlete learn how to properly execute a jump of any sort, there are simple steps to break down any jump to ensure they are executing each rep efficiently.

Regardless of how much you break down a jump, overall strength training and core training are required to build strength and kinesthetic awareness to each individual, so pairing these jumping progressions with a complete strength development program would be the most beneficial. Without a strong base of strength and body awareness, power will almost always leak somewhere.

Many of the ideas in this article have originated from watching the videos and ideas of Coach John Garrish at North Broward Preparatory School in Florida.

Step 1: Eccentric Loading

(LOAD)

The first step to any jump is to eccentrically load the legs.  Many athletes tend to load into a valgus knee position during the rapid eccentric pre-stretch, so practicing this step on its own can be very beneficial. If you are still having problems with valgus, giving them a tactile cue, such as a band around the knees, can help them feel whether they are pressing out against the band and away from a valgus knee position.

+With hands on hips, have the athlete start in a normal athletic position.  On cue, have them rapidly bend at the knees and hips to create tension in the legs, loading them while maintaining proper alignment in the knees.

+If your athlete is struggling to even maintain correct loading in this position, stay here until they master it with proper technique.  Too often, we are in a rush to progress, but there is rarely a need to rush this process.  

This short video demonstrates how to perform this part of the movement.

Step 2: Vertical Jump from Non-Counter Movement (NCM) Load

(LOAD/PAUSE/EXPLODE) (NCM Vertical Jump)

After your athlete properly executes the load position, the next step in the progression is to explode. A great way to make sure your athlete is properly executing each step of the vertical jump is to add a pause following each position.  This is not how an athlete will actually jump in competition, but it’s an excellent way to slow the process down so that athletes can concentrate on fundamentals.  

+ Start the athlete with hands on hips and cue the load position explained above.  Have them pause for one second at the bottom to maintain a correct loading position.  On your “Explode” cue, have them rapidly straighten their legs to jump as high as they can without arm movement.

+ One thing to look for while the athlete is EXPLODING, is full leg and hip extension.  Are they straightening their legs out and getting their hips through? Full leg and hip extension ensure proper firing of all leg and glute muscles. Often times, athletes will only lockout at the knees and miss getting through with the hips, limiting full power potential.

+ Another thing to look for is whether the athlete is extending with their legs or their upper body.  Many times, an athlete lacking strength will overcompensate by violently throwing the upper-body backward vs. extending through the legs and hips.  Watch the sequencing of the jump to see if they are using the upper body to a greater extent than the legs.  

Step 3: Vertical Jump from NCM Load to Stick

(LOAD/ PAUSE/EXPLODE/STICK)

Once the athlete has properly completed steps 1-2 efficiently, we can add in an eccentric “stick” landing at the end. Continue to cue the athlete through each part of the jumping progression, then at the end of the EXPLODE the goal is to return to the initial LOAD position by sticking the landing.  Have them hold this position until your call.  You may have to demonstrate what this looks like so they understand how to stick the landing under control.  Explaining that it will look like a gymnast sticking a landing helps many athletes visualize what they should look like.  

+Ensure the knees are driving out upon landing rather than in a valgus knee position. Correct knee positions in the final stick.

Step 4: Add in Arm Action

Once your athlete has efficiently completed steps 1-3, you can add in violent arm action on the load to explode. Have the athlete violently throw the arms long and back behind the pockets on LOAD, then violently reach them up in cadence with EXPLODE.

Step 5: Make it quicker

You can have your athlete start on your call, but allow them to move through the entire sequence on their own with proper mechanics.  Make sure you are still correcting any imperfections while they do it on their own.  Once the athlete has gone through the progression, he/she should start to self-correct so there’s no need to over-coach at this point.  Still, when you see an athlete making the same mistake over and over again, it’s important to give them feedback because they may not even know they are making the mistake.  

Step 6: Try it with different jumps

+You can use these progressions for a wide variety of jumps including Broad Jumps, Lateral Jumps, single leg jumping variations and so on.

+Incorporate mini hurdles

+Try a jump combo (ex. Depth jump to stick to box jump to stick)

When eventually adding in boxes, make sure it’s a box that the athlete can safely jump to rather than struggling to land on top. The box should be just high enough that the athlete should be able to fully extend the hips and jump onto the box, landing safely in an athletic position on top of it.  There is no need for athletes to pull their feet up and land in a deep squat position on top of a box.  This will only get athletes thinking about pulling their feet up instead of executing the actual jump with good technique.  

Once your athlete can successfully complete a jump, you can try adding in different variations such as medicine balls to perform a slam to vertical jump or a lateral slam to lateral jump.

This video shows several examples of the jumps discussed above, but you can get creative and more sport-specific as your athletes progress.

Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.

 

The IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course is the most comprehensive and scientifically sound speed & agility certification available.  With several hours of video instruction and a 249-page manual, you’ll be an expert in teaching and developing speed, agility, and explosiveness in athletes of all ages.  Learn more about the CSAS certification by clicking the image below.

 

Plyometrics – 3 Ways They May Be Hurting Your Athletes: Phil Hueston

I cringed and threw up in my mouth a little when he said it. “I know my girls are ready to play. We do thirty minutes of plyometrics at every practice, three days a week.” The earnest young volleyball coach went on to tell me he’d done his research and had “adapted” the program done by a certain university women’s volleyball program.

By adapted, he meant he threw away all the functional strength training, core training and stability-oriented training that laid the foundation for the plyometric work. He meant that he ignored the tissue quality, corrective exercise and active recovery work done by that university’s female volleyball players.

What he meant by “adapted” was that he took what was about 5-10% of a training program meant for year-round, single-sport athletes who were grown adults and made it essentially 100% of the training program. Thirty minutes of jump training, plyometrics and knee pounding fun and games.

At the start of every practice.

For 11-year-old girls.

The “old me” would have wanted to throat-punch this guy. I know that because the “new me” kind of wanted to as well…

But I took a deep breath and said: “tell me more.” And he did.

His description of his “program” gradually morphed into his complaints that his girls weren’t taking the program seriously. He knew that because of the number of ankle and knee injuries his team was suffering. “We do the plyos to prevent injury.”

In my head, I could hear myself saying, “no coach, you do the corrective exercise, core training and strength training to prevent injury. You do the plyometric training to improve athletic expression, hone context-specific athletic skills and improve explosive power.”

But hey, he did have a degree from the University of Search Engines…

So how do coaches and trainers go so wrong with the use of plyometrics in training programs? Good question! There are several key ways that we can hurt athletes with plyometrics. They are:

  • Choosing inappropriate activities for the athletes in question
  • Excessive volume
  • A lack of foundational strength & power

Let’s look at these 3 areas, along with some simple remedies for “plyometric overdose:

1. Choose your weapons carefully – Choose appropriate activities to train plyometrics. There are a number of factors impacting selection. These include age, gender, developmental level, training age, sport, and overall training and practice load.

If you’re working with 6 – 8 year-olds, your best bet for a plyometric activity may be a simple quick step drill or a single-leg “hop around” activity. Working on low-level, static plyometric activities with your youngest clients can help them develop movement skills in the frontal plane as well as a degree of reactive “stiffness” in the ankle and knee.

Once established, this increased ability of connective tissues to receive stress, create stored potential energy and then release it will become a key element in overall increased force production.

For older athletes, carefully increase the intensity and complexity of the activities. Pay close attention to developmental levels and responsiveness to coaching. Progress from static quick steps to transitional quick step movements in the frontal or sagittal plane, allowing your athletes to learn how to manage reactive and responsive forces in small amounts first.

Try progressing your athletes to “2-to-1’s” as they exhibit mastery in lower level plyometric activities. This one is simple. Have your athlete start in an athletic stance and perform a ¼ to ½ squat followed by a moderate height/intensity jump. Landing on one foot, the athlete is directed to “stick and hold” the landing for 2-3 seconds. It’s easy to progress and very effective.

Progressions include the coach calling out the landing foot as the jump is initiated, jumps over a low hurdle, jumps in the frontal or transverse plane, and the addition of either a ball to catch or other secondary, low-degree-of-difficulty activity.

In what will undoubtedly be my “burn-him-at-the-stake” statement, I will say without hesitation that I never use Box Jumps with my clients. The Box Jump might be the least useful “plyometric” activity I can think of. If you want a great expression of high-speed hip flexion and panic-driven self-preservation, fine. But as an expression of plyometric power and ability, the Box Jump (at least as it is taught and used in most gyms and programs I’ve seen) is weak, at best, and dangerous/counter-productive at worst.

That being said, I’ve got a gym full of plyo boxes, so what now? Don’t jump ON the boxes.  Instead, teach athletes how to decelerate and reactively explode coming OFF the boxes. Try these:

Stability Tempo Deceleration Jump – the athlete gets on a 12-18” box and “steps” off, landing on both feet. The goal is to decelerate the landing at a controlled and decreasing speed as the athlete nears the bottom of the squat position. So, moving slower as they get nearer the floor. Progress to single leg, lower to higher boxes as mastery is acquired.

Depth to Broad Jump – using the same start as above, the athlete explodes out of the bottom of the landing position into a broad jump. Progress to single leg, lower to higher boxes and jumps in the frontal plane.

Zercher-Loaded Seated Vertical Leap to Parallel Landing – Sit the athlete on a 18-24” box, holding a 10-30 lb slam ball or sandbag Zercher style. The athlete is instructed to drive through the heels and perform a vertical leap, minimizing forward lean during the takeoff process. Land into a parallel squat position.

If girls with minimal training exposure are the target audience, age and gender combine to influence activity selection. Q-angle in girls increases as girls enter, and pass through puberty. So girls in the 6 – 9 age group will likely exhibit less Q-angle related movement deviations than girls in older groups. Take what you observe, place it within the template of what we know and decide on activities accordingly.

2. Minimal effective dose – Contrary to one of the most popular (if largely unspoken) mantras in the fitness world, more is NOT better. In fact, when it comes to plyometric training, more is probably far worse than not enough, and certainly not as effective as just right.

So work on the Goldilocks concept – not too hot, not too cold, just right.

Plyometric activities should be dependent on the phosphagen, or ATP-PC energy system for fuel. So rep counts for most high-intensity plyo activities should be kept in the 3-8 range. If you need proof of that, watch an athlete perform an “A” skip over about 25 yards or so. Note the execution speed (rather than the speed across the ground) as the athlete gets into the 15-20 total rep range. You’ll notice the movement pattern change slightly and the execution speed of each rep begins to slow. What began as an effortless, flowing movement becomes more labored.

And yes, I’m aware that Olympic, pro and elite athletes may be exceptions to this rule. How many 10- or 15-year-old pro athletes are you training?

The “A” skip is a fairly low-level plyometric activity with a moderate level of pattern complexity. You can imagine how quickly the energy system, reactive pattern, and stabilization for a frontal plane single-leg hurdle hop might break down, right?

I’d much rather get 6 well-executed movements than 20 reps of gradually decreased proficiency due to system fatigue.

The other simple thing to remember is that, even when performed well, plyometrics are subject to plenty of multi-planar forces. They are, then, high-risk as well as high-reward.

So from the simple standpoint of risk mitigation, fewer, better-executed reps makes more sense than a pile of crappy ones.

Plyometrics are not conditioning activities. They are context-specific, skill development activities. Use them wisely and sparingly.

3. Foundation firstPossibly the most oft-committed sin of programming plyometrics is that of putting the skill before the foundation. Movement must dominate and strength levels must be adequate to deal with the increased ground reaction force.  If you want your athletes to become great jumpers, weak legs just ain’t gonna cut it. It astonishes me how many coaches (sports or strength/performance) just don’t realize that.  Let the intensity of your plyometric activities increase as the stability, strength, overall movement quality of your athletes rise. Without adequate stability and strength, the risk of injury from plyometric activities begins to outweigh the benefits. For most of my athletes, single leg stance is the first skill to master. It doesn’t sound like much, but SL stance is critical to the brain creating the proper recruitment patterns for knee stability. Younger athletes will struggle more with it, but you should be able to challenge your older athletes pretty early in your program. One of my favorite ways to connect stability patterns to movement is to connect a stability tempo exercise with a strength tempo lift, followed by a low rep plyometric activity. By using movement patterns with some overlapping neural pathways, we connect the stabilization patterns to the explosive ones, increasing quality and results overall.

The bottom line is that without a foundation of strength, plyometrics are not only risky, but they’ll also never be as effective as possible.


Strength is king and every other athletic skill is subject to it.

Plyometric exercises are a great way to express and develop athletic power. I’ve suggested some ways to avoid the potential pitfalls of plyo training, and I hope this helps improve your programming.

In any case, let’s do less “adapting” and pay more attention to the details – and our athletes.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

 

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Using Agility Bags to Develop Game Speed

When you look up the definition of agility in the IYCA’s Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning textbook, it states “agility is the ability to stop, start, and change directions.”  This is exactly what athletes do all the time, specifically team-sport athletes who must react to the movements of opponents.  It’s important for coaches to help athletes develop these skills while incorporating sports skills and the ability to react to opponents.  

agility bagsI work with a lot of football players, but the principles of agility are similar for many sports.  Athletes must learn how to juke, feint and react to opponents in order to make plays and avoid bone-crushing hits.  Being able to change direction quickly can often be the difference between making a play or getting knocked out of a game, so it’s important that we help athletes develop these skills for both performance and safety.

So, how do we develop these skills and what tools can be utilized?

Of course, I could give all the easy answers; lift weights, nutrition, study film, recovery, etc.  I am not saying these easy answers are not important, but one of my favorite ways to develop these skills is through the use of agility bags.  Agility bags represent obstacles on the ground.  Sometimes they are bodies that end up on the ground during a play.  Your athlete has to get their feet over the bodies to avoid being tackled.  Believe me some of your athletes will get tripped up by a “body” on the floor.  This is your chance to have some fun with them and teach reactionary skills that will keep athletes safe and help them make plays.

Using agility bags can develop coordination, footwork and body control.  It will also develop spatial awareness and the ability to use peripheral vision.  It’s important that athletes in many sports use peripheral vision so they can keep their eyes on the play while knowing what is around them.  Peripheral vision can actually be developed and agility bags are one tool that allows you to work on this.

There are all sorts of drills that can be done with agility bags.  You’ve probably seen many of them that include shuffling, hopping, etc.  Many of them can be replicated with cones or small hurdles, but I like to use bags along with including a reactionary component.  Here is a short video of a few reactionary drills that can be done with agility bags.

BAG DRILL 1

I place six bags on the floor.  You can have the athlete start in the middle of the six bags or at either end of the bags.  I stand at the third bag a few feet away with a football in both hands.

I will point the football to the left or to the right and the athlete will follow the ball in the direction pointed.  I will point, then point in the opposite direction and the athlete has to change direction to follow the ball. You can change direction at any time.

When I want them to transition from two-ins frontal plane to one-ins sagittal plane I say “SCORE.”  When I say “SCORE,” I toss them the ball and they perform one-ins until they reach the end of the six bags.

BAG DRILL 2

Bag drill two is set up like bag drill one.  The difference is you play catch with the athlete as he travels in the frontal plane performing two-ins.  This is where peripheral vision must really be utilized.  

I will travel up and down the six bags at first while playing catch with the ball.  As they get use to this drill and are confident going over the bags while playing catch, I will change direction on them and they have to respond. If they are late getting to the ball and it hits the floor, the drill is restarted.

I sometimes lay out pads at the ends of the six bags on the floor and have my running backs dive onto the pads to simulate diving into the end zone.  

BAG DRILL 3 – MIRROR DRILL WITH BAGS

Take four bags and lay them on the ground.  Take another four bags and lay them right across from the original three bags.  Have each set of four bags approximately one yard from each other.

You need two athletes.  One of them will be the “lead” while the other will be the “responder” and will mirror the lead’s movement.  Both will have footballs properly secured with pressure points if you’re working with football players.  You can choose how sport-specific you’d like the drill to be by utilizing balls or implements.  

The lead will initiate the movement by moving laterally with two-ins.  The responder will follow with two-ins also.

The lead can go up and down the four bags a maximum of six times.  He can change directions anytime he wants to and before the sixth rep he has to transition from lateral movement to straight ahead one-ins.

Have a coach approximately ten yards away with his hands extended out to his side, shoulder level. The first back to slap coach’s hand wins.

You can use six to eight bags.  This drill is very fun and competitive.  

BAG DRILL 4

Lay two bags on the ground so they are parallel to each other.  Take two additional bags and lay them a few yards away from the original two.  Place these two bags in an L formation.  Place another bad five yards away from the L bags.  

The first two bags are used for one-ins.  I will also have them jump cut through the bags when working with running backs. 

Once they get past the first two, they will jump cut over the L formation of bags.  I like to have them jump over a bag.

After completing the jump cut, the last bag acts as a defensive back.  I like to hold this one upright and tilt it to the left or to the right.  Your running back has to spin opposite the tilt.

So, if working with football players, the first two bags represents the line of scrimmage.  The L bag formation is a linebacker and the last bag a defensive back.  You can play around with this and have them make various moves at different bags.  Nothing is set in stone, so use your imagination and knowledge of the sport to create movements the athlete will use.

Training is a long-term process, and teaching athletes both coordination and skills they can use on the field is important.  Agility bags offer the coach an opportunity to teach sport-specific movements/skills while developing proprioception, coordination, body control and peripheral vision.  Adding a reactionary component brings all of these things together in a way that helps athletes understand how the drills can help their on-field performance.  

Doug Heslip is the owner of Heslip Elite Sports Performance Training in Negaunee, MI and the creator of Seek & Destroy – Elite Running Back Drills a video product for football coaches.  He works with young athletes in a variety of sports and teaches football coaches how to incorporate speed & agility training into their sessions.

Athlete Development Model – Jim Kielbaso

Athlete Development ModelLong term athlete development has been discussed for years, but the concept is still incredibly confusing for practitioners.  Part of the reason for this confusion is that the models are missing details and coordination of efforts between coaches, trainers and parents.

At the 2018 IYCA Summit, Jim Kielbaso offered a new way of thinking about athlete development and offered a solution for how we move forward.  He spoke about where we’ve been, what has been done and outlined a model that will add to the already existing LTAD models.

While most of the theoretical models have great thoughts and rationale behind them, we still find that professionals hide inside their own “silos” without coordinating their efforts with the other important parties involved.  If a S & C Coach can’t coordinate with the sport coach, the athlete is ultimately going to suffer and results will not be optimal.

Youth sports has become a business that is often more about the adults involved than the kids.  Because of this, early specialization gets shoved down everyone’s throats, and complete athlete development is ignored.  Numerous articles, books and videos have been produced describing the problems associated with the current sports industry.  But, instead of making changes, we seem to be stuck in a rut of complaining.

We also know that most athletes don’t start a formal performance training program until they have already shown some athletic promise or strong interest in improving.  Instead of waiting, what can we do as a profession to help enhance the opportunities and experiences of all young athletes?

We may not love the systems that are in place, but we need to be pro-active and work towards changing youth sports systems from the inside instead of complaining that things “aren’t the way they should be.”

The video above is meant to get coaches to think about how we can begin working together to create exceptional experiences for athletes and help them reach their true potential.  Most coaches have great intentions but get stuck in their own silo because there is so much to be done in their area of expertise.  It’s time to make a change.  Watch the video and leave your comments below on how we can make this happen.

 

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model doesn’t explain what to actually do at each stage of development.  Learn the truth about long term athlete development and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to long term athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Also visit http://LongTermAthleteDevelopment.com for more information on Long Term Athlete Development.

Rethinking Long Term Athlete Development – Jim Kielbaso

The concept of long term athlete development (LTAD) has been around for several years, but it has more recently become a hot topic amongst youth sports and training organizations.  It seems that everyone now needs a formula for how to develop great athletes so they can represent their countries and succeed as professionals.  Several academicians have taken the lead on reviewing the relevant literature and have written articles and books about the topic.  They have used this literature to create several different models for developing athletes.  While these models were a great start, their oversimplification of athlete development seems to be steering coaches, trainers and parents in the wrong direction.    

To begin, the entire premise of LTAD theory needs to be examined.  When it originated in the late 1990’s, academician Istvan Balyi identified some very important issues in many countries and sporting organizations, so he created a 3-stage model that emphasized long term athlete development over winning competitions.  This premise challenged the approach of many coaches and got a lot of people to open their eyes to the problems in youth sports.   

Balyi’s original model included three phases – Training to Train, Training to Compete and Training to Win.  A few years later, he realized that a fourth stage – FUNdamentals – should be added to address the fundamental motor skills that should be developed early in a child’s life.  

Sporting organizations latched on to this theory and quickly started talking about it as a formula that would create great athletes.  As these theories picked up steam, other academicians decided to jump on the train and create their own models.  They included talent identification, more in-depth discussion on early childhood, and there was a strong emphasis on taking advantage of hypothetical “windows” of opportunity where different training methods would supposedly have a greater impact. The models told coaches when to emphasize strength training, speed training, endurance training and when to emphasize competition vs. training.  

Eventually, some groups realized that an LTAD approach may also give children great sporting experiences that would lead to lifelong enjoyment of physical activity.  Because of the childhood obesity and physical illiteracy epidemics, this idea seemed very attractive.  

A few organizations came out with their own versions of LTAD that included 7-9 stages of development, and they felt good about adopting this approach because they believed it was the “right thing to do for kids,” even though it was nothing more than words on paper for most groups.  These organizations would hire an expert to put together a model, but they didn’t seem to put much effort into the actual implementation.  Education and coordination of efforts were left out of the models.

Eventually, the stages looked like this:

  • Stage 1 – Active Start (0-6 years old)
  • Stage 2 – FUNdamentals (girls 6-8, boys 6-9)
  • Stage 3 – Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12)
  • Stage 4 – Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16) 
  • Stage 5 – Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)
  • Stage 6 – Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)
  • Stage 7 – Active for Life (any age)

More in-depth models described when each training method would elicit the best results.  USA Hockey did a much better job with their American Developmental Model that looked like this:

Still, a lot was left out, especially any details on implementation.  For the most part, LTAD has remained theoretical, and implementation has largely been missing.  

To be clear, the models aren’t necessarily “wrong” as much as they are incomplete and misleading.  Most of them give the reader the impression that they have been thoroughly tested and proven, and that they contain a formula for success.  This may not have been their original intent, but that’s how it has been taking by the sporting world.

The strength & conditioning/sports performance profession has taken notice more than just about any group because a lot of these models talk about “training” and “movement.”  The term “athlete development” resonates with these professionals, so this is where many of the thoughts have become popularized.  

These professionals have tried to implement these already-flawed, theoretical models by attempting to use different training methods at certain times to take advantage of the “windows of opportunity” outlined by academicians without coordinating their efforts with other important players in this process.  This is one of the biggest mistakes made today, and the lack of integration with other groups has stymied progress and severely limited outcomes.  

While the theory of long term athlete development is well-intentioned, the models have yet to produce exceptional athletes in real life.  In fact, even the researchers admit that there was no real data to support any of the models.  In a great review of some of the relevant literature, Guy Razi and Kieran Foy showed that the data does not support these models.  It was all a great idea, but these models were nothing more than theoretical. To this day, no athlete has gone through the entire model the way it was originally laid out, and achieved a high level of success.

The models are also not very realistic in many situations.  For example, the models include a lot of talk about peak height velocity (PHV) as the optimal time for the adaptation of certain traits.  What is not addressed is how coaches are supposed to know when an athlete is experiencing PHV.  In most sporting situations, kids’ height is not constantly monitored by coaches, and most of the training decisions described in the literature are related more to strength & conditioning than sports skills.  Sports coaches might have contact with kids year-round, but most kids are not engaged in year-round strength & conditioning at an early age (this can be because of money, availability, beliefs, time restrictions, etc.).  So, how would the strength coach know when PHV is occurring?  It may not even matter since most performance coaches only see young athletes in limited spurts.  Typically, parents come to a performance coach after PHV when they recognize altered movement.  

If every child was in a “sporting academy” situation from a young age where they were constantly coached, trained and monitored, this may be possible, but it’s not realistic in most cases.  An argument could be made that we should move toward these type of year-round academies so that everything can be monitored, but that’s beyond the scope of this article and it carries as many negatives as positives.  

The most popular LTAD models propose “windows of opportunity” in which certain athletic traits may respond better to specific kinds of training.  For example, it has been theorized that speed is best trained just before PHV, and that strength is best trained directly after PHV.  These models lead many coaches to believe that worthwhile adaptation only occurs during these periods, and that is absolutely not true.  Young athletes are always open to adaptation and can always enjoy the benefits of proper training no matter where they are in their maturation.  

Every physical attribute can be trained at any time.  Most practitioners just need to understand how to best address each attribute during maturation to achieve the best long-term and sustainable outcomes.  

So, “missing” a window of opportunity does not mean progress in certain traits cannot be made.  On the contrary, long term athlete development is much more individualized than these contrived models suggest.  

Even more concerning is the fact that long-term implementation has not been thoroughly studied, which is ironic given the name of the theory and the fact that academicians created it.  It is typically written/spoken about by people who do not coach athletes, have not successfully developed great athletes, and many don’t even have children of their own in which they’ve tested their theories or developed athletes into champions.  

There are far too many factors involved in creating a great athlete to boil the process down to a few simple steps, and several key ingredients have been missing from the recipe.  Developing athletes is highly individualized, and included many factors beyond those that are described in the current literature.  These missing factors include:

  • The child’s interest/passion for sport
  • The psychological approach used with each athlete
  • Parental support and their role in the process
  • Environmental/societal influences
  • Access to the coaching/training at the right time
  • Genetic factors & talent identification
  • Coordination of development with all parties (parents, coaches, trainers, etc.)
  • Having the “right coach at the right time” or at least the right approach at the right time

Some of these factors cannot be easily controlled by coaches, rendering them “too messy” for academics to even attempt to address.  Yet, these factors will determine the long-term outcome to a much greater extent than any theoretical model of when to train each physical component.  

Kids are not robots, and developing athletes is not a science experiment.  long term athlete development

We don’t need models – we need coaches….great coaches.

If we’re truly interested in developing great athletes and/or adults who enjoy physical activity, we cannot do it alone as strength & conditioning professionals.  We must look at the entire picture, address physical, psychological/emotional and social aspects and include everyone involved in the development of the athlete – coaches, trainers and parents.

Much has already been addressed regarding the physical training of young athletes.  The materials available through the IYCA and others are exceptional and give in-depth information on strength development, speed & agility training, flexibility/mobility, conditioning and even skill development.  Rather than summarizing these methods, let’s explore the missing factors listed above and how each may be addressed.

Before we do that, two things need to be made clear:

  1. The term “youth” refers to anyone 18 and under.  When people are first introduced to the International Youth Conditioning Association, they often assume we are focused on very young children.  The process of athlete development begins at a very young age and continues until at least 18 years old, so it’s important for us to understand how to properly address each stage of maturation. Of course, athletes continue to develop past 18, but the process changes dramatically at that time.  
  2. Great training and coaching are absolutely essential to the process of athletic development.  This should be obvious, but it needs to be stated since it will not be addressed here. Training and coaching are addressed in many other IYCA materials and this is well beyond the scope of this article.  Athletes need physical development, so speed, strength, sports skills, etc. are critically important.  These topics are what most LTAD models focus on exclusively, and they should not be ignored.  

Now, let’s examine the aspects of long term athletic development that are NOT included in most models, but must be understood if we are truly interested in overall development:

Passion

Enjoyment of sport is one of the most important underlying factors in long-term athletic success.  If a young athlete does not find joy in a sport, the likelihood of him/her giving the long-term effort to excel is very small.  He/she may go through the motions and experience some level of success, but it is very difficult for a young person to stay motivated to excel in a sport if passion is not part of the equation.  

Without passion, the entire LTAD model comes to a grinding halt, so this cannot be ignored.

At some point, a child has to be willing to pursue a dream for themselves, not simply because he/she is talented or others want the success.  In most cases, there needs to be a burning desire within a person if high levels of success are going to be achieved.  Even more importantly, that passion needs to be fueled in order to sustain it long enough to achieve any real success.  Playing for the wrong coach, not getting enough playing time, having poor teammates, lack of parental support and year-round play are some the reasons the flame burns out for many athletes. If the sport is no longer fun for a young athlete, it’s almost impossible to expect continued progress.  

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle refers to a concept he calls “Ignition.”  Essentially, this is what creates a deep passion for sport in an athlete.  It might be exposure to a particular person, participation in an event, watching a sport, family involvement or something else.  It will be different for every person, which is why this isn’t a formula.  But, that ignition needs to exist if long-term success is the goal.

Parents, family and friends typically play the largest role in establishing a love for sport.  Exposure to sports (live or on TV) and attitudes toward sports often start in early childhood.  They can establish emotional feelings before they ever participate in a sport.  There’s no right way for parents to approach sports with their children, but positive exposure to a variety of sports seems to be optimal.  

As stated earlier, children are not robots, so there is no single formula for producing passion about a particular sport.   Intense parental feelings about sports have the potential to influence children in both positive and negative ways.  Some parents actually push kids away from sport because they are so passionate about it, while others create a healthy feeling of excitement.

Coaches and trainers often don’t even meet an athlete until some amount of exposure to a sport has been made, so feelings have often been established to some degree before a child’s first practice.  Youth coaches, however, play an enormous role in whether or not that passion continues.  

A child’s early exposure to sports and coaching often influences their desire to continue participating.  Early coaching needs to be both positive and effective.  Coaches need to balance making practices/games fun and improving athletically so the child develops feelings of self-efficacy associated with the sport.  Few things are more motivating to children that the feeling of proficiency – when a child thinks he/she is good at a sport, they enjoy it more.  

This can be a very delicate balancing act, and factors like stature, enjoyment and fundamental movement skills (FMS) play large roles in developing feelings of proficiency.  Typically, athletes who have good FMS’s excel early on, and have greater early enjoyment of sports.  Parents can greatly assist this process by working on FMS early in a child’s life and providing positive exposure to sport.  

Coaches can recognize the importance of establishing passion by making sports enjoyable and productive.  Possibly the most important goal of a youth sports coach should be to make each season so positive that the kids want to play another season.  This keeps them in the “system” and allows them to progress.  

Coaching

Having great coaches should be the first thing mentioned in any long term athlete development model.  Unfortunately, it is not. Great coaches trump theoretical models every time and should be discussed before anything else in this process.  

The approach used with each child may have more to do with long-term athletic success than any physical training method.  Yes, the right training methods will elicit positive physiological responses, but the wrong coaching approach can make the athlete lose interest, confidence, and enjoyment of the sport.  

Getting this wrong will render LTAD models useless, so having the right coach at the right time is essential to the process of athlete development.  The right coach will be different at each stage of maturation and for each athlete, so there is no single solution.

The right approach, however, has the potential to increase self-efficacy and passion, and can establish positive traits such as work ethic, perseverance, coachability, and a healthy outlook toward sports.  These positive traits and feelings may be the keys to sticking with a sport through tough training and the ups & downs associated with sports later in their development.  

Great coaching should be used by both sport coaches and strength & conditioning professionals (SCP) alike.  A SCP has the ability to balance out a poor coach and vice versa. Optimally, all coaches will be positive influences and contribute to the success of an athlete by teaching skills and making the process enjoyable enough to keep the passion burning.  

The importance of having the “right coach at the right time” cannot be overstated in the development of an athlete.  The right coach at 8 years old probably won’t be the right coach at 18, and the right coach for one athlete may not be the right coach for all athletes.  

Typically, young athletes and parents don’t even know which coach is the right fit or if that person is even available.  More often, we realize the negative experience when it’s too late and the damage has been done.  For example, a young soccer player can be on a terrific path of development from age 8 to 14 until a poor coach absolutely ruins soccer for her.  This can occur when athletes change clubs, move to a different age group, or have a coach who is simply a bad fit. This has the potential to make athletes lose passion/interest, decrease confidence or quit the sport altogether.  Anyone who has been involved in sports for any length of time has seen this over and over again.

Coaches who value winning above development too early in an athlete’s career can stifle the developmental process and get athletes to focus on things that limit long-term success.  These coaches often play favorites with young athletes and push certain athletes to excel (often their own child) while relegating others to less-important roles on the team.  While this may work for some athletes, it can also have a negative effect on overall development.  The “favorite” child may have false confidence in their early success and he/she may not learn how to work hard for that success.  Other children may feel decreased confidence and end up quitting because the sport just isn’t fun anymore.  

Unfortunately, high-quality coaches often feel compelled to work with older, more developed athletes because that’s what society deems as “better.”  To be sure, some coaches are simply better-suited to work with older athletes, but a great youth coach has the potential to be one of the most influential figures in a child’s life.  A year, early in life, with a bad coach could have easily derailed the careers of great athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson or Lionel Messi.  

If we’re truly looking to develop great athletes through a long-term process, we must encourage great coaches to spend time with young athletes.  This means that quality coaches may need to volunteer their time to work with young athletes, knowing that the payoff may not occur for many years.  

It also means that SCP’s need to be aware of how each child is being coached and approach them with what they need.  A child who has a negative sport coach may need a more positive approach from the SCP. Conversely, a talented child who has been coddled his whole life may need a hard-nosed influence to push him to be great.  

Social/Environmental

It is impossible to ignore the fact that a child’s surroundings influence his/her sporting experiences, but this is also ignored by every LTAD model available.  Spending time with friends is very important to most children.  Sometimes, kids may be better off playing a sport with their friends than on a travel team comprised of kids who don’t know each other.

Geographic location will also influence long term athlete development.  For example, a young child with a passion for lacrosse, but who lives in an

Members Of Female High School Soccer Team

area with limited coaching/competition, will probably not have the opportunity to reach his potential like he would if he grew up in Maryland.  A young gymnast may be identified as a potentially great diver in middle/high school.  If she doesn’t like the coach or the other athletes on the diving team, she may never even give it a chance, and a potential Olympian may never try a sport.  How many exceptional rugby players, fencers or team handball players have been born in America and were simply not exposed to these sports?

Access to quality experiences and identification of talent plays a huge role in the long-term success of an athlete.  

Strength coaches may not have much control over this, but it’s certainly something we need to consider if the goal is to develop great athletes and achieve long-term success.  Even if the goal is to create enjoyable experiences, the fact that opportunities are often limited should not be ignored.  

An experienced coach may be able to suggest sports and/or coaches to families when talent is identified.  While there is no guarantee that these suggestions will be acted upon, we should always think about what we can do rather than complain about a problem after the fact.  

Parental Support

Parents have more of an influence than anyone in the process of long-term athlete development, and both sports coaches and SCP’s may need to step in to help guide them when appropriate.  Some parents push too hard, while others expect too little. This is a delicate balancing act that must be considered as part of any long term plan.

Simply providing transportation to great coaching/training may be the difference needed to keep the flame burning in a young athlete.  Conversely, negative conversations after a game may poison the well and create negative emotions related to a sport.

Sports satisfaction surveys reveal that “having fun” is the main reason that most children like to participate in sports; however, the parents’ perception of why their children like to play sports is to “win.”

SCP’s and sport coaches can help create balance when support is not present.  By making practice/training an enjoyable, positive experience, a child’s “emotional bank account” can be built up.  Coaches may also need to have hard conversations with parents sometimes or at least talk to the athlete about how to communicate with the parent.  

Coordination

With all of these factors in mind, it appears as though long term athlete development is much more complex than just the training methods used at different points in the maturation process or how many games to play each year.  Of course, great training and sport coaching are necessary. That should be painfully obvious by now. But, besides great training and coaching, it also appears that many critical factors need to come together in a coordinated effort if we are truly looking for optimal development and great sporting experiences.

We have created “silos” that don’t have enough interaction with each other.  Parents, sports coaches, and strength & conditioning specialists each have their silos where they do their work independently.  This approach creates a lack of continuity for the young athlete. Sports coaches don’t know what kind of training is occurring outside of their practices.  SCP’s have no input on the number or duration of practices, and parents often don’t know what’s best for their child, so they simply drop them off with a coach and hope he/she is doing the right thing.  

Unfortunately, many adults seem to think that “their way” is the best approach, so there is little coordination between parents, coaches, and trainers.  

It also goes without saying that the entire youth sports system is broken and has become more about the adults than the kids.  Many books and articles have been written on this topic. Web sites have been created and Ted Talks were given. Even the US Olympic Committee is now supporting pediatric sports psychologists to help young athletes deal with the stresses of youth sports and to help parents and coaches deal with the challenges.

The problems are obvious, and rehashing them here seems pointless.  

We are not going to fix this problem by complaining about it or attempting to tear it down.  

In order to fix this broken system, a much more coordinated approach needs to be taken.  Someone must intervene and change the system from the inside.

Most parents simply don’t know how to handle this overall development, so guidance is needed.  Sport coaches usually have great knowledge of a sport, but lack knowledge in the area of complete athlete development.  Many strength coaches are aware of the needs, but don’t have enough influence over the process, aren’t involved until later in an athlete’s career or simply want to stand on the outside and complain about it.  

It is time for strength & conditioning professionals to step up and become coordinators of athletic development.  

The SCP is armed with the knowledge to coordinate long term athlete development.  It is up to this group to take a more active role in the education of parents and coaches.  We need highly-qualified professionals who can effectively communicate and coordinate the “silos” in an effort to create positive experiences.  

complete athlete development

The SCP can teach coaches and parents how each aspect of athleticism is linked, and plans can be put in place to create well-rounded athletes.  

This shift will require the SCP to get out of his/her comfort zone and think about athlete development as more than just lifting weights.  The SCP will need to work within the structure of youth sports by educating parents and coaches, and taking their own egos out of the equation.  We need to spend time teaching parents and coaches about fundamental motor skills, skill acquisition, strength and speed development, and all-around athletic development rather than specialization.  With overuse injuries ranging from 37% to 68% depending on the sport, we can help reverse this trend.

This education will not put us out of jobs.  On the contrary, educating coaches and parents about how to properly integrate strength & conditioning into a long term athlete development plan will secure our places in every organization.  More coaches and parents will understand the need for training which will increase the demand for our specialized services. More trust will be placed in our hands because we will be viewed as allies rather than adversaries.  

Without this coordination, the important people in this process will remain in their silos.  But, a collective approach will yield far better results for everyone involved.

As you can see, long term athlete development cannot be distilled down to contrived models.  The process is more complicated and many factors need to be addressed.

We have a great opportunity to influence a broken system from within, and make the changes that are needed for long term success.  We need great coaches and coordinators to help develop athletes. It’s time to stop complaining and take action.

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He is a former college strength & conditioning coach and the author of Ultimate Speed & Agility as well as dozens of articles published in various publications.  Jim is also the father of three boys and has helped coach all of them in different sports, so long term athlete development is very important to him.

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model is a thing of the past.  Learn the truth about LTAD and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Force Vectors & Speed Development – Kevin Hollabaugh

Learning about force vectors in speed development can change the way you instruct, cue and provide feedback to athletes training for speed.  I am a firm believer that a coach who is good at teaching speed and agility is good at understanding vectors of force and how they need to be used in order to gain efficiency in expressing movement language.

A vector is a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another. In other words the direction in which you apply force into the ground directly correlates as to how you will be able to move and how fast you will be able to move.

You can break down each phase of sprinting (acceleration, transition, and max velocity) and see that each phase requires a slightly different force vector to in order to allow for an efficient movement language. (see figure 1).

As we can see from figure 1 the first 10 to 20 meters we require the body to move and displace more horizontal power. As we begin to transition into more top end speed or max velocity we will notice that vertical forces play more of a key role than do horizontal. Now do not be mistaken as we still want the athlete to move as fast as possible horizontally its just the body position become more vertical which lends foot strike to happen underneath the hips as opposed to behind the hips. This change in force vectors is what lends top end speed mechanics to having more vertical hip displacement than we will see in acceleration.

It is critical to understand where these force vectors needs to be applied in order to see small mechanical breakdowns that occur when watching an athlete sprint. For instance if an athlete is striking the ground in a top end phase in front of the hip rather than just under it can make a world of difference. Each foot strike in front of the hip in this phase is what we call a horizontal breaking force and is why Usain Bolt wins most of his races. Each time an athlete strikes in front of the hip they are actually slowing themselves down. Watch this video and you will notice that Bolt loses the acceleration phase only to win the race as his foot strike allows him to keep his velocity while everyone else is slightly breaking.

As you can see if you watch the foot strikes you’ll notice what I am talking about as they relate to the hips the vectors it creates and it’s impact on speed. To finish up, I shot this short video as well to try and help you better understand vectors and their influence on speed in relation to the hips.

Coach Hollabaugh’s coaching experience has taken him from the University of South Florida to sports performance facilities in Cincinnati, and Indianapolis before creating the ProForce program. Kevin started the ProForce program from zero clients in October 2014 and now has reached over 400 athletes and has become the training destination for baseball players in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Kevin also serves as an adjunct professor for the University of Cincinnati where he teaches Methods in Applied Strength and Conditioning for the Athletic Training department, and works for the Pre-Sports Administration Program.

 

Force Vectors are an important part of speed training, and they are a large part of the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course.  Click on the image below to learn more.

speed & agility certification

 

 

Acceleration Mechanics – Jim Kielbaso

Acceleration mechanics are incredibly important to address with athletes who need to improve their speed.  This is a “behind-the-scenes” video of Jim Kielbaso teaching acceleration mechanics to a group of athletes preparing for the NFL Combine.

Jim has done other videos and written articles on acceleration mechanics, but rather than just talking about it, this video shows him actually teaching athletes so you get to see exactly how he explains things.

Some of the main points covered in this video include what Jim calls the Power Position, stride length, body lean, knee drive, head position and an explanation about WHY all of these things will increase an athlete’s speed.

Being able to teach these concepts in a cohesive way is important for any coach responsible for speed and agility training with athletes.  While this video shows how acceleration mechanics are explained to experienced athletes, the same mechanics also need to be addressed with younger athletes using different language and teaching cues.

Of course, you don’t have to use the same exact language and cues in your teaching, but this video will give you plenty of ideas for how you can teach your own athletes about acceleration mechanics.  Take the words and video demonstrations that Jim uses in the video and create your own system of teaching athletes this important concept.

We also encourage you to share this video with other coaches and even use it when teaching athletes.

The IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course and certification go into depth on acceleration mechanics, top end speed, agility mechanics & drills, programming for speed, and programming for different ages.  It includes 69 videos, several done-for-you programs and a 249-page manual that is the most comprehensive written material on speed development in the industry.

Click on the image below to learn more about the IYCA CSAS

acceleration mechanics from the IYCA

6 Speed & Agility Tips for Coaches – Jim Kielbaso

Coaches are constantly asking me for speed & agility tips to make their programs more effective. After talking with hundreds of coaches and looking at what is happening all over the country, I have come up with six keys to increasing the effectiveness of any speed & agility program.  Here are the 6 simple speed & agility tips:

1. Educate the athletes. If your athletes don’t have an understanding of why they are doing a drill, there is a good chance they are thinking of it as torture or punishment. It is up to you to explain the purpose of a drill so the athletes fully understand how it impacts performance. Typically, this will motivate an athlete to work harder because they will understand how their hard work will pay off in the game. It also helps you, the coach, to choose drills that will actually benefit the athletes.  If you don’t have a clear understanding of the purpose of a drill, you’re probably missing something.

I can’t tell you how often I see coaches lining up cones, ladders and boxes in the name of speed and agility training, but the movements used in the drills have absolutely nothing to do with the movements used in the sport. If you have to explain how it will help the athlete, you are more likely to choose appropriate drills.

2. Focus on mechanics. Allowing your athletes to do drills with faulty movement patterns is speed & agility tips jim kielbasolike a golf pro watching his student hit ball
after ball with terrible flaws in his swing, and never providing any corrective feedback. Athletes practice sport skills and play games all the time, but they are rarely taught how to move properly; they are just expected to know how. But, if a kid has never been shown how to do something, how can you expect him/her to do it correctly?

Of all the speed & agility tips listed in this article, this may be the most important.

It is up to you to teach your athletes some of the most basic movement concepts in sports – running, cutting, shuffling, pivoting, jumping, etc. Athletes are not learning this anywhere else, so it is up to us to teach them these valuable movement skills.  This is exactly what the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist (CSAS) course teaches, which is why it is such an important course for anyone working with athletes.

Begin by teaching them like they have never performed these movements in their lives. In my writing and seminars, I refer to this as Movement Training, and by implementing Movement Training concepts into your speed training program your athletes will always end up farther ahead.

3. Quality not quantity. Too often, SAQ workouts turn into conditioning sessions. Remember, the goal is improving speed and agility, not aerobic fitness. Keep the work periods short and the rest periods long so the athletes can give 100% effort on each drill. You are trying to teach the nervous system how to work more efficiently, so the athletes need to be fresh. If the rest periods are too short, the work periods too long, or the athletes are simply fatigued from previous work, mechanics will disintegrate and the same old faulty movement patterns will ultimately be reinforced.

For optimal speed development results, keep the work periods to 2-10 seconds and the rest periods as long as 20-60 seconds or even longer if the intensity is extremely high. Explain that you will be giving long rest periods so the drills can be done with maximum intensity, and stick to your word.


4. Sport specificity.
As long as you are trying to teach your athletes to move more efficiently, it makes sense to practice movements that will actually be used in a game. Sprinting and cutting are used in just about every sport, but don’t forget about the very specific skills your athletes need to perform on the field or court. These movements include shuffling, stopping, pivoting, faking, spinning, cross-over running, backpedaling, etc.

As much as possible, include these movements into your SAQ sessions. Baseball and softball players should practice starting sprints like they are stealing a base. Volleyball players should incorporate lunging, approach steps and jumps into their drills. Football receivers should practice their routes. Quarterbacks should incorporate drop steps and linemen should start drills from 2-, 3-, or 4-point starting positions. Use your imagination to create drills that mimic competition.

Ladder drills and plyos are great general training methods, but if you don’t make your athletes practice their most important movements you should never wonder why they don’t perform them well in a game.

5. Consistency. As I stated earlier, SAQ programs are meant to train the nervous system. The best way to make this happen is to consistently practice sport specific skills so the nervous system learns the optimal movement patterns. 5-20 minutes, 2-3 days per week is all it takes.

You can make this happen by adding two short drills to your warm-up routine, or including one or two sport-specific drills into the beginning of each strength training session. This does not mean strength movements that “resemble” the sport movements – I’m talking about actually doing a couple of sprints or agility drills before each workout. As long as technique is emphasized, this brief, consistent practice will add up and allow your athletes to perform these skills perfectly on the field or court without any thought.  You basically have to take the other five speed & agility tips listed here, and apply them consistently to get the best results.

6. Long-term development. Another major problem I see in a lot of SAQ programs is implementing them a few weeks before the season, hoping for a miracle. Starting these drills 2-3 weeks before your first game is simply too late for major benefits to be seen.  Unfortunately, many coaches hope that a few simple speed & agility tips will work like magic.  That’s not how athletic development works, so make sure you have enough time to make a real impact.

You will certainly see benefits from doing SAQ drills during your pre-season, but working the drills into your year-round training program will elicit maximum results. Pre-season training should focus on technical/tactical skills and conditioning. Too often, though, I see coaches conditioning the athletes during the off-season; this is a waste of time and energy. If you have contact with your athletes during the off-season, work on strength, movement training and technical skill development for the greatest long-term results.

If you can teach your freshmen how to move, and include a few minutes of practice before every strength training session, imagine what a difference that will make by the time they are juniors and seniors. It’s never too early to teach kids how to move. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Introduce changes gradually, and continually attempt to make improvements. Speed and agility training will have a positive impact on any team, and incorporating these six keys will help you run the most effective program possible.

I hope these 6 speed & agility tips help you create more effective programs that will make a bigger impact on them.

Click on the image below to learn more about the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course, the most comprehensive, and scientifically sound speed & agility certification in the industry.

speed & agility certification

Speed vs Conditioning – Quality vs Quantity

Recently, I’ve had several conversations with both parents and athletes about the difference between training for speed/power vs conditioning/fitness work.  These are two very different training methods that have very different goals and elicit very different results, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about this.

Think of it as QUALITY vs. QUANTITY.

I often hear parents & coaches wanting athletes to be constantly moving (QUANTITY) and feeling extremely tired from a workout.  Athletes who are used to practicing like this often feel like the quality of a training session is based on their level of exhaustion.

While I am certainly never opposed to high-intensity training and conditioning, this is VERY different than speed/power/technique training (QUALITY), so you first need to understand the goal, then match the training to get the effect you’re looking for.

To begin, we need to understand the role fatigue plays in a training session, and we need to understand that training the nervous system and the cardiovascular system are very different.

Whenever an athlete is learning a new skill, practicing technique on a skill or displaying maximum speed or power, they are predominantly using their nervous system and that training must be done when an athlete is fresh.  Maximum power output or speed can only be displayed briefly, and fatigue impacts these qualities quickly.

For example, an athlete can jump as high as possible 4-6 times before their jump height starts to drop.  After that, the nervous system can’t maintain that level of intensity, and performance drops off dramatically.  If you rest for a minute or two, you can recover and perform another 4-6 maximal jumps again.  But, if you only rest 15-20 seconds, you won’t be able to fully recover and you won’t jump nearly as high.  In other words, you won’t be able to maintain QUALITY because of fatigue.

The same goes for maximal sprinting speed.  Let’s say you’re working to improve your ability to accelerate (which is all about training the nervous system).  You’ll need to perform short sprints with long rest periods so you can give 100% on each rep.

This is focusing on the QUALITY of work.

Unfortunately, if you do your conditioning work BEFORE your acceleration work, you’ll be so tired that you won’t be able to perform at 100%.  You can give it your best effort, but you won’t be able to perform optimally like you can when you’re fresh.

This is why it’s an absolute MUST to take long rest periods when working on speed or power and do this work while you’re fresh.  The goal is to train the nervous system (QUALITY), not the cardiovascular system (QUANTITY).

Of course, I often hear comments like “we need to be able to perform when we’re tired.”  While I agree with that wholeheartedly, you first need to fully develop the nervous system (speed, power and skill), THEN you condition the cardiovascular system to the point where you can demonstrate those qualities over and over again.

If you skip right to the conditioning, you’ll never fully develop those important nervous system traits, and you’ll never reach your potential for speed/power.  You’ll be in great cardiovascular shape, but you won’t be as fast, powerful or technically proficient as you could be if you took the time to develop those traits first.

If the goal is simply to get in shape or do conditioning work, the training will be relatively high-paced, with short rest periods.  Athletes will feel like it’s a “hard” workout because their heart rate will be up and it will be metabolically demanding.  This will train the cardiovascular system and metabolic pathways necessary to play sports at a high level, but this is the QUANTITY work.

Don’t get caught in the trap of only doing QUANTITY work and not recognizing that QUALITY work, or nervous system training, simply has to be done differently.  Always do the QUALITY work BEFORE the QUANTITY work.

Both are very important parts of developing a complete athlete, and it’s critical to combine these methods appropriately.

Get the FREE IYCA Speed Development Mini-Course today for more information on speed & agility training.

Acceleration and Strength: The Physical Attributes We Truly Covet

JC Moreau, Founder and Director, Strength U

 Perhaps the most common question I get from coaches and parents is “how do I get my son or daughter faster/quicker/jump higher?” They are often surprised by my response, as well as what I am about to discuss in today’s article. My answer is typically “get them stronger” and that is usually met with a look of confusion, so I elaborate.  In the past, I’ve written about the values of squatting through a larger range of motion than simply to 90 degrees, I explained in greater detail how strength is undeniably effective at developing speed, quickness and vertical jump height in athletes, especially young ones. What I did not discuss was the next part of my answer to that question.

I typically answer that my primary concern is typically more about developing the athlete’s ability to accelerate and decelerate and that this is largely accomplished with strength work in addition to drills that focus specifically on these skills, rather than top end speed. The reason for this is quite simple. Nearly every sport requires quick bursts of speed over 1 to 15 yards or the ability to stop on a dime and then change direction and accelerate again.  In other words, the world’s greatest 400-meter sprinter will be quite average at soccer, football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, or any other running sport if he or she cannot stop quickly, change direction, and quickly accelerate. If you are having a difficult time envisioning this, simply think of the great running backs in the NFL or point guards in the NBA. Many of them do not run a 4.4 40 yard dash (VERY few do). However, most can hit top speed in a few steps, stop, cut, and hit top speed again very quickly and efficiently.acceleration

So how do you develop these things?  By training acceleration and deceleration mechanics, and strengthening the movements and positions that maximize the athlete’s ability to perform these skills.

Strength is a big part of this for a couple of reasons. First, acceleration and top-end speed are both a result of how much force can be produced through the foot at foot strike and how efficiently the body can utilize that force. There are many factors that play into this, but strength, posture, and body position are the most critical. What I want to focus on in this article are the acceleration drills we like to work on in order to maximize the force that is created and ideally learn how to create more and/or waste less. Assuming two athletes are the same size and exhibit similar strength and muscle fiber composition (ratio of fast to slow twitch), there are a few mechanical and structural factors that will impact the ability to accelerate and/or decelerate. Those we tend to focus on are body position/posture, knee drive, foot position, and arm swing.

When elite level sprinters run to 100-meter dash they are typically not upright until at least 35+ meters into the race. The reason is simple: in order to accelerate, the body has to be in a position that allows the athlete to apply force into the ground in both vertical (downward) and horizontal (backward) directions. This is a simple concept because most athletes will quickly understand that if you push straight down you will go straight up.

One of the first things all athletes must be taught is the correct body position required for ideal acceleration. To do this there are several drills and training aides that can be used and the most simple and readily available is a wall. By simply leaning forward at somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees, and keeping the body tight (as if doing a plank) from head to heel the athlete is now in a great position. From this position we have the athlete work on basic leg drive with the knee up and heel under the glute of the raised leg, all with a dorsiflexed foot. We want maximum knee and foot lift and tell the athlete to envision a rod coming out of the opposite knee. We want the foot to be above this rod while maintaining posture.

From here we do individual ground strikes and then progress to alternating strikes and eventually to multiples of 3, 5, 7, 9 etc…, or for times of 5-15 seconds. Remember we are not training for conditioning we are training to develop the ability to produce violent, powerful ground strikes while maintaining ideal postural integrity and a dorsiflexed foot, since the more force we put into the ground the more we will get back. So far so good, right?

Hopefully, but I am regularly reminded just how hard it is for most young athletes to maintain this position for more than a few seconds without beginning to move their feet forward (thus changing the angle we established), sticking their butt back (breaking at the hips which leads to tremendous energy leaks), or tilting the head forward and looking down, which also tends to lead to several postural issues. Since this position is critical, it is important to both stress the correct form and ALWAYS correct these flaws and also identify if the issues taking place are due to either a lack of postural control (strength/stability) or a lack of mental focus. In most youth athletes, the cause can be rooted in both. As such, postural strength issues must be addressed since a lack of correct body positioning and alignment will compromise full acceleration potential. Also, the inability to focus long enough to complete this mundane yet vital task may make speed the least of their concerns, but this is another topic altogether……
To develop the athlete’s ability to maintain perfect posture over extended periods of time we must focus on this area in all phases of training.  We can develop the musculature required to hold many of these positions by performing simple glute bridges and planks (done properly with the core gently braced at all times). I have found too often that athletes plank incorrectly and just hold their bodies up. In order to improve activation, the coach may palpate the athlete’s entire core (low back, obliques, glutes, hip flexors etc…) to be sure all muscle groups are activated.

In addition to these, I have found that focusing on postural integrity during everything from warm-up to cool down also makes a huge difference. As a result, anytime the athlete is standing is a good time to drive home the importance of standing tall with the shoulders back, core braced, head in a neutral position, and other aspects of good posture expressed.

Once the acceleration position has been refined and the athlete understands the basic reasoning and concepts that necessitate it, we move to starts. The tricky thing about having the body in the required position is that the only way to get it there is by leaning into or against something such as a sled or thick resistance band or by starting from positions that put you into a forward lean. The most common way we do this is with a traditional 3-point “40 yard dash” start, a falling start, or a single leg falling start. The point of emphasis must always be to explode out and to stay low. In the 3-point stance start, the trailing leg does very little other than cycle through (and ideally does so quickly in order to be in optimal position to take the next step). However, the lead leg is the one that must explosively push the athlete out because it is ultimately a series of strong, powerful, efficient “pushes” that lead to impressive acceleration. In his latest book Coach Mike Boyle describes a start drill he coaches that uses a large crash mat for his athletes to literally jump out and land on to teach the aggressive drive required to fully grasp this concept1. The athlete simply gets into a starting position and explodes out of the position so aggressively that he or she will essentially dive onto the ground. This is where the mat comes in handy!

If you can get your athletes to correctly perform these drills while maintaining postural integrity and slowly develop the habits of correct arm drive and foot position, dramatic improvement in 10 or 20 yard dash times will result. These times are what separate the 4.6 athlete from the 5.0 athlete, but more importantly will have far greater carry over than performing “top-end speed drills” such as those taught by many speed camps and used by track athletes such as B-skips, etc. Over the years, I have found that developing proper arm swing and dorsiflexing the foot takes a tremendous amount of repetition in those who do not naturally do these well. For this reason I recommend incorporating some very short drills to work on these during warm ups as a way to get almost daily exposure to them in a college or in-season competitive club sports athletes.

Every quality that coaches and parents desire for their athletes is rooted in strength—either the ability to produce force or the ability to maintain postural integrity. So when a parent or coaches preaches first-step quickness, speed, and agility remind them that each of these is largely dependent on getting stronger AND learning how to transfer that new found “horsepower” into more explosive, deliberate, and efficient movements. How fast an athlete steps has little to do with the step and almost everything to do with the drive leg’s ability to produce force and do so quickly. That is what results in a fast and explosive start.

The same principles hold true for developing the ability to pull away from a defender or close the gap on a player ahead of you. So whether you are a coach or parent, the next time you are looking for “speed development,” remember that it is actually strength and movement development that you desire because perfect running form without these traits is like a beautiful race car with a golf cart engine. It may look sleek and fast, but will take three days to reach full speed!

1 Advances in Functional Training p. 173, Boyle, Mike 2010

 

The mechanics discussed in this article, as well as dozens of additional drills and coaching cues, are covered in great detail in our Certified Speed & Agility Specialist materials.  The CSAS has been recognized as the most thorough speed certification in the industry.  Learn more about the CSAS by clicking the image below.

Acceleration Correlates Highly to On-field Performance

In the late 90’s, the strength coaches at the University of Nebraska did some internal research to determine which physical tests had the highest correlation to the ability to play the game of football.  They put their athletes through a large battery of tests including the 40-yard dash, pro-agility shuttle, vertical jump, several strength tests and numerous other drills.

Next, they had the football coaches rate each player’s on-field ability.  They wanted to find out which athletes were the most effective on the field.

They ran a statistical analysis on all of the data figure out which tests had the highest correlation to on-field success.

They figured that, if any of the tests correlated highly to on-field success, they would be able to create programs to improve those tests.

The test that had the highest correlation to on-field ability was the 10-yard sprint.   In other words, the ability to accelerate allows an athlete to perform at a higher level on the field.acceleration

I’d be willing to bet that the ability to accelerate also has a high correlation to the ability to many sports.  Soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, lacrosse, field hockey, track sprints, etc. are all heavily dependent on an athlete’s ability to accelerate over and over again.

The ability to cover ground faster than an opponent will put an athlete in position to make plays throughout a game, and having just one step on that opponent can be the difference between making a play or not.

So, when you’re training athletes, keep in mind what’s important, and be sure to spend plenty of time addressing the ability to accelerate.

To truly improve acceleration, mechanics MUST be addressed early and often.  The athlete must learn how to produce horizontal force, and this doesn’t always feel natural.  It also requires a lot of rest between sets in order to maintain a high level of intensity.  Acceleration work should occur relatively early in a workout, and you should stick to distances under 20 yards.

The volume of work doesn’t necessarily need to be high, but this needs to be worked on frequently in order for the nervous system to retain changes in mechanics.

A sample workout may look like this:

  • Warm-up
  • Acceleration instruction
  • 5 x 10-yard sprints
  • 5 x 10-yard sprints with a weighted sled at 15% of body-weight
  • 2 x 10-yard sprints (contrast training)
  • 2 x 20-yard sprints

This could be done in 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time to work on other things like conditioning, agility or strength development.

It is recommended to work on acceleration 2-4 days/week, and it can even be inserted into your warm-up routine.  It doesn’t have to be lumped together like the sample program above.  You can insert a few short sprints into a warm-up routine that is done every day.

I realize that this is just scratching the surface on acceleration training, but it is covered in much greater depth in the Ultimate Speed Mechanics materials.  I will be bringing you more tips and videos on how to help your athletes accelerate with maximum power and speed, so stay tuned.

Jim Kielbaso

ultimate-speed-mechanics

 

How Resistance Band Training Can Impact a Strength & Conditioning Program – Part 3

Using Bands to Conveniently Impact a Strength & Conditioning Program

Resistance bands are easily the most convenient and effective way to work on first step speed mechanics as it relates to acceleration and deceleration.

Not only are bands easy to attach to the body but their ascending resistance allows athletes to load both acceleration and deceleration phases of running.

7. First Step Acceleration

It’s a well known fact that if an athlete can win the first 3 steps during a play in a game, they are probably going to experience good success continually throughout the game and probably win the event.

Resistance bands make it very easy to train large groups of athletes to increase first step speed and reaction. As a coach, partner-based first step speed training requires minimal setup or space to implement and is relatively easy for athletes to quickly learn.

As for the athlete, they are able to instantly feel the difference it makes on their quickness and agility within only a couple of training sessions. These two factors alone instantly make it successful.

These drills are typically done in a partner attached setup with athletes alternating while performing 3 or 4 sets of 5 reps. Because these drills will emphasize acceleration, the athlete only has to focus on getting out quickly against the band resistance.

Once learned, coaches can build in reaction starts through the use of whistle start hand signals.

Shuffle Acceleration Drill

 

8. First Step Deceleration

Once acceleration training is mastered, athletes can begin to work on deceleration by training under what is called a pre-loaded band setup. Performing the same drills, athletes now focus on learning how to decelerate under band-driven momentum.

Just like applying weight to increase strength, the band applies a resistance that the body has to overcome in order to become stronger at decelerating or slowing down momentum.

Shuffle Deceleration Drill

 

9. Partner Resisted Running

Once first step acceleration and deceleration speed drills are mastered, longer amplitude linear speed training can be implemented using a training approach called partner resisted running.

With partner resisted running, partners work together to challenge each other to run under a controlled resistance for 15 to 20 yards.

Partner resisted running allows athletes to now take their first step speed training through longer amplitudes of movement.

Here Is An Example of Partner-Based Forward Running

 

10. Implementing Non-Traditional Strength Training

The final way that resistance bands can be implemented into an off-season strength program is by using them to simulate non-traditional strength training drills like resisted crawling, towing, pushing or lunging.

In many cases these types of drills are used with specially designed equipment that increases cost and the need for greater training space. With a flat band’s ability to attach onto the body in multiple ways, it allows them to provide resistance to non-traditional movements that, in turn, challenges total body strength and coordination.

Non-Traditional Speed-Strength Training

Flat continuously looped layered bands, like the Quantum Band, provides coaches and their athletes with the ability to train all aspects of performance. They also allow them to simulate specific exercises and unique training approaches that historically required specialized equipment and additional resources.

Resistance band versatility makes it very easy and convenient to implement key aspects of an off-season training program without the need for added equipment, space or resources.

Dave Schmitz – The Band Man


About the Author: Dave Schmitz

Dave SchmitzDave Schmitz (aka…The Band Man) is the Co-Owner of Resistance Band Training Systems, LLC and the creator of https://resistancebandtraining.com, the only website exclusively devoted to training with large continuously looped resistance bands.

Dave has a unique professional background and vast experience as an orthopedic physical therapist, performance enhancement specialist, certified strength and conditioning specialist along with 27 plus years of living fitness and performance training.

All of this has allowed him to turn a simple 41-inch resistance band into an incredibly multi-faceted total training experience for 1000’s of athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the world—while helping 100’s of fitness professionals and coaches get their clients or athletes BETTER with BANDS.

Killer In-Season Speed Training for Football

Football In-Season Speed Training

It’s summer which means there are 1000’s of athletes preparing for fall football. That also means there are 100’s of coaches and trainers working to put together in-season practice plans. For most of these coaches, working on first step speed training is probably not part of those practice plans for various reasons.

  • They don’t want to take away from fundamental skills training.
  • They are concerned it will take away for game planning.
  • They feel it will decrease game day performance.

Not performing some level of speed training during the season has never made sense considering all the time that is devoted to speed during the off-season. Obviously athletes are simulating football specific running activities in every practice. This is continually retraining the movement patterns but not actually creating a strengthening effect. Therefore, as the season moves along, speed (like strength) will decrease.

Resistance Band In-Season Football First Step Speed Training

A resistance band’s portability and versatility makes it easy to quickly set up and implement multi-directional speed training drills on the field or in the weight room. In most cases these drills can be performed in partnerships using a relatively small area. As a result, it becomes very similar to how most weight room in-season programs are designed.

By linking two similarly-sized bands together two athletes can perform a series of first step drills that include:

  1. Quick Forward Starts
  2. Lateral Shuffles
  3. Turn & Goes
  4. Backpedals
  5. Partner Resisted Running

Each of these drills can emphasize acceleration or deceleration while requiring no additional equipment, set-up or programming changes. Strategically implemented, any of these drills can also be used for metabolic conditioning thus eliminating the need to schedule additional conditioning during practice.

Ways to Implement First Step Speed Drills

Here are 4 ways to implement first step speed drills into a typical high school football season when games are played on Friday night.

Monday

Perform primary lifts of bench and squat. As auxiliary drills, athletes partner up to perform 5 sets of 5 reps alternating partners on every set while performing 3-step lateral shuffles.

Shuffles Acceleration

Tuesday

During Indy period all groups work on first step acceleration using various starting positions based on football position. These are typically 8-minute Indy sessions.

First Step Acceleration

Wednesday

Implement partner resisted running for metabolic conditioning post practice.

Partner Resisted Forward Running

These are all very time efficient ways to strategically implement speed strength training directly into your in-season football practice schedule. By combining it with traditional skills training or weight room work you don’t have to find additional time away from actual practice time.

Dave Schmitz – The Band Man


About the Author: Dave Schmitz

Dave SchmitzDave Schmitz (aka…The Band Man) is the Co-Owner of Resistance Band Training Systems, LLC and the creator of https://resistancebandtraining.com, the only website exclusively devoted to training with large continuously looped resistance bands.

Dave has a unique professional background and vast experience as an orthopedic physical therapist, performance enhancement specialist, certified strength and conditioning specialist along with 27 plus years of living fitness and performance training.

All of this has allowed him to turn a simple 41-inch resistance band into an incredibly multi-faceted total training experience for 1000’s of athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the world—while helping 100’s of fitness professionals and coaches get their clients or athletes BETTER with BANDS.


Got Bands?

Get 15% off bands by using code: rbtiyca15
 

Why Your Speed Program Isn’t Working

Is Your Speed Training Program Working?

There are two reasons that Coach and Speed Expert Jim Kielbaso says your speed training programs are NOT working!

This 3 minute video can change your programs forever!


Become Speed & Agility Certified

Coach Kielbaso has used this “speed equation” to become the leader in Speed Training, working with athletes from youth to collegiate, olympic, NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

You can learn from him today. Check out the Speed & Agility Specialist Certification to get started!!

IYCA-CSAS-FB AD-V1

 

The Ultimate Speed Training Equation

3 Essential Principles of Speed Training

Speed Expert Jim Kielbaso’s equation for speed training success is very simple:

Force + Power + Mechanics = Speed

Check out this short video and learn how these 3 principles can super-charge athletic performance!


Become Speed & Agility Certified

Coach Kielbaso has used this “speed equation” to become the leader in Speed Training, working with athletes from youth to collegiate, olympic, NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

You can learn from him today. Check out the Speed & Agility Specialist Certification to get started!!

IYCA-CSAS-FB AD-V1


Looking for some fresh ideas to develop speed?

Download our FREE Youth Speed Training E-book and try these proven speed workouts to make your next training session a breeze.

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2 Secret Speed Training Weapons For Teams and Camps

Secret Speed Training Weapons

How would you like to be able to train over 100 kids at a lower rate and get the same results?

Resistance Band Training President, Dave Schmitz, has been known to train more than 120 athletes for Speed, Agility & Quickness…all at once!

Secret Weapon #1: Resistance Bands

Resistance bands allow coaches to train all aspects of performance, flexibility, foot quickness, agility, linear or lateral speed, stability, power, strength, endurance and first step explosiveness…to name a few.

Secret Weapon #2: Tennis Courts

This quick and easy location to do training with bands is essential for many reasons, some listed below:

georgia-68640_640

  1. The surface on a tennis court provides optimal traction for deceleration training.
  2. It allows quick set up of partner band stations.
  3. Using the court lines for speed training allows optimization of the space.
  4. Poles and “doubles” lines allow for ideal strength & core training locations.
  5. Maximizing both sides of the court with 24 athletes or 12 groups of 2 makes coaching and monitoring movement quality much easier.
  6. Once band training is complete, doing simple 5-10-5 shuttles or some other shuttle variation for neuromuscular retraining is already set up by using the center line and the inside singles line.

 

Great Sideline Activities

Squat jumps, lunges, frog jumps, power skipping, mountain climbers, core work, etc.

Here is a quick video on how to use the local high school tennis courts for lateral speed day. Keep in mind that the goal of this camp on this day was first step speed training.


Dave Schmitz

dave-schmitz


Like this blog?

Check out the blog 5 Reasons Performance Coaches LOVE Resistance Band Training.

Monitoring Part 2- Monitoring Tools That Every Coach Needs

In Part 1 of this blog I discussed why we monitor and considerations for monitoring your athletes.  Part 2 is going to deal with how we monitor at the high school level.

Monitoring can be an expensive venture, but there are also less expensive ways that can be implemented by virtually anyone at any level.

This blog will detail two practical and inexpensive ways in which, monitoring can be implemented to help you make decisions, allowing you to meet your athletes where they are at on any given day.

#1 Surveys

Having your athletes take quick daily surveys can help create awareness regarding their habits.  These surveys can be simple  and ask as few or as many questions as you would like. Keeping it simple is best. Here is an example of some of the questions to ask:

  • How many hours did you sleep?
  • Did you eat breakfast?
  • How many bottles of water did you drink?
  • How tough was practice yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How tough was your workout yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How do you feel overall 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?

You could make a survey through excel pretty quickly and log your information there to keep track of long term trends with your athletes. There are a couple of ways in which this can be beneficial for you.

  1. Make educated adjustments to your plan dependent upon feedback from the athlete
  2. Identify, where you feel they are at from a readiness standpoint that day.
  3. Look at long-term trends both individually and globally to make better decisions in programming for your athletes.

Individually, you may find that your athletes do not get enough sleep on Monday nights due to practice and academic obligations. Globally, you may find that the football team’s toughest day is on Tuesday every week. Knowing that your athletes average 6 hours of sleep on Monday nights and also have their toughest day on Tuesday allows you to adjust and make the best decision for your athletes that day.

It is very important that you use the data that you collect!

Pro Tip: Collecting data for the sake of collecting data is counter-productive. The adjustments you make off of the data collections is what is of real significance.

You can also up the ante and implement technology to take surveys. There are programs that exist where athletes can enter survey information into their phones, and it collects and organizes the data. This is a real time saver for busy trainers.

Here is an example of a survey:

Monitoring Part 2 Image- Fred Eaves

#2 Autoregulation (APRE-RPE Scales)

A second cost-effective way to monitor your athletes is by using an APRE/RPE scale in their strength training programming. APRE is defined by Dr. Bryan Mann as Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise.  APRE is a method that takes the daily readiness of the athlete into account through adjustment protocols that dictate working sets.  

There are two warm up sets, and then the third set is a set to failure at a prescribed rep max (RM). The results of the third set dictate the weight used on the fourth and final set.

As a coach, this can be used to help the athlete train to the highest level possible for that specific training session according to the physical state of the athlete.

We do not use strict percentages in our program but rather we use them as a guide.

Use this auto-regulation method to dictate our training loads for the day.

Pro Example:

I always use the example of the athlete who slept 3 hours the night before a hard training session that is under tremendous personal and academic stress when describing the need for this type of training. This athlete may have a prescription to hit 2 reps at 95% that day, but due to his physiological state that 95% is really more like 105% that day. This is why autoregulation can play such a key factor in the development of your athletes.

Dr. Mann from the University of Missouri has done a tremendous amount of work in this area, and has written an E-book specifically on APRE methods. 1

Mann’s Example:  

Here is what typical APRE protocol according would look like:

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SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER to this chart after set 3

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An RPE scale in conjunction with APRE methods is another effective manner in which to implement RPE. RPE  stand for rate of perceived exertion.  Athletes use this rating scale to rank the difficulty of a set in training.

Pro Example: Sample RPE rating scale

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Pro Example:

An example would be an athlete does 155lbs. for 10 reps. When he finishes this set on set three, he rates whether or not he had one rep, two reps, or multiple reps left in the tank. Then picks an appropriate weight to finish his fourth set, using the adjustment chart below.

Here is an example of what this looks like:

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SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER To This Chart after set 3

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Look at long term trends when recording their numbers to make sure there is consistent progress.  Do not worry about disp as this is common due to the variable nature of the high school athlete.

Conclusion

Two simple and cost-effective measures in which to monitor and adjust for your athletes have been outlined.  Use these tools to tremendously impact your athletes in way that is both feasible and practical.

 


Are your athletes prepared to perform?

Download our free PDF and Overview video on the long term athletic development model.

WFIYCA


About the Author: Fred Eaves

Fred Eaves, Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF, BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified,  2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year, 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year
References

  1. Mann, B. (2011). THE APRE: The scientifically proven fastest way to get strong.

 

5 Easy-to-Remember Aspects of Program Design

The best youth coaches are always looking for ideas, tips and tricks to improve their program development. Maybe it’s because they are the “never settle for anything less than perfection” type personalities, or just because they are getting bored with their current programming.

Either way, we have found some great techniques for how to approach program development, that will help you improve your programming, mix up the mundane, and continue to get great results with your athletes.

Pro Tip: When developing a program or improving an existing program, think of the acronym P.L.A.C.E. to make sure that you are delivering an extraordinary experience.

Plan & Prepare

Every program needs a good amount of planning and preparing. It is no secret that the best performance coaches in the industry have a tried & true system when it comes to planning and prepping their sessions.

What is your plan? How do you prepare?

Quality planning and preparation will take your training to the next level


Learn how to prepare your athletes to perform and to design programs that fit within a model of long term athlete development.

Watch Video


Lifelong Lessons

You have an amazing opportunity to simulate and help athletes overcome many barriers and obstacles. Find ways to relate training back to life and make it a part of each program.

Overcoming barriers, fears, weakness and obstacles can easily be brought into a training program in a non-threatening, manageable way. It is a great moment for you to impact that athlete for life.

On a similar note, when you program from the long term athlete development model and principles, not only do you get to spend many years with a single athlete, you also get to implement a rock-solid foundation in movement that will change their life.

Never lose site of the bigger picture: lifelong health & happiness.

Application to sport

It is an unfortunate reality that many athletes are defined by the sports that they play. Educating them on the need to be well-rounded, foundationally sound and the concepts of long term athlete development is essential.

But the reality is still there. That is why “application to sport” is still an important part of your program. Don’t over-emphasize this topic, but give your sport-athletes as much as they they need when it comes to relating components of your program to their sport.

Confidence Building

Confidence building should be an integral part of each and every session when working with athletes. Providing a platform for confidence building will allow your athletes to achieve goals and perform at a higher level.

How will you help your athlete(s) mentally? Whether it’s in the confidence that you have in them, or the way that you play to their strengths and build their weaknesses.

There are many ways to instill confidence as a coach, so make it a priority.

Evaluate

There are two pieces to the evaluation part of your program:

  1. Evaluate the athletes
  2. Evaluated by the athletes

Every time you see an athlete, there should be a constant evaluation process that takes place. How are they feeling, how is school, how busy are they, how do they look when they move?  

Much of this evaluation should occur in your warm ups and before they start working.

Secondly, they evaluate you. At the end of each session, you can ask for feedback. How did they rank the session? How did they rank their performance? (I use a # system, 1-10)

Summary:

The good news is that the acronym PLACE is easy to remember, and will help you think through the basics of what to include in your program design.

What others tips, tricks and recommendations do you use? We’d love to hear!


Want to help make sure your athletes are prepared to perform for the long-run and not just for next week’s big game?

Download our FREE Prepared to Perform Video to hear youth coaching expert Wil Fleming break down critical aspects of the long-term athlete model.

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Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉