Pre-Season Training – There IS Another Way

Pre-Season – There is another way


The sun has finally come out. It’s pushing 30º in some places. That can only mean one thing. Football coaches across the land are flogging their players in pre-season training.


Is this through scientific knowledge of the human physiology and how it adapts to stimulus?


Or is it because that’s the way it’s always been done?


I was talking to a local rugby coach last night after their training session and he said that numbers were low tonight.


And the reason?


Players hate the first few sessions of pre-season. You’re going to be run til you’re sick. Technique doesn’t matter because the ball is rarely involved so just run til you drop.


Who the hell wants to go to that? Those that do turn up, go in with a survival mentality.


There are several problems with this approach to pre-season.

  1. Turn out is low because players don’t like humiliation.
  2. This sadistic style undermines player confidence and self belief
  3. Taking players into such fatigue that technique and form are hugely compromised is one of the key factors that lead to injury.
  4. Pre-season has the highest injury rate of any other period in the year. By a huge margin. See 3.
  5. Fitness is very specific. High volume = Low intensity. If this is how you want to play then fine, but as soon as you increase the intensity and speed your body won’t be accustomed to it so you will still struggle to recover.
  6. Hard pitches and high temperatures are awful conditions for lots of high volume running.


So what’s the feasible option?


The short to long system.


Work on perfecting the basic technical skills and get used to the desired match intensity. Once match intensity is established, increase the volume and decrease the recovery until we reach match conditions.


Here’s why this works better:

  1. Get much better turn out because they don’t associate it with pain. It constantly feeds their confidence and self belief.
  2. Technical work and high intensity work requires longer pauses for coaching and recovery. Ideal for the summer weather conditions. In theUKwe have such a small window for this. In winter months, everything has to be short recoveries to stay warm.
  3. Intended match intensity is established early doors and regularly practiced.
  4. The body gets used to working at very high speed and high intensity. You don’t have to ask for more, just progress the volume and recoveries.
  5. You can’t endure what you haven’t got. Train speed first, then speed endurance. Strength first, then strength endurance. Power first… you get the picture.
  6. Practice makes permanent. You practice slow, guess what you’re going to get? So practice fast.
  7. It’s easy to know when to stop and monitor progression. When technical proficiency deteriorates or intensity falls below required level – STOP. Time recoveries and watch for improvements.
  8. You are constantly building confidence and players are used to feeling sharp. Pre-season should culminate in a massive session to boost mental toughness and ability to endure. But because you have instilled technical proficiency and intensity, breakdown is less likely to occur so injury risk is much lower.


IN summary, do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you always got. Maybe it’s time to put some thought into the physical preparation side of pre-season. Because of our weather conditions in theUKit makes a lot of sense and I believe this type of reverse periodisation will become very popular in the not too distant future. I know several other top coaches already applying it.


So, get ahead of the pack and try this approach. I’ve been using it for a couple of years with my clients. If you want to try it and don’t know where to start, leave a comment here or on the Facebook page and I’ll be more than happy to help out.


Yours in speed



The Problem With Speed and Agility Training

You want an injection of pace to cesarean extra dimension to your game. You work really hard on the speed and agility stuff that you do with your team. You even do extra work on your own and go to the gym to get stronger, which the magazines and coaches say SHOULD increase your power.

Yet still you see no improvement. Then they throw the genetics thing at you, and you give up because you and speed is just not meant to be. You’re genetically predisposed to be slow.

What nobody told you though is that, unlike Usain Bolt’s event, Multi-directional game speed is a complex skill. Some pick it up quickly, while others are slow burners. The problem is, the ones who pick it up quickly are the ones who get spotted and get all the coaching focus. The National Governing Bodies’ coaching strategies don’t involve coaching movement skills adequately.

Many coaches implement some kind of speed, agility, and plyometric routines into their training programmes, and I think it’s great to see coaches making an effort to improve the physical abilities of their athletes. Unfortunately, I see far too many mistakes being made in this area, and I think many coaches are doing their athletes an injustice. 

In my opinion, a lot of Strength and Conditioning Coaches approach speed and agility training the same way they approach their strength training. They find out what other coaches are doing (through reading manuals, watching workouts, DVDs, You Tube, etc) and duplicate it in their environments. This has worked out pretty well for strength training because there are a lot of good Strength and Conditioning Coaches to learn from. The same applies for sports coaches.

Unfortunately,  there are a few problems with learning about speed and agility this way. 

Problem No.1

There are very few quality speed and agility coaches to learn from. 

Problem No.2 

Most of us didn’t learn anything about effective movement patterns in college or on our training courses. 

Problem No.3
Effective coaching of speed and agility is highly dependent on coaching prowess, movement analysis, and the ability to understand proper movement patterns. It is very much akin to teaching a sport skill; instructor knowledge is vital, and you can’t just apply an off-the-shelf approach like many coaches do.

Nonetheless, we’ve learned our speed and agility drills from Strength Coaches not Speed and Agility coaches. The best case scenario for many of us was to do a basic, weekend SAQ course or learn a few drills from a track coach. The more diligent may have studied Bosch and Klomp’s work on sprint mechanics. Great if you’re sport involves mainly straight line runs of over 60m from a split stance start.

I like to call speed and agility work “movement training”, because the goal is to train athletes how to move more efficiently. This brings us more in line with the SAQ systems. The problem with most movement training is the assumption that if we put some cones or hurdles out in a cool design and have our athletes run through them, we are making an impact on their movement patterns. The final nail in the speed coffin is to ask our athletes to do it faster of even to create races. All we’re doing here is helping them reinforce whatever movement patterns they are using to get through the drill. 

I have had the good fortune of working with, observing, and learning from a lot of great sport coaches and instructors. I have never seen a good football coach allow players to take hundreds of shots with poor striking technique, and I have never seen a good rugby coach let players tackle and hit with poor mechanics. 

Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of Coaches (at vey high levels) allow athletes to perform hours of agility drills using horrible technique. It is assumed that the drills alone will improve athleticism. But, the benefits of performing speed and agility drills are dramatically reduced if the athletes are not executing them with sound mechanics and learning proper technique. As we all know, practice makes permanent – good or bad. If the coach is unable to analyze the movement and give corrective feedback, what good is the drill doing for the athletes? 

Quickness is not improved through fast feet drills. it comes from balance and adjustment of the feet to apply force through the ground in the desired direction. A ladder can’t teach you this.

Direction change will not be improved by running as fast as possible though a set of poles. I think the lack of knowledge and uncomfortableness coaches feel in this area is shown in the number of drills that are packed into a session. 

If a coach was coaching a sporting situation or drill, they would take the time to explain what they want, demonstrate how to do it, then how not to do it, followed by a reinforcement of how to do it. They would easily allow 15mins for that drill or exercise. However, with speed and agility training, they would most likely ask you to move from A to B as quickly as possible cram, often with certain obstacles in your way that you would never find on the field of play. The could probably get about 3-5 different drills in the same 15min period. 

Drills don’t make you fast, coaching does.

Have a look at your next training session. 

I know it’s blatant plug, but if you want speed coaching applicable to your sport, Speed Academy Pre-season Training Course still has places available.

Why You Should Never Chase 2 Rabbits

I’m based at Edge Gym in Leeds. It’s so far removed from your average chain gym, I prefer not to call it a gym. It’s a performance facility. Because of this, we get a lot of athletes from various sports and of varying abilities.

Now, when you ask most guys in the gym “what are you working on today?” you’ll most often get “back and bi’s today” or “chest and tri’s”. On the odd rare occasion you might even get “legs and shoulders.” These are the classic body building split routines. Great at preparing for a body building competition and helping you move like a cheap toy robot, no good for sport.

But (most of) our guys are a bit more up to date than that. However, last week I asked this question to one of our full time rugby players. Here’s his answer.

“A bit of SAQ and then some power work.” 

This guy’s really into his training to improve his rugby and on the face of it, his response is a step in the right direction from the body building routines. Or is it?

At least the guys with the bodybuilding style routines know what they’re trying to achieve. They want to make their back and biceps hurt like crazy. And if they can feel the burn in the right places then it’s goal achieved for the evening. 

But SAQ? What does that really mean? 
What are you trying to achieve from that session? 
How do you know if it’s been successful?

You can’t train speed, agility and quickness at the same time. They are different qualities. My good friend Tom Little proved that with his PhD study on professional footballers. 

Not only that, but you can’t just train speed OR agility either. There are too many different skills and situations involved. Accelerating from different positions, decelerating, open steps, cross over steps, plyo steps, hip turns, body position, posture, fakes, the list is endless. 

If there are 2 rabbits in a field, you can’t chase them both. But if you just aim for one and lock on to your target with laser-like focus, you’ve a much better chance of success.

You won’t get faster by training SAQ. Instead, spend a month to 6wks focussing on one or two sport specific speed skills 2-3 times per week. That way you can incorporate the physical requirements into your gym and warm up routines, as well as in your game situations. By the end of the month you should have noticeably improved your side step and acceleration away from the side step. 

By noticeably I mean other people will be able to notice.

Yours in Speed

Rob Gascoyne

Football – It’s All In The Hips (part 1)

I was working with a tennis player this week who has a chronic groin problem. His lack of hip mobility means that, in order to make the shots he wants to, he has to compensate through his spine.

Ideally, his legs and footwork should get him to the shot, keeping perfect posture throughout the stroke. This perfect posture will keep his head still through the shot and enable him to see his opponents movements in his peripheral vision. Not only this, always having great postural alignment gives a consistent, repeatable technique that has optimal transfer of power from hips into the racket.

The tightness he has in his groin means he can’t sink his hips low enough to hit low volleys, half volleys and ground strokes correctly. To make up the deficit, he has to bend at the spine. This gets him close enough to play the shot.

The ramifications for this are huge. As his spine bends, the torso rotates differently which means his hands have to compensate and reach to make contact. In effect he’s inventing a new shot every time. Power is lost in the shot, and because his centre of gravity has shifted further towards the edge of his base of support, he is not as quick to recover. What’s most significant though is that, as his spine flexes and one shoulder drops, his head has moved with them and they are no longer level. This makes hand eye co-ordination less accurate and as he follows the ball, he loses sight of the other side of the court, and hence his opponent’s movements.

What the he’ll has any of this got to do with football?

It's nothing new. He knew what he was doing back in 1974

A change of direction in football – with or without the ball – poses the same problem. If you’re moving relatively quickly, you have to sink the hips to decelerate and change direction. Top players  will maintain an upright posture while doing this (Zinedine Zidane was fantastic at this so no excuses for you big guys).

This sinking of the hips means that you can keep a straight torso. This small difference allows you to keep your eye on the flow of the game while changing direction and losing your marker. Once the cutting movement is complete, because you’ve had your eyes on the game throughout the move, you”ve created the space needed and slot that incisive pass or drive into the available space.

Let’s now assume you have poor core strength and hip mobility. As you sink to change direction, your spine flexes and your head drops. Eyes are on the floor at this point. Not by choice but by physical necessity. As they slowly drag themselves out of the cut (trust me, you ARE slow if you aren’t dropping your centre of gravity low enough) you lift your head to look for your pass. For the next .2-.5 of a second your eyes are trying to catch up with the game. Then you find your man and start to make the pass. Too late, you need to push it again to create yourself a bit more space and the game moves on.

Without postural (pillar) strength and the necessary hip mobility you will always be playing 1-2secs behind the top players. Glass half empty

Work on your pillar strength and hip mobility and you will be able to play at a much higher standard than you currently are. Without feeling rushed.  Glass half full!

Don’t be silent. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Yours in speed


Is Your Strength Training Making You SLOW and Weak

Hey, I’ve been in the gym a lot recently and have seen some awful sights. So I wanted to put this post up about strength training and speed.

So increase the force and you increase the holy grail of sport speed, acceleration.

With that in mind, the gym must be the best place possible to get faster.

So, with Men’s Health in hand, you toddle off to the gym to get stronger. In all those magazines and Internet sites there’s plenty of information on how to lift weights to get faster. And don’t forget the core work to prevent injury.  
There’s a wealth of information out there on how to get strong. Nearly all of it based around the body building industry. Everyone at the gym is an expert. All the talk is about split routines, super sets, drop sets, German volume training etc.

When you think of a body builder, speed and agility isn’t the first thing that runs into your head is it.

Your body is really clever. When you stress it, it repairs itself a little bit stronger so that next time it can cope easier. The thing is, it’s so clever that this adaptation is very specific. In fitness jargon we call it Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. So if you stress your body with the bench press, your body will adapt to be stronger at the bench press. If your sport requires you to push something away while having a support behind your back then your quids in. Otherwise it’s of very little physical benefit.

But hey, your chest and arms look good, no?

It’s the ego that drives it, the same ego that drives us to be competitive. You want to see improvements in the mirror and improvements in the weights or reps. This means that exercises that co-ordinate and link several areas of the body – as they would be required to do in sport and life -are ignored, while adding weight and maxing out trumps movement technique.

What happens is you get very strong in poor movement patterns that don’t relate to your sport, in ever decreasing ranges of movement. Your body always prefers the way it’s strongest, so you will adopt the poor movements you’re encouraging in the gym. and you will eventually become weak outside these patterns. This leads to injury.

So what should you do? 

Perfect good movements. Once they are perfect (and only then) should you load this movement. If you load a poor movement, you’re gonna get hurt. Add load to the movement, then speed it up

 When you are developing a movement, repeat it and repeat it, but NEVER take it to fatigue. Lots of sets of low reps (3-5) is the way here. While you’re resting between sets, do some accessory exercises that may help the movement (e.g. for the squat you could incorporate a glute stretch and core firing) free up what’s stiff and fire up what’s weak/dormant.

At Speed Academy, I find that athletes get much faster purely by mastering the basic movements of squat, push and pull. No clever exercises or equipment. These are fundamental movements that your body needs to be able to do. Perfecting these clears up many dysfunctions and transfers well into sporting movements. Once we’ve established a perfect foundation, we can go from simple to complex, stable to unstable, controlled to explosive, body weight to external load.

Master the basics and lose the ego. I would always suggest you spend some time with a certified strength and conditioning coach to help you with technique. I don’t care if you can squat twice your bodyweight for 10reps. You’ll get huge benefit from clearing up your weaknesses and dysfunctions. You’ll move faster and with more power. Then start to loads it up again.

I’d like to hear any problems you may be having with your gym routines.Just drop your comments below and I’ll post the replies on here.

Yours in speed



How To Get Fast in 2 Weeks

For the past week, I’ve been working with a 20yr old rugby league forward. He needs to get ready for the upcoming pre-season and he hasn’t trained properly for 3months.

I only have 5 sessions in which to make a difference before he goes to his new club. What can be done in that time?

If I have him doing lots of running and circuit style workouts, how much fitter can I get him?

If I get him in the gym lifting heavy weights, how much stronger can I get him?

He needs to go to his new club and make a great first impression.

The first place to go, as always is to assess and find out where the brakes are. If we can remove the brakes, we instantly have a better moving athlete.

Create a good athlete and set the right mindset, then let the club’s pre- season training do the rest.

OK, so what was the main thing slowing him down?
– Lack of pelvic control
Because he doesn’t OWN his pelvis, he has a weak pillar ( torso), tight hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, leading to poor hip range of movement and his arms don’t really get involved in the running action.

Although he has very strong legs, the power is being
absorbed by the soft torso.

So his gym work is all about perfect posture and technique through increasing range of movement. No need for big weights as they can’t have enough effect in 2weeks. So a lot of technical coaching is required.

On the pitch, we’re working on acceleration. Long recoveries and very explosive. Due to his tight hips he was very effectively using a short pitter patter stride. So we’re focussing on applying maximal force through the floor for as long as possible with dynamic arm action and getting low.

I’ll update you with the results next week.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below. Have you ever had to get ready for something really quickly? How did you go about it?

Yours in speed


4 Things I Learned This Week

I don’t know about any of you guys, but this World Athletics Championships was the best in ages. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from it really. But for quality, competitiveness, and upsets, it was fantastic. So, I’m going back to my old sport for the first 3 items this week.

1/  If you want to be the best, plan long term, have faith in the plan, stick to it, and be patient.
Watching Sally Pearson we finally saw the fruition of a long term plan. She has been getting better and better every year. Technically she is sublime. head and shoulders above everybody else. That hard work on technique has allowed her to really test that technique with a winter of tough physical preparation to enhance her strength, speed and power. Listening to her interviews, you can tell that she believes in her training programme and that there was a long term plan.  Look for fireworks next year at the Olympics.

2/  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
 Mo Farrah has been world class for a few years mow, without actually threatening to win anything outside of Europe. If he wanted to beat the Kenyans, he decided he needed to train like them. When he went to Kenya on training camps, he found out that it was their lifestyle that allowed them to train so hard. They had no distractions from their devotion to excellence. But we kind of knew that already, that’s not what impressed me. 
Farrah also changed coaches to Alberto Salazar. This guy leaves no stone unturned. He insisted that Farrah worked on the way he used his arms. He wanted them more tucked in and linear. This way is more aerodynamic and didn’t waste energy on lateral/rotational movement. 

The result? A silver medal in the 10,000 and a gold in the 5,000. Not many coaches would have had the confidence to ask a world class athlete to change a technique that has been so successful. 

3/ Don’t believe the hype
Everyone said that Federer and Nadal were head and shoulders above everyone else.  Djokovic and Murray don’t have enough talent to make the jump. Well Mr Djokovic went away last winter and said pooh to talent. I’m just going to work my backside off on the areas where I fall short. 
BOOM! 3 majors in 1 year. Only 2 losses in all competitions.

First they said you had to be powerfully built with short limbs to be a top sprinter. Then came Usain Bolt. Then they say you have to be black. Well hello  Christophe LaMaitre. That tall skinny white guy just ran sub 10s and 19.8 for 200. He’s 22, only just started to lift weights and looks like a computer nerd. That skinny French kid picked up a medal at the world champs. This is not me being racist, it’s me being sick of people judging athletic ability purely on genetic background. Stuff what they say, if you believe you can, then get out there and prove them all wrong. Whoever THEY are.

4/ You can learn more from failure than success, so embrace it.
I thank my daughter Emily for this one. she got a new scooter for her 3rd birthday last week and is learning how to ride it.

Watching her is a lesson in how to fast track your learning curve. The last thing Emily will ever do is play it safe. It’s frightening to watch as a Dad, but she wants to go down the biggest hill as fast as possible and take the tightest corners at full speed (she’s not really sussed the brake yet). 

In short, she’s pushing the envelope. If she crashes – often – she knows that she went over her limit. But if she’s successful next time, she get a massive buzz. She’s improved. now what if she played it safe and was successful every time. She’d have a lot less bruises, but she doesn’t know if she’s improved or not. But most important of all, she’s missed out on that buzz that makes her hungry for more.

What’s inspired you this week?
Don’t forget to leave your comments at the bottom.

Yours in speed


How Fast Can You Stop?

Football, as well as rugby, basketball and other field and court sports require constant changes of direction throughout the match. Whether you are looking to gain space or tracking the movements of a your opponent, field athletes require both linear and multidirectional speed. This might surprise you, but in order to make any quick change of direction you first must slow down, or decelerate your body before you can speed up, or reaccelerate. The ability to quickly decelerate under control and then reaccelerate in a different direction can have a huge impact on your multi-directional speed.

In short, your effective speed on the pitch is determined by how quick you can stop.

 The ability to stop quickly is just as valuable as reaching top speed rapidly. Imagine a winger being chased by a defensive player—both running step for step. The winger brakes and stops completely in two steps, while the defensive back has to take three steps. At that point, the winger has changed direction and has time to either accelerate away or pick the right pass. He shed the defender thanks to his deceleration ability – not his speed.

Even if you’re much quicker than your opponent, how hard is it to actually run away from him?  But if you can stop one step quicker and remain balanced, you’re off into the gap while he’s still scrambling. How cool would that be?

There’s no need to disguise it because he has to follow you. But he physically can’t stay with you when you cut. So, he needs to either give you more space, or he needs cover. Both create gaps.

Top people at this are Lionel Messi, Rob Burrows and Jason Robinson. All can create space from nothing and are a defender’s nightmare. If you work on nothing else on your speed and agility, work on deceleration. It wins games. 

Deceleration, just like anything to do with speed, is a skill. That means you need to practice it regularly to groove the patterns. 10mins of focussed training, 2-3 times per week will produce vast improvements.

Top tip – practice decelerating in all conditions and wheathers. When the wheather gets wet, treat it as an opportunity to get an edge. Trust me, if you can stop quickly in the mud, you’re in for a great game.

Please don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Yours in speed


Are You Ready For Pre-season?

It’s pre-season again – You Ready?

No, I mean really ready.

Have you set your goals for the season? By that I mean personal goals that you actually have influence over, not team goals.

If you’re on this site, then you obviously want to get faster, right?

Well then how are you going to do that and how do you decide if you’ve achieved it or not? 

You may want to play 50games. That means not getting injured. How are you going to go about that?

It may be more game specific. If you’re a full back, you might look to reduce the amount of completed crosses put in from your wing. What do you need to improve on to acieve this?

Pre-season is the time to really work on these areas. Will those 10mile runs and 100 press ups get you closer to your goal? Really?

So you now have these goals for this season. What the hell are you going to do about it? Do you think your team coach will gear the pre-season training sessions specifically with you in mind?

I’m afraid you’re going to have to do something that will take you right out of your comfort zone. Football is a team sport, and the difficult thing for mediocre players is to take accountability for themselves. Are you one of those?

 Albert Einstein believed that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing but expect a different result.

Mr Einstein, now he was a clever bloke.

Are you going to do the same as last year and hope that the gaffer might come up with something miraculous in training that will turn you into a star?

Or are you going to leave nothing to chance and plan your own route to success?

But let’s go back to our Albert shall we? What you’ve been doing hasn’t been getting you the results you desire – or you wouldn’t be here:)

Keep an eye on this area over the coming weeks. I’ll be posting weekly articles on game specific speed development and physical preparation. I may upset a few people and completelycontradict what you’ve been taught about speed training for years.

Yours in speed

Rob Gascoyne

What’s wrong with modern training?

I want to share with you, an article written by Vern Gambetta. Vern is based in America and has been one of the most influential coaches in athletic development today.

When this guy talks, successful coaches listen. So should you.

What he highlights is the whole reason why many football coaches are wary of the gym. And you know what, I don’t blame them.

But hey, strength training doesn’t have to be about the body building stuff you see in the mags.

Take it away Vern. 
ACL Tears in Female Athletes – The Problem & Some Solutions

This article and some of the information (misinformation) in article in Sunday New York Times sports page is disturbing. The topic of the female athlete and ACL injuries is complex and sometimes controversial. It is a real problem and a crisis given the economic and human cost.
Let’s look at a couple of the points of emphasis in the article and then I will look a bit more globally and offer some solutions.
The following is often offered up as a solution to prevent ACL injuries: “bend at the hips and knees to softly absorb the load, keeping their knees behind the toes, striking the ground toe to heel.” Watch a game or practice you will see it is impossible to keep the knees behind the toes and still play the game. You may do it a completely controlled artificial environment, but in the real world at game speed the knee will go where it has to go. It will go into extreme valgus and varus positions. The knee will go way out beyond the toe. The key is that the knee goes where it needs to go with control. As far as foot strike, it is completely dictated by the movement requirement, landing from a rebound could be a different foot strike than on planting and cutting. This strategy will robotize the player by taking instinctual and reflexive movements and making them cognitive, conscious and mechanical. In my opinions (I emphasize it is my opinion) we may actually be predisposing the athlete to injury with these types of prevention programs. It is certainly not time well spent.
Here is another solution from the article: “The knee should be in a neutral position; ideally, … said, the center of the kneecap should be aligned with the second toe.” Neutral is a position the knee passes through in a millisecond. In an artificial controlled environment you may be able to align the kneecap with the second toe, but it won’t happen at the speed you must play in order to be able to execute jumps, stops, starts and turns. It is a dynamic, ballistic environment that is not sterile and controlled. Once again the result will be robotic movement.
The information in both quotes represents what is thought to be cutting edge research, but it does not represent what must be done in the real world in the competitive arena. These types of so-called prevention programs and strategies are fundamentally unsound. If in doubt my rule of thumb is to go back to common sense. If these strategies worked then why aren’t they preventing ACL tears? Everyone is doing some variation of these programs; in some cases devoting up to thirty minutes a day to them, still the rate of ACL tears has not dropped, if anything it has increased.
It begs a simple question: Do these players have the physical competencies and fundamental movement skills necessary to compete? We know they have the basketball, soccer, or specific sport skill, but do they have the underlining physical competencies and movement skills to give them a fair change to avoid injury? Part of the solution is quite simple – identify and assess the physical competencies. Then train those competencies in parallel to the sport skill. The dark hole is what is being done in the off-season, preseason and in- season in regard to strength training. In many situations strength training is only done in the off-season, reduced in pre-season and almost nonexistent in-season.
For the female athlete a commitment to year around strength training is a requirement, not an option. It must continue in-season through the championship season. Unlike her male counterpoint that has a great percentage of muscle mass and higher testosterone levels, the female cannot afford to take off from strength training. Obviously the greatest investment should be on leg strength. The great majority of ACL tears are noncontact and in most of those cases they are a deceleration injuries (As are ankle sprains). It stands to reason then that we should focus on training the decelerators. Stop focusing on the knee and think kinetic chain, emphasize the linkage of ankle, knee, hip and the trunk. The knee is stuck in the middle; it is at the mercy of the joints above and below.
The sports that put the knee at greatest risk are sports that require quick starts, stops and changes of direction off one leg onto the other leg. This  dictates that the training emphasize work on one-leg and reciprocal movements. The single leg squat is the cornerstone (True single leg squat, not some of the permutations labeled as such), lunges in all planes and step-ups at various heights. Double leg squats are important, starting with bodyweight and progressing to appropriate loads based on developmental level and sport demands.
Dynamic balance should be part of daily warm-up, as should a mini band routine to work the intrinsic muscles of the hip. Once a foundation of leg strength is established then progressively add agility work that starts with known programmed movements and progresses to random chaotic movements. Incorporate jump rope as a means to teach good coordination and foot strike. Progress to multi dimensional jumps and hops.
The clincher here is that this must be systematically addressed in the female athlete starting just before puberty. Think of it as preparation to play the game that runs parallel to skill development. In most cases it should slightly precede skill development. The two must go hand in glove, not either or. The functionally strong young female athlete will be more receptive to skill learning and be better able to apply the skills to the game. TRAIN TO PLAY, DON”T PLAY TO TRAIN!
Select movements that link and connect the ankle/knee and hip as a functional unit to reduce and produce force. Include exercises that have a high proprioceptive demand. Above all train on your feet! A simple rule of thumb, if you lying prone or supine or seated you are not preparing to attenuate the ground reaction forces that are demanded in the game. You must train with you feet on the ground to effectively learn to shock absorb and use the ground.
Don’t say it can’t be done, it can. It takes organization, focus and commitment. You don’t need a lot of equipment or huge time blocks. You need to be consistent and relentless. Training can be done anywhere; it can be on the field or on the court if necessary. Apply the  “weight room without walls” concept. Make it challenging mentally and physically to prepare for the stress of competition. The bottom line is that to prevent ACL tears you must train the body for the rigors of competition. The prevention program should be a transparent component of training.

Hi, it’s me again. 

Your body needs to be prepared to go into all sorts of positions and get itself out of them safely. That means you need to have been there before – many times.
But it’s something you must progress your training towards. Let’s face it, getting injured in training is pretty stupid, no?

As always, leave your comments below, I’m always interested in what you think. If the interest’s there, I may do a post on bullet-proof knees.

Yours in speed


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