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.
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:
- 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.