Archive for “Speed Training” Tag

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

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



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.


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


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


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, 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!!



Football Pre-Season Prep

5 Things Your Athlete Needs to Do for A Great Football Season

Football season is around the corner. For any young athlete, now is the time to prep for the upcoming season and do what you can to contribute to a successful season.

Here is a list of things a young football player should do in preparation for the season:

kids-56952_640Task #1: Increase work capacity

To be successful in any sport, one needs to be able to handle the demands of the sport.

In simpler terms, you need to get in shape. The less time coaches can spend on conditioning and more on the tactical side of football, the more it benefits all parties involved.

Simply put:

Increase in work capacity = Increase in probability of maximal on-field performance

Task #2: Select appropriate stimulus to increase aerobic conditioning

Part of improved work capacity is increasing the aerobic capacity (engine) in a young athlete.

Pro Tip: This does not mean having a young athlete run or jog around the track. For one, kids often find jogging boring and will be less inclined to do it. Two, jogging is a poor representation of the sport of football.

The sport of football is a combination of sprinting, multi-directional movement and impact. Any type of conditioning should mimic that combination.

Task #3: Master basic fundamental movement patterns

All young athletes should be masters of squatting, crawling, skipping, jumping, etc. These fundamental movement patterns are the foundation of athleticism.

Increasing athleticism improves the ability for an athlete to complete game tasks such as blocking a defender, running a route and catching a football.

Increase in athleticism = Increase in ability to execute game tasks

Task #4: Practice winning habits daily

Challenge athletes to practice habits that professional athletes do.

This includes eating clean foods, staying hydrated and getting adequate sleep. These “little” things make a big difference in how well an athlete performs.

The younger an athlete starts to practice these habits daily, the easier it will be for them to do those habits when they enter high school or college.

Task #5: Get pre-screened/assessed

Every young athlete should have their movement assessed by a trained professional such as a physical therapist or skilled strength and conditioning coach.

It’s important to look for imbalances or dysfunction in movements such as running and squatting.

Communicating with the athlete about the type of dysfunctions/weaknesses they have and what exercises they can do to alleviate these issues is important in long-term athletic development.

Being proactive on this will minimize the risk of injury while at the same time maximizing performance. Assessing athletes helps them decrease injury risk and maximize performance.

Good luck this season!

About the Author: Jeffrey King

Jeff KingJeffrey King, MA, CSCS
– Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10
– Co-author of Pigskin Prep: The Definitive Youth Football Training Program


Grab Free Youth Speed Programs Today

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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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!!


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:


  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


Like this blog?

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

Conditioning vs. Speed Training

The Debate Over Conditioning Vs. Speed Training Continues

Much confusion abounds as to the differences between conditioning vs. speed training.

Track and field coaches generally classify speed training as many short, repetitive bouts of sprinting followed by ample periods of rest to allow for full recovery.

Repeated high-intensity efforts may, in fact, be the purest form of linear speed training.

On the other hand, football or soccer coaches often believe training for speed involves performing as many high-intensity repetitions as possible in a given amount of time.

So which type of coach is truly training athletes for speed?

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar featuring one of the premiere strength coaches in the country, Joe Kenn.

As head strength and conditioning coach for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, Kenn routinely takes his players through 66 work sets in only 90 to 120 minutes.

That’s a lot of work in a short period of time.

Kenn has a strong case to apply this method. Because football players must operate under a fatigued state during a game, they will highly benefit from practicing with little rest between sets. While performing a high volume of repetitions in a relatively short period of time isn’t ideal for building speed, football players never perform in ideal conditions.

Nearly all athletes must learn to perform when their bodies are worn.

At my facility in Madison, WI, we train our high school athletes with a similar philosophy, although we often have access to them only once or twice per week. So, it’s important we incorporate both speed training and conditioning into each workout.

Because we deal with a wide range of athletic abilities and developmental ranges with high school athletes, we approach each individual’s plan a bit differently. We integrate speed training following a thorough warm-up and dynamic movement.

For the developmentally younger athletes, we focus on technique and practice deceleration patterns, sprint mechanics and footwork. Our developmentally older athletes work on sprinting, cutting, changing directions and building top-end speed.

Our highly developed athletes focus on reactive speed and potentially combine-based drills to prepare for a camp or tryout. All of these athletes work diligently to master the basics and fix any flaws in their movement patterns to help them remain injury-free and avoid plateaus.

Following the speed training portion of the workout, our athletes begin their strength exercises such as a squat, deadlift and Turkish get-up. Each compound movement is paired with another exercise even if it’s just low-level core work to reset an athlete’s autonomic nervous system.

If you look at time-motion studies for field- and court-sport athletes, they work intensely for brief periods of time and recover actively with low-level activity.

In a game, an athlete must always be mentally active, so the job of a strength and conditioning coach is to prepare athletes in a way that makes a game easier than a training session. Athletes must remain active through an entire workout. After our athletes complete the strength portion of the workout, they begin their focused conditioning. Here’s where we have the most fun.

Thanks to advancements in research of the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, we are able to be much more efficient and systematic with how we condition our athletes. Athletes play different sports and have different schedules, so we must have a broad array of conditioning sequences to address each situation.

Ultimately, we are looking to provide a bigger aerobic base for our athletes.

While we don’t want to run them into the ground all year long, we must systematically build a bigger aerobic base to develop greater potential for performance. Then, athletes are able to tap into that potential during the most important part of a season. They’ll peak while athletes from other teams feel fatigued.

So, should we run our athletes through many short, repetitive bouts with ample rest to allow for full recovery or perform repeated high-intensity efforts without much rest for best results? In short, both have a place in a strength and conditioning program. The debate will continue, though—and that’s a great thing.

If more great coaches publicize their philosophies, we will continue to advance our methods and improve the performance of our athletes. If we continue to look out for the best interests of our athletes, they will perform better than they ever thought possible.

ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared

About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

JarredJared is founder of Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.). F.I.T. is a performance-based training facility located in Madison, WI. They specialize in training athletes of all levels: everyday adults, competitive adults and youth ages 5-20+.

The long-term vision for F.I.T. is recognition as the training facility for those desiring to compete at the collegiate level in the state of Wisconsin. Alongside that, to also develop a platform to educate those in our industry looking to make strides towards improving the future for our young athletes.

Find out more about Jared’s gym by visiting F.I.T.

Career Highlights

  • 2014 Fitness Entrepreneur of the Year – Fitness Business Insiders
  • 2014 IYCA Coach of the Year Finalist
  • Volunteer Strength Coach for West Madison Boys Hockey and Westside Boys Lacrosse
  • Helped develop dozens of scholarship athletes in 3 years of business
  • Instructed Kinesiology Lab at UW-Madison
  • Houses an internship program at F.I.T. that started in 2013
  • Member of Elite Mastermind Group of Nationwide Fitness Business Owners


What Is The Best Youth Speed Training Drill


Youth Speed Training

By CJ Easter

One of the #1 questions that I get from coaches is “What is your favorite youth speed training drill?”

And I always give the answer that everyone hates, “It depends.”

But this is not a cop out because it really does depend. Speed is a total body, coordinated skill. So the “best drill” depends on what exact skill that we are trying to develop and the skill level of our athletes to properly perform that drill.

“That drill looks cool” should not be the deciding factor when putting together your training session. The deciding factor should be what is the simplest, most time-efficient drill to work on the desired concept.

One of my favorite coaching quotes is “Coach the kids, not the drills.”

Does it matter what the drill is if all the kids are doing it wrong and not developing the desired skill…

OR if we cannot demonstrate or coach this drill properly, so we have 50 kids moving “just like coach showed me” (which isn’t always pretty)?

When I first started coaching, I made those exact mistakes. I tried to take all the drills that I learned at Stanford and use them on my younger athletes. The classic “this is what I did, so you should do it too” coach.

My athletes not only weren’t developing the movement patterns that I wanted, but they were also losing confidence because they didn’t look and feel coordinated.

That’s when I made a huge realization…

College and professional coaches are probably the worst sources for youth and high school coaches to get drills from because they work with superior athletes.

Athletes don’t make it to that level without a certain level of coordination, so at the highest levels, the job description is mostly “don’t screw the guy up”. Our job as high school and youth coaches is to completely develop or restructure a coordination. I am not assigning value to either job, but they are definitely much different tasks.

So the “best youth speed training drill” is the drill that is done correctly to develop the skill that you want to address.


Here is a general template on exactly how I coach concepts and skills regardless of the youth speed training drill:


1. Introduce the skill/concept and the drill:
“This drill is called X. We are doing this to improve concept/skill X.”

This helps build a mental bridge for your athletes. They might not always like the drill, but at least they know and understand how it’s going to make them a better player.

2. Demonstrate the drill and explain key coaching points as you are demonstrating.

In the social media era, the majority of our kids are visual learners, so proper demonstration is necessary. Explaining the coaching points as you go also addresses auditory learners.

3. Demonstrate what you DON’T want to see and address common errors.

This aligns with John Wooden’s coaching style of “Do this, not this, do this.”

4. Demonstrate it correctly one more time, reinforcing the correct movement pattern.

5. Have your kids do a walk-through rep or if it’s an extended drill, do a mental walk-through. This addresses kinesthetic learners.

This process will take more time than just setting up the cones and saying “do this drill”, but you will definitely see improvement in the quality of your youth speed training drills and the development of the desired skills.


Developing Speed and Agility for Athletes: The Short-to-Long Approach

Renowned speed expert Latif Thomas explains his short-to-long methodology to developing speed and agility for athletes

Latif Thomas

People say all the time that speed and agility for athletes is just like talent: It can’t be taught.

I’m here to show you how that belief is flat-out wrong. Speed is a skill.

The ability to take advantage of the potential of one’s body, and to do so consistently, is a highly technical skill. As coaches and athletes, we often allude to this concept when talking about speed development, but rarely do we discuss how important this statement is and what effects it has on training and performance.

When watching skilled athletes run at full speed, there is commonality in the power and fluidity that these athletes display. They run smoothly and effortlessly. And they run the same way, every time. It is this consistency in the patterning of their movements, the skill of running fast, that creates that “Wow” factor when you see them in action.

Depending on your level of experience in speed development, you may or may not know instantly what these athletes are doing that engenders such awe, but you know it is there. Even though we can’t bring every athlete to elite levels, we can teach them the skill of running fast, where they can apply it to their own particular sport in the context of their own particular level of inherent ability.

Anyone who has learned the skill of running fast knows exactly what it feels like when you reach the point where you’re no longer “trying” to run fast but are seemingly floating over the ground. But there is a progression of development required to consistently reach this point of ease in running. My goal is to explain how to progress an athlete toward the consistent application of the skill of running fast.

Speed and agility for athletes

To begin, let us establish the foundation of this progression. I believe it to be simply a matter of common sense, i.e., another area in athletic development where we have made something complicated that is, in fact, somewhat simple. In an individual’s speed development, one cannot expect to be able to run fast consistently over 100 meters if they first have not developed the ability to run fast consistently over 80 meters. One cannot expect to run fast consistently over 80 meters if they have not developed the ability to run fast consistently over 60 meters, etc. Therefore, with prescribing a methodology for youth speed training and developing an athlete’s ability to run fast, we must apply a “short to long” approach.

With a short to long approach, we develop an athlete’s proficiency over short distances and progress to longer distances once that athlete has shown that he/she can perform a given distance to the satisfaction of the coach administering the program. Therefore, the onus is on the coach to know what to look for in terms of strengths and weaknesses, how to cue an athlete to effectively perform certain movement patterns, and how to fix mechanical inefficiencies. This is the case regardless of the sport; where the emphasis, time or effort is spent will be contingent on the particular demands of the sport and the particular strengths and weaknesses of the athlete. Thus, for youth speed training, not every athlete will necessarily need to spend equal time developing every component/skill that will be discussed here.

Training Speed and Agility for Athletes: Three Major Categories

For our purposes, we will divide youth speed training “speed development” into three major categories:

Acceleration – the ability to quickly and efficiently get to full speed

Maximum Velocity (VMax) – the ability to maintain top and near top speeds

Speed Endurance – the ability to maintain efficient coordination of the limbs in order to slow the rate of deceleration

NOTE: When it comes to training speed and agility for athletes, there will certainly be a temptation to rush to other areas, progress to longer distances, and run workouts that are more exciting. I must stress that in training inexperienced athletes, we must look at long-term development. I know this can be difficult when we only have athletes for a 12-week season or an 8-week program at a facility. While radical improvements can and will be made over the short term, if your true goal is to maximize the potential of your athletes, then you will not rush them into skills and movements they are not prepared to effectively execute.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this post is to discuss how to progress using a “short to long” program. Certain assumptions must be made, such as the assumption that while implementing a short to long approach to speed development, you are also developing the other four biomotor abilities (strength, coordination, flexibility, endurance), which will allow athletes to progress at the fastest reasonable rate. Thus, the remainder of this post will not go into the biomotor abilities or how to train them but will focus instead on speed progressions. In addition, it is assumed that you understand the basic cues and demands of speed development, basic body angles, rest periods, etc., in that the confines of this post do not allow for intimate discussion of these issues.

Acceleration Development

Acceleration development should be the primary focus of linear speed development for any athlete in any speed- and power-based sport. Success in any sport requiring running is going to be contingent on the athlete’s ability to accelerate to top speed with little wasted motion or energy (i.e., efficiently). So the foundation of any speed development program must spend the appropriate amount of time focusing on developing this skill.

Before we do any running, we must put athletes in a good acceleration position. An athlete cannot expect to perform a skill if they have not experienced the context in which it must be performed. So before beginning acceleration work, I teach the wall/fence drill. This will allow athletes to feel, both statically and dynamically, the ideal position for acceleration. While they will not be able to hold or maintain this position at full speed, they will at least understand experientially what it should feel like. And this serves as a great starting point for teaching athletes self-assessment, a critical tool for maximal development.

Speed and agility for athletes 1

Wall/Fence Drill – Have athletes stand with their hands against a wall with their arms parallel to the ground. The feet should be behind the hips and the athlete should be at, approximately, a 45-degree angle to the ground. The torso should be erect, hips forward, and stomach and lower back tight so that one could draw a straight (45-degree) line from the head through the hips to the ankles.

This is the ideal body position that an athlete would be in at the outset of acceleration, particularly when accelerating from the ground, out of a 3- or 4-point stance, starting blocks, etc.

From this position, we implement a marching action. Have the athlete raise the right leg so that the ankle is beneath the hips, toe dorsiflexed. On your command, the athlete will march, alternating legs, for a given number of repetitions. They will finish with their leg in the original starting position.

You will see immediate breakdowns in technique:

  • Athletes will break at the hips while performing the march, so that the butt sticks out. The straight line from head to ankle is broken. Cue them to keep their hips forward (squeeze the cheeks).
  • They will not keep their heels underneath the hips. Instead the ankle will pump straight up and down, piston like, so that the foot is out past the center of mass. Cue athletes to pull the heel under their butts.
  • They will not drive down and back so that each foot strike takes place in the original starting position, behind the hips.

Since athletes cannot perform this basic drill in a confined setting, they certainly cannot be expected to possess the skills required for smooth, powerful, and efficient acceleration to top speed. At the outset of acceleration development, I will have athletes perform this drill before each training session. Additionally, of course, we are teaching traditional speed drills.

So what next?

Speed and agility for athletes 2

I like to start with short hill runs. And by short I mean 10-15 meters, max. I put athletes on a fairly steep hill, and we begin with accelerations up this hill. As we learned with the wall march, holding acceleration angles is difficult at this point. With a hill, we can bring the angle to the athlete, putting them in the position we want them to be in. With short hills it is paramount that athletes drive down and back, applying force to the ground. If they don’t, they will immediately feel that their center of mass is behind them and they will not be able to get up the hill with any reasonable speed or power.

Because force application, and the strength demands that come with it, is such an integral part of running fast, we can teach this skill with short hills as well as help athletes experience how much easier and more effective it is when they can activate and fire the glutes so that power is transferred appropriately. At the beginning, athletes will often try to bound up the hill, with the swing leg landing too far in front. This overcompensation is another opportunity to cue the importance of driving down. Like in traditional sprinting, when the foot gets out in front of the hips at foot strike, athletes must spend longer on the ground, which limits force output and slows them down.

Generally, I’ll start with around 10 repetitions with 1-2 minutes rest for teenaged athletes. At this point, I’m not going to get overly technical with the volume. I always err on the side of caution. The more critical element to teach here is self-assessment. And this goes for all phases of speed development. Once you’ve established some of the fundamental skills that athletes should be trying to learn with a particular workout or series of workouts, they must begin to identify positives and negatives on their own. I constantly ask them, “How did that feel?” “What did you feel?” “What were your arms doing?” etc.

Ask questions that get them to analyze their performance. If you are giving them good feedback with each interval, they will begin to come back and tell you how they felt, what felt right, what felt wrong, what they were thinking, etc.

This is an incredibly important component of training speed and agility for athletes and should not be overlooked. But to make it happen, you must be able to give appropriate comments that facilitate their learning.

Once athletes have become proficient at the short hill runs extending out to 20m, I will take them to the track or to a turf field. I do not advise doing speed work on grass as it is an invitation to injury. From here we will start out at 20m, starting from a variety of positions on the ground, a crouch, a 3-point stance, etc. I’m looking for the same aggressiveness that was required to accelerate up the hill to now be transferred to a flat surface. Once I see that, with the mechanical elements in place, we’ll extend out to 30 meters, then to 40. Again, the progression is logical. What you should be looking for in graduating your athletes to longer runs is consistency in their movement patterns, proper running mechanics, and an improved ability to tell you what they did right and what they did wrong without you having to tell them first. The best way to assess consistency is to time the athletes’ intervals. When they are consistently running the same times within .1-.2 seconds, it is likely that they are doing the same things each time. At these shorter distances, there is less room for error, but developing these skills early will pay great dividends at longer, more challenging distances.

Now that we are out to the 30-40 meter range, athletes are no longer accelerating. In fact, the vast majority of athletes will be at full speed by 30 meters, so this is the time where we will begin adding Maximum Velocity components to training. If an athlete is not reaching full speed until after 30 meters, they are likely holding back or have mechanical problems that are limiting proper acceleration. These athletes are not ready for longer sprint work.

Maximum Velocity (VMax)

Speed and agility for athletes 3

Even elite sprinters can only maintain top speed for around 2 seconds before beginning to decelerate. Thus, VMax work is geared more toward maintaining near top speeds for longer distances (reducing the rate of deceleration) than running at full speed because the time spent at full speed is quite short. Again, this post is not a discussion of this type of training but rather guidelines for how to implement it.

I am a big fan of fly runs. This is where you will have a buildup zone, a fly zone, and a deceleration zone. With our acceleration work, we’ve been practicing in the 30-40m range, so we will now add a fly to our work at these distances.

Our initial runs will be “fly 15’s.” Set up a cone at the start, at 20m, at 35m and at 60m. The breakdown is this: 0-20m is the acceleration zone, 20-35m is the fly zone, and 35-60m is the deceleration zone. The final 20 meters should be a slow deceleration to a full stop. Since we’ve been focusing on acceleration development thus far, athletes should be quite proficient through 20m. Our new focus is on what they should be doing while at full speed.

Cue athletes to run hips tall and with a foot strike beneath the hips, not behind or far in front. It is important for young athletes especially to focus not on straining to run faster but rather on executing a consistent pace. Our goal here is maximum speed, minimum effort. Again, we can assess consistency here by timing athletes through the zones. If their time to the first cone is inconsistent, it will likely lead to inconsistencies in the fly portion. Because we’re breaking the run into sections, we can identify where things are going wrong (and right) and give appropriate solutions. I strongly recommend videotaping these runs and breaking down the film with your athletes.

As athletes become consistent and proficient at fly 15’s we can simply extend the distance with time. Generally, for athletes who require extended sprints in their training, our meat and potatoes workouts are fly 30’s and fly 40’s. Volume is dependent on the particular athletes. When times fall off, the workout is over. As a general rule, with teenage athletes, we look at a total volume in the range of 250-300 meters before fatigue begins to adversely affect the quality of the workout. But again, this is a generality and you must prescribe distances appropriate for your athletes—thus, the art of coaching.

Because we are implementing a short to long progression, even with VMax work, you are still working on acceleration development. Athletes must accelerate properly to reach true to top speeds. So, where I was previously doing acceleration work twice per week as we made our way to the 30-40m range, I will now do one day of acceleration work and one day of VMax work. When you think about it, we’re getting more bang for our buck because we’re still getting two days of acceleration work in, but we’re also developing our ability to maintain at top speed. Since acceleration work is paramount in almost every sport, we can maintain constant focus on that skill because we’ve mastered it. Consistent acceleration paves the way for maximal development at longer distances.

We also use another type of workout for VMax development. It goes by many names, but we call it “Sprint-Float-Sprints.” This is simply a more advanced progression of the fly XX. Here the goal is to teach athletes to relax once they reach top speed, but without slowing down. This is one of the hardest things for coaches to teach and athletes to learn. Athletes simply must experience this in order to understand it. I’ve never been able to come up with a universally understood cue that got athletes to do this right. The important thing to convey is this: Once an athlete reaches top speed, continuing to try to accelerate will only slow the athlete down.

When timing experienced athletes in this type of workout, they run faster in the float—or relaxation portion—than when they are pushing to run faster. To most athletes, this doesn’t make sense at first, but there is a reason that you see elite athletes with relaxed faces, shoulders, hands, etc. at the end of a race. They know that they must stay within a certain confine to run faster. If they begin to press, they will break down mechanically and slow down. So, when doing Sprint-Float-Sprints with your athletes, you must get them to understand this. One very clear way to tell if athletes are slowing down in the float zone vs. relaxing is by watching their torso. If the shoulders drop back behind the hips (foot strike will also take place in front of the hips), then you know the athlete is doing it wrong.

Here is how to set up the workout. Set up a cone at 20m, 30m, 40m, 50m, and 70m. From 0-20m athletes accelerate normally, 20-30m athletes will sprint aggressively, 30- 40m athletes go into a float, 40-50m back into an aggressive sprint, 50-70m athletes should slowly come to a stop.

Generally, I stick to this distance throughout the season. If an athlete excels, I may bring the zones from 10m to 15m. Because this workout is quite taxing, both physically and mentally, we don’t do a large number of them in a workout. We may do a max of 4 or 5 total. As with fly runs, getting this on tape is an incredibly valuable tool. With so much going on from zone to zone, it really is difficult to assess an athlete live and time their zones. You really have to pick one or the other.

With this workout, it would be the alternative to running, say, fly 40’s. Depending on the sport and time of year, it is unlikely that I will get away from pure acceleration work entirely, but there are exceptions to every rule. Now that athletes have become proficient in acceleration patterns and maintaining top/near top speeds, we can add a new element to training:

Speed Endurance (SE)

Speed and agility for athletes 4

With speed endurance, we want to be specific to the demands of the sport. For our discussion, there are two types of speed endurance: Alactic speed endurance and Glycolytic speed endurance. Without turning this into a lecture on energy systems, alactic SE is for runs of 30-80m with rests periods of 1-3 minutes between reps and 5-10 minutes between sets. Glycolytic SE is for runs of 80-150m, with rest periods of 5-6 minutes between reps and 6-10 minutes between sets.

At this point, you should have a clear understanding of how progressing distances works. Fundamentally it’s going to be the same here, but again, sport specificity comes into play. There is little need to focus on glycolytic SE if your athletes are never going to have to sprint for longer than 60-70m on a fairly regular basis, i.e., almost every sport outside of track and field. Instead, I would focus on alactic SE. Athletes are going to be competing in a state of fatigue for a good portion of their games, so short sprints with relatively short rest periods are going to prepare them better for the demands of their sport. Because you’ve taught them proper acceleration mechanics and developed the skill of high speed maintenance, they will be able to run faster and longer while tired. If you had not done this progression in this way, once they got tired (in a workout or competition) they would immediately regress from a mechanical and technical standpoint, which of course makes them less competitive athletically and at increased risk of sustaining an injury. But because they have learned the skill of sprinting, as well as self-assessment, they can focus and fall back on the previously learned and repeated movement patterns that lead to running faster and winning more.

With track and field sprinters, the need for longer speed endurance runs is obvious. It is important, however, that we adhere to these rest protocols. I find that many track coaches can’t overcome the urge to reduce rest periods, believing them to be too long to be effective. They are not.

So how is it all put together?

Putting Together Acceleration, VMax, and SE in the Context of a Season

If you have a true preseason or offseason, that is where I would put in the short hill accelerations or even flat surface acceleration work. But if you’re working on limited time frames of a typical season, here is how I would structure the progression, assuming you are working on speed twice per week.

This, of course, is a general guide. Look at it in terms of progressing in distance. As far as volume, these are estimates. Some athletes are workhorses; others are not. There is no magic formula for determining the perfect volume for a workout or workout period, and there are many other variables to consider in prescribing speed sessions. It should vary by athlete based on training age, experience, skill, etc.

M: 8-10 x10m hills

Th: 8-10 x 15m hills

Once athletes have begun to improve:

M: 8-10 x 20m hills

Th: 8-10 x 20-30m acceleration development on flat surface

Once proficiency is shown:

M: 8-10 x 30m

Th: 4x30m, 3-4 x 40m

Once athletes have developed consistency in their acceleration development:

M: 10 x 30m

Th: 6-8 x fly 15’s with a 20m buildup

Choices from here vary by sport. Non-track coaches will likely stick with a format along these lines. Remember, you don’t always have to move up in distance; you can do repeat 10’s, 20’s, etc. Make it specific to your sport. In fact, you should move around in volume, distance, and intensity so that athletes do not adapt and become stagnant in their training.

If athletes aren’t going to maintain an all-out sprint for more than 15-20m, spend the bulk of time on various components of acceleration development, speed endurance, and some VMax work:

M: (Acceleration work) 5x10m, 5x20m, 5x30m (full recovery)

Th: (SE) 2 sets of 6x25m with 1 min rest between reps, 5 min between sets

Do a VMax workout every 3 or 4 workouts.

With track and field, you have to consider meets as part of your program design. So if an athlete is running the 100 and 200 in a meet plus field events, acceleration work and VMax work may be part of that week’s training, generally speaking. Of course, you must consider the above factors, time of year, etc.

For a 100/200m runner who has progressed through the requisite acceleration and VMax skills:

M: 5x30m out of blocks on the straight, 3 x 60m out of blocks on the turn (float at 40m)

Th: 4x fly 30’s with a 20m buildup, 1 x 120m

The meet will involve speed endurance elements so we don’t have to go heavy on that during the week. And both the Monday and Thursday workout cover some degree of speed endurance work as well.

Keep in mind that when doing VMax work, you’re still doing acceleration development. You have to accelerate to get to top speed. When you’re doing (Glycolytic) Speed Endurance, you’re doing both acceleration work and VMax work. To get the most out of a longer run, an athlete must be capable of effectively performing a shorter run. It is for this reason that the short to long approach to youth speed training and development is the optimal method for developing the fastest athletes.

Get CertifiedYouth speed training certification

If you understand that speed and agility are the most coveted skills your athletes and clients need you to teach them and you want to stay on the cutting edge of what is being taught by the most effective speed coaches in the field, then you’ll want to invest in the IYCA Youth Speed Specialist Level I Certification. This is, without question, the most comprehensive and up to date linear and multidirectional speed and agility for athletes training course on the market. Learn more on youth speed training.


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Three Quick Ways To Become a Better Coach


Become a Better Coach

Become a better coach with young athletes


By Wil Fleming


In the network of coaches that I have met, the most passionate always are other coaches at AR. Every one of the coaches that I have met wants to do the best they can FOR their athletes. As a franchise this sets AR apart from any other that I have ever witnessed (outside of maybe Fitness Revolution!).


The franchisee at the local Starbucks isn’t trying to become better at brewing coffee, the local owner of Chipotle isn’t trying to build a better burrito, but each and everyday the owners of AR’s are trying to be better at developing young athletes.


It is a pretty cool thought when you get down to it.


In light of this, and of a conversation that I had with one of my coaches recently I wanted to talk about my 3 ways to INSTANTLY become a better coach. We can all dive into more continuing education products, and attend live events, but those things take time and it is all about being a better coach today than you were yesterday!


    1. Attend your athletes’ sporting events


We typically see our athletes in the bubble that is our AR, we even evaluate them through the lens of an assessment, but the ultimate assessment is how they perform on the field (or court, or track). See your athletes compete and you will be able to pick out exactly what it is that is holding them back.


In their lateral movement are they applying the principles of deceleration? Are they reacting quickly enough to the visual cues of the game played? Right there you have a blueprint for their next phase of speed training.


Do your athletes start to tire later in the match or game? How exactly is their game paced? If you didn’t already know you know now and you hae a blueprint for designing the conditioning protocols they will use in training.


Lastly, and it has been said 100’s of times, being a presence at sporting events is one of the single greatest marketing tools you have in your toolbox.


    1. Use film to breakdown lifts


This is so simple but sometimes we forget it. Our eyes can only capture so much, and with limited repetitions per training session there are so few opportunities to see your athletes in action while training.


Using film can help you spot errors when you believe that everything is going perfectly. Recently with one of my athletes I was able to spot that the athlete was lacking in complete extension of their hips while doing Olympic lifts, even though it seemed they were reaching this point while in full speed. I was able to notice this by breaking down the lift on film and correct this error for the next lift.


Taking a look at film will sharpen your ability to see things going forward and improve your ability to correlate results (missed lifts, slowing down in acceleration, etc) with particular errors.


For the best breakdown of movements I use the iSwing app available for iPhone and Android (it costs $2.99).


    1. Spend 1 day observing other coaches


This is almost immediate, but just arranging to spend 1 day while around other coaches can help you become a better coach and improve your abilities as well. I am fortunate that at AR Bloomington we have some tremendous coaches that I can turn to so that I can bounce ideas off of them, but even if you are not in this situation find someone in driving distance and go learn from them.


They don’t have to be household names or even strength coaches. Just last week I was able to observe a 2x state champion basketball coach take his team through some off-season basketball workouts. His command and presence resonated with me to be a better leader on the floor of our gym.


The desire to become a better coach is the reason that the members of the AR family are among the best in the world.

Try out these 3 quick tips and see your coaching improve overnight!




The Four Stages of Skill Acquisition For Young Athletes


The Four Stages of Skill Acquisition For Young Athletes


latif Thomas Young Athletes


By Latif Thomas


We live in fast paced society full of impatient people who want results right now.
This same impatience holds true for uneducated athletes, coaches and parents who want to improve their own speed, their young athletes’ speed or their child’s speed.


Lately I’ve seen quite a few colleagues continue to try and stress the fact that when it comes to athletic development in general and more specifically speed development (ultimately they are both the same) we must take a long term approach if your interest is truly to maximize the performance of your young athletes, team and program.


When I say long term I mean you need to think in terms of many months and even years, not many weeks and even months.


I know what you’re thinking…

‘But Latif, are you saying that you can’t improve speed in a couple weeks or a month?
But my son/daughter/team has a big competition that their life depends on in 3 weeks.’


I’m not saying you can’t make improvements in a short period of time.
And while it won’t sell as many Complete Speed Training Programs to say this, such an *approach* won’t lead to optimal or long term results.


Quick fixes are like cramming for an exam the night before the test. Sure you might remember the information the next day and even get a good grade. But a few days later you won’t be able to recall much of the information.


The same applies to trying to get fast results (pun intended) in a very short time period. If someone tells you otherwise they’re trying too hard to sell you something.


Ultimately there are 4 stages an athlete goes through when acquiring a new skill. This has been broken down in many ways and said in different formats. So I’m certainly not taking credit for ‘inventing’ these steps.


The fundamental principles of this version, as I came across them, were attributed to top level sprint coach Loren Seagrave. I will add my own experiences to expand his concepts.


I will go over them in respect to learning the skill of running fast, which I will refer to as sprinting. Primarily I will focus on sprinting in terms of acceleration development as acceleration is fundamental to success in pretty much every sport:


1. Unconscious Incompetence


The athletes are not thinking because they have never been told to think about anything. If they have been told to think anything, the advice was inconsistent, wrong or (more likely) both. Therefore the young athletes are not very good at new skills.


Seagrave tells his athletes that it is better to look foolish in front of their teammates in practice and get better at the skills than to get embarrassed in front of an audience.


I wholeheartedly agree.


For further analysis of this concept, let’s look at my current group of male and female high school track sprinters. This year the group is brand new to me so I have the opportunity to build these athletes from the ground up.


Because of the success of the program in general, I assumed that most of the upperclassmen would be beyond the level of unconscious incompetence. They would, at the very least, be at the second level of skill acquisition.


I was mistaken. In asking them simple, basic questions to assess their knowledge of sprinting (the act itself and the training process as a whole) I quickly realized from the blank stares and self conscious smiles that these athletes didn’t know the first thing about running fast.


And that means their coaches are teaching them this stuff. And we shouldn’t place the blame on the current coach in the current sport. Most athletes have been on many teams in many sports over many years of athletics. It’s disappointing that most athletes have gone 0 for life when it comes to effective, modern speed training techniques (regardless of sport).


If you are new to the art of speed development, it is quite likely that the level of unconscious incompetence is where your athletes currently reside.


Either way it is critically important that you have a specific, pre-planned system for teaching, developing and progressing your athletes if you have any reasonable expectation of either short or long term results.


Depending on how effective your system of speed development is as well as your effectiveness at conveying these concepts to your young athletes in a way that they can interpret and apply, they will eventually reach the second level of skill acquisition.


Keep in mind, athletes will reach this level at different times so you must always be testing new ways to improve the effectiveness of your program, progress fast learning athletes to more advanced levels of training, yet allow slower developing athletes to continue to progress at their own pace.


The second level of skill acquisition is:


2. Conscious Incompetence


The athlete is starting to understand the skill both conceptually and experientially. They try to execute it but are not very good at it yet.


This is the stage where I believe things get tricky. Seven weeks into working with this group and this is where most of my athletes are.


And I think this is where most coaches/trainers/parents make a mistake. Many of the athletes are ‘tweeners’. That is, they are firmly entrenched in this second level of skill acquisition, yet they simultaneously display many of the characteristics of the third level.


The ‘results now’ coach would be tempted to take any signs of progress and continue on to more complicated and technical stages of training.


For example, we are 7 weeks into the season and beyond the halfway point for even the best athletes. (In fact many athletes will be done in 2 weeks.)


Yet I just introduced maximum velocity training (top speed training) this past Wednesday. And only to part of the group. Because I didn’t think the group (or any of the individuals within the group) had become proficient in their acceleration development, I did not let them run at or develop their top speed on our speed days.


In effect, until this past week the athletes were not allowed to run more than 30 meters at any one time.
(I’m talking about during true speed workouts. Of course they ran longer during tempo and special endurance runs. These types of runs are submaximal and therefore do not develop faster speeds.)


For the non-track coach this isn’t necessarily a big deal because you’re going to spend the bulk of your time developing acceleration and multidirectional skills. What you should take from this is the fact that I am not in a rush to progress any athlete even the ones I believe will challenge for a State Title based on time of year. Instead all decisions are based on competence and execution.


Young Athletes IYCA track coach Latif thomas

For track coaches it may seem crazy that we have not progressed to doing flyruns, sprint-float-sprints or more traditional speed endurance runs. But the fact is they aren’t ready. So adding that layer just sets them up to do it poorly and therefore underachieve over the long term.


So then what are the results of being patient?


All of my sprinters, top to bottom, ran their lifetime bests by the 4th week which was the second competition of the season.


Needless to say it has been exciting for me and for the athletes. Because they understand the why behind everything we do, they know that they have a long (long) way to go before they can expect to meet their full potential.


Most of the group ran personal bests the very first meet. And the truth is none of them expected to (I didn’t either because they were all over the place in practice) because they understood that they had no idea what they were doing.


We are now at the point where many of the athletes are starting to show glimpses of competence. Here and there they will run a repetition where they will execute to expectation for several strides or meters.


(Let’s just say I have well above average standards for what qualifies as ‘competent execution’ of a particular skill or movement pattern.)


The most important element of this is the fact that they are able to identify those moments. Because they have been taught to assess their own running as well as their teammates, they know what to look for.


Because we break the process down into segments, they know what it should feel like.


That makes them excited to train because they aren’t just ‘running to run’. The athletes are now willing to work harder and stay later because they can see and feel specific improvements to their running ability.


Recently one of the coaches said to me ‘Wow I can’t believe you have them here at 5:30 on a Friday night and they’re the ones asking to stay longer and do just one more start. Last year they would have been out of here by 4 o’clock.’


This is what happens when young athletes buy into your coaching.

They take the initiative to get themselves to the next level without any prodding or pleading from you.
But it starts with establishing a foundation of development and basing your progressions on their level of competence and execution, not time of year or relation to major competitions.


If you are truly interested in maximizing the performance of your athletes, you will adopt this philosophy with your own coaching.


3. Conscious Competence


The athlete has developed the skill but cannot perform it automatically and mindlessly. In this stage, unconscious action returns one to previous bad habits.


In my experience this is the stage that athletes will spend the most time in, once (if) they finally reach it. How quickly they reach this stage is, in large part, dependent on the coach’s ability to get their message across and teach (and cue) the different stages of running fast.


I also find this stage to be the most frustrating for both the athlete and the coach.
Let’s use acceleration as the example. We’ll define acceleration as the moment the athlete begins moving until they reach top speed.


I’ll continue to use track sprinters as the example, but the rules are essentially the same if you work primarily with football players training for the 40 or baseball players training for the 60, etc.


When exiting the blocks we need to teach athletes they must reach triple extension with their front leg before the back leg touches the ground. This is best accomplished by driving the lead arm up and over the head and pushing fully and completely back into the block pedals.


To ensure athletes don’t ‘pop up’ right away and/or drop their hips immediately limiting their ability to accelerate effectively and reach their true top speed, the head should remain in line with the spine.


Ideally, the exit angle should be 45 degrees. As the back leg hits the ground, the athlete should drive the foot down into the ground like a piston. They should push the foot down into the ground fully, so they feel like they are leaving the foot on the ground *behind* them at toe off. Ground contact time should be longer than is comfortable as they attempt to overcome inertia and get moving. Heel recovery should be low, as if the athlete was ‘running on hot coals’.


Now these are just *some* of the things you must teach your athletes must to do in order to exit the blocks and set them up for a fast race.


And that only covers the first 2 steps.


So you can imagine that a young athlete will have a difficult time coordinating all of these movements correctly, in the right order, at the right time with an appropriate amount of explosiveness and power.


You can also understand why they spend so much time in the second stage!


After several months (and potentially years depending on your level of expectation) of trying to put the block exit together, and assuming they have the strength levels to even put themselves in such a position, athletes will develop the timing and coordination that puts them at an acceptable level of competence.


(What is acceptable is going to be different for each athlete and depends on their biological and training age, talent level, etc.)


When doing block work in practice, they will often get it right. And they will know the differnce between a good start and a poor one. They will be able to identify the positive (I got full extension, I was patient on the ground, My upper body unfolded naturally), as well as the negative (I didn’t get extension on my drive leg, I didn’t drive my lead arm, I was impatient off the ground so I was spinning my wheels).


And so you’ll both be confident that the next competition will bring great results.


However, since we’re dealing primarily with high school aged athletes and younger, what we see in practice and what we see in a meet are wildly different things.


In a meet your athlete is nervous and excited. They are worried about the competition and placing where they need to place. They want to run well and run correctly so as not to disappoint the coach, their parents, their teammates, themselves.


Since the newly acquired skill is not automatic, but requires complete focus to execute correctly, any distraction will cause the athlete to revert back to their old habits.


I have a talented 55m runner who can execute in practice sometimes (he’s still at the 2nd stage). He nods his head when I tell him what I want. He can identify good and bad efforts. But as soon as the gun goes off it all goes right out the window and he immediately goes back to running like a football player (because he is one). I call it ‘hacking’ – running as hard as possible with no particular attention to technique or
timing – just trying to catch up or make up for a bad start.


At our State Relay meet this past weekend my best female sprinter got the baton in second place, about 5 meters behind the leader. Because her only goal was to win the event, she gave no thought to technique or form and reverted right back to her old inefficient bad habits.


(I couldn’t complain much since she ran the girl down, the team placed 1st overall and only missed a school record by .05 in the first run of the season, but she wasn’t happy with her split and poor mechanics was the reason.)


My point? Just because it looks good in practice does not mean it will look good in a competition. Be prepared for it and try not to let your young athletes see your frustration. Because you will get frustrated because you’ll feel like your athletes just aren’t listening to anything you say. They are, it just takes time.
Getting frustrated with them will not help them figure it out quicker.


Here is the final stage of skill acquisition:


4. Unconscious Competence


The skill has become automatic and performed perfectly with no conscious effort. Attainment of this level takes not only practice, but mental imagery and rehearsal. It can take up to 500 hours of practice to achieve unconscious competence with a skill.


I won’t spend a lot of time covering this because it’s not likely your athletes will truly achieve this level of competence during the finite amount of time you have to work with them.


Such competence often comes at the higher end of the collegiate level and elite/professional levels.
But I will touch upon the importance of mental imagery and rehearsal.


When an athlete ‘hits a mark’, meaning they get one piece of the puzzle right during a run, I always review it with them.


I have them explain what they did, how it felt and why they think it was the correct action.
Then I tell them to ‘save the file’ in their head. I want them to continuously replay that file in their mind so they get mental reps of perfect technique.


This will increase the likelihood of getting it right the next time they physically execute the movement pattern.
Before they run it in practice and before a race, I tell them to visualize the perfect start, the perfect drive phase and transition (if you believe there is such a thing),etc. Have them feel the emotions they will feel when entering the blocks, feel their feet driving down into the track, feel the excitement and satisfaction of coming in first place. I want them to make the perfect race a reality in their mind before they run it.


Remember, the brain can not tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. By telling yourself something over and over or imagining something over and over, it becomes a reality in your mind. So use this as an opportunity to practice perfection in the mind so it carries over into physical reality.


* * * * * * * *
These are the 4 stages young athletes go through when acquiring a new skill. They will spend most, if not all, of their careers in the second and third stages.


This assumes, of course, they have good enough coaching to even get them out of the first stage. Sadly, most athletes don’t even know that they don’t know what they are doing. They couldn’t explain, in detail, how to go from a standstill to full speed. At least not in a way that makes sense.


Use these stages as a guideline for developing your young athletes. Be patient, but set high standards for execution. You will see some incredible improvements.


If you aren’t 100% sure how to teach your young athletes how to run explosively and efficiently then you’re probably leading them down the wrong path.


But there is always time to step back and start doing it right.


Summer youth training

Latif Thomas

Top 5 Summer Training Tips

Summer Youth Training 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to approach summer training.

You’ve got a number of options, so here’s my take on getting the most out of summer youth training for sprinters (or any athlete in any sport, for that matter):



Consider not training at all.


Summer competitions are more popular in some places than others. Where I live, it’s not incredibly popular. And quite frankly, I’m cool with that.


I generally don’t steer kids toward summer training and/or competitions unless the kid is hardcore and keeps asking about it or they’re a scholarship caliber athlete who needs the work in a low pressure environment.



Coaching Young Athletes Back in The Trenches: Part 1

Coaching Young Athletes – Teaching Again

The funniest thing happened 3 weeks ago…


I decided to go back to the grassroots of where I started

Insert/edit linkCoaching Young Athletes



Now make no mistake, although my ‘full time’ coaching days are about 7 years in the rearview mirror, I’ve maintained a coaching schedule through the entire thick and thin of both developing and running the IYCA.


I’ve worked with volleyball clubs, high school football, soccer, track and baseball teams and even moonlighted occasionally as a guest speed and agility instructor for local youth sporting associations.


But this summer, I’m heading back to the trenches.



I met a very young (23), ambitious and capable Coach who owns his own facility not more than 15 minutes from my house – we started chatting and 3 weeks ago, I agreed to take a position as a ‘Coach’ at his up and coming training center.


No pay.


This time, ‘In the Trenches’ is because I love it, feel obligated (in a good way) to give back and don’t need the money in order to pay my bills.


So the summer of 2011 for me, will be back doing what I love most every day:


Making young athletes better people.


Job #1 has been to review this facility’s current training system and attend live sessions as an observer.


To see if there are holes.


To understand what is expected of the athletes and staff in this facility.


To appreciate what will be expected of me.


My first inspected conclusion was simple… For a 23 year old Coach, this guy has got his stuff together very well!


In fact, the experience of ‘watching to determine’ got me thinking that I should chronicle to you what this 23 year old does so well… Because most of it is inherent to his personality and not something he’s learned from a textbook, conference or DVD.


So consider these heartily as potential inclusions for yourself and your own coaching young athletes habits…


(1) Specific Instruction Time


Although not IYCA certified when we met, this particular 23 year already understood, embraced and implemented perhaps the most critical of all IYCA Tenants:


Don’t Train… Teach.


By simply feelings his way through the coaching process, this young man knew instinctively that young athletes are ‘works in progress’ and that the urge to ‘make tired through hard work’ must be tempered by the undeniable need to teach proper execution.


His facility is not ‘numbers’ oriented.


He does not appease the symptomotolgy requirements for what most consider the hallmarks of quality training with respect to young people (breathless, sweaty, can’t walk the next day).


Every one of his training sessions is methodical in the way he teaches complexity through simplicity, prior to implementing an exercise into a given routine.


I’ve been very heartened watching this and believe fully that more Coaches need to take an honest look at there programming methods with respect to proper instruction.


Come back tomorrow for ‘Part 2’…


Everything I Learned in 15 Years In the Trenches… Working With More Than 20,000 Young Athletes:


Click Here:


– Brian


Coaching Young Athletes


Youth Soccer Training: Part 2

Youth Soccer Training For ‘elite’ players.


Does the methodology change?


If so, how?


Watch and find out:





Is “Linear Speed Training” A Mistake?


Here’s the Answer ==>



Youth Soccer Training: Part 1

Youth Soccer Training Success

For Soccer Coaches and Youth Fitness Specialists:


Watch This:





Soccer Speed Training ==>


… Actually, This Works for ALL Youth Sports not just youth soccer training:


A Step-By-Step Blueprint for Making Young Athletes Faster





Becoming Indispensable to Young Athletes: Part 1

It’s important for me to hear what you have to say about this topic on young athletes… 

Read this short (but hopefully powerful) ‘Part 1’ and then chime in to let me know what you think…


Young Athletes


Sport Specific Youth Training: Part 1

Insert/edit linkYouth Training

For Sports

As a given sport evolves and the participants within that sport begin to break records and perform what was once considered impossible, you can be sure that advancements in training and conditioning regimes have occurred within that sport. Very few athletes ever become great sport technicians without the inclusion of a comprehensive athletic development and conditioning program as part of their training package. Over the past decade, the type of training and conditioning performed by young, developing and elite athletes has gone from basic fitness to more functionally- based and developmental activities. Figure skating and all of the disciplines under that umbrella are such examples.


Youth Training


For example, many training coaches prescribe that their skaters practice landing jumps and performing balance based skills (such as spirals) off the ice. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the ‘athletic developers’ who tend not to concern themselves with producing specified strength gains but instead work more directly at improving the complete athletic profile of the skater. The general conception among these professionals is that the greater degree of athleticism the skater has, the more likely he or she will be able to carry out athletic skills. While traditionalists often incorporate basic and conventional exercises into their training programs, the athletic developers come from a more movement based perspective. This style of conditioning is often referred to as ‘functional’ training, which is in fact a misnomer. Let’s examine that.



Speed Training for High School Athletes

Speed Training for High School Athletes;

Isn’t about ‘running’, ‘cone drills’, ‘speed ladders’ or even ‘sprinting’…


Watch this:




Absolutely EVERYTHING You Need to Know About Speed Training for High School Athletes