Youth Performance Testing Competition

THE 2016 SPEED ACADEMY COMBINE!

 

 

Agility Test

Flooded pitches!      

              

Cancelled matches!          

          

Cancelled training!

 

Would your season benefit from a boost of intensity?

The NFL Combine takes place every February to showcase all the up and coming talent in American Football. 

So, on 31st January, I’m organising The Speed Academy Combine in Horsforth!

Open to young athletes from all sports, it will be a series of sports specific tests to see who’s got it and who hasn’t. 

  • SPEED – 10m Sprint (electronically timed – the only way this can be timed)

  • AGILITY – Illinois Agility Test (again, electronically timed)

  • POWER – Standing Long Jump (reliable measure of explosiveness)

  • STRENGTH – Pull Up, Press Up and 1 Leg Squat (very reliable tests of strength to weight)

  • ENDURANCE – Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (more sport specific than the bleep test)

Train hard for each event and reinvigorate your season!

 

SUNDAY 31ST JAN 2:30PM

 

This unique event replicates many of the tests used by the very top professional academies in rugby, football and the EIS.

It is a massive opportunity for young sports people to work hard on certain universal sports skills and pit their abilities with friends, teammates and athletes from other sports.

This testing event will highlight where they are strong and what needs attention.

WINNERS?

Each test has a scoring structure, a bit like the decathlon in athletics. The athlete with the highest total in the 2 age categories (11-13 and 14-16) will receive 1 term FREE membership to Speed Academy (value up to £175) or a half day Speed Camp for their team (value up to £300).

There will also be on the spot prizes of training apparel for outstanding individual performances.

LOSERS?

There are no losers.

If you find that your athleticism is holding you back, then you’re in the right place. That’s what we do!

WHEN?         Sun 31st January 2016     2:30pm-5pm 

WHERE?      White Rose Crossfit, Lister Hill, Horsforth

WHO?           Male and females aged 11 to 16

HOW MUCH?     £10 –  £7 before 22nd Jan  

 

Maximum 30 Places!

 

SIGN UP HERE!

Back To School, Back To Basics – Part 1

Back to schoolOr in the case of my daughter Emily, 1st day at school.  She took it all in her stride, as did all her friends at the gate. It’s us parents who get all worked up about it.

As far as young athletes are concerned, this is massive for them. It’s their New Year. A time for a clean slate and new beginnings.

Whatever their goal, making the school or representative team, last season is forgotten. Some kids come back from the summer holidays looking, sounding and moving completely differently. Like some one stuck them in a grow bag and fed them steroids for 6 weeks. With some, the transformation is huge. Others may appear to have been left behind.

In a time of new beginnings, there can be a tendency for coaches to introduce the new stuff they learned over the summer. Big mistake. That’s basing training on what THEY want rather than what their athletes need.

This is the perfect opportunity to strip things right back to basics.

Ensure the foundations are solid so that when you introduce the sexy new drills in later, it’s easier to coach.

Let’s step into the kid’s shoes for a minute, you’ve been given a new body that’s bigger, stronger and more powerful than the previous one. Chances are it’ll take a while to get the hang of it. Going back to basics is a chance for the coach to see where everyone is at and for the athletes to get to grips with their longer limbs. [Read more…]

Reduce Injuries This Preseason

Is it really August already?
I can’t believe the Football League has already started with the Premiership to follow.
For most amateur football and rugby clubs, it’s pre-season time.
Everyone’s excited about the season ahead. It’s a clean slate. You just want to get pre-season out of the way and start playing.
Everybody dreads pre-season. It’s those never ending running sessions. The endless press ups, burpees, piggy backs and anything else the coach can think of in order to break the players. Some coaches even take pride in the fact they made players throw up.
The only guarantee are the injuries. Why do we do it?
Coaches tend to blame the players for not looking after themselves.
Whereas players blame the coach for the torturous training sessions.
Both have a point.
I have a problem with the way pre-season is generally done.
Traditionally, the idea is to build a broad platform of general fitness to then get more specific, using matches in the latter stages to get match sharpness. Most coaches and players would agree that the only way to get ‘match fit’ is to play matches.
Is that the only way? Or just the way it’s always been?

[Read more…]

Youth Training Tip No 1

Youth Training Tree Climb

Do Something Different This Summer

The football and rugby seasons are over. The best thing a young athlete can do to improve their football or rugby is to do no football or rugby.

Yes, that’s right NONE.

Their body needs a break from the repetitive movements of the sport which can lead to overuse injuries in growing bodies – as an aside, if your child has had a none contact injury then this is paramount as it should never happen.

The summer is an opportunity for them to move up to the next level. Do you think that will happen if they keep doing the same thing?  Would you want your school to ONLY teach Maths or English in the hope to make the kids fantastic at those subjects alone? Young bodies as well as young brains need to be challenged. They also need variety to prevent burnout, both mental, physical and emotional.

All the top sports stars are great all round athletes. Look at Michael Jordan who had a dabble with baseball, Roger Federer who’s quite handy at football (as is Andy Murray), Gary Lineker had to choose between football and cricket.

When the focus is purely on one sport, the athletic foundation of that child will be narrow. Meaning the height of possible performance will be reduced. Challenges are few. With fewer challenges, they will not be able to fulfill their potential.

On the other hand, if that child were challenged on areas of weakness or different movement patterns, they will return to the sport a stronger, more capable athlete. More than that though, their attitude to their chosen sport will be enhanced for the break.

Tennis and other racket sports challenge the upper body in ways that football and rugby can’t. Working on striking movements, hand eye co-ordination, lateral footwork, torso strength and linking upper and lower body.

Cricket involves powerful throwing actions and again, striking. Track and field offers a world of opportunity to get faster and stronger. All these summer sports truly complement the winter ones.

On top of this, climbing trees, swinging on ropes and just free play will improve strength, balance and body awareness.

Summer. Use this time well and you’ll really see a forward leap next season.

Are You Training Or Developing?

If you want your young players to fulfil their potential and get maximum enjoyment out of sport, you need a developmental system. 
  
Training for speed regardless of the sport, has to be developmental in nature.
  
With younger athletes (6 – 9 years old) training for speed is a matter of allowing them to explore various aspects of movement from a self-learning perspective. Remember that it’s not about trying to make them fast NOW. 

Think of lifetime performance potential as a pyramid. These early years are where the base is set. You will never have another chance to lay this foundation, so if you want to build high in the future, you’d better start broad.

As a Coach or Trainer, the objective is to create games, drills or situations that provide this broad-base of movement. The central nervous system is very plastic at this stage, so the more different situations and challenges you expose them to, the more ‘memories’ are created in the nervous system, thus providing a broader base from which to work. 

By limiting the stimulation of movements to one sport, you are narrowing the base of their foundation. Running, jumping, landing, skipping, hopping, crawling, balancing, reaching, throwing, catching, striking, pushing, pulling, bending, manipulating. It’s important that they are exposed to all these movements regularly in a challenging environment where they have to figure it out for themselves. Playing football all year round will lead to a very narrow base. You may have a very good junior player who may even get into an academy. But with such a narrow foundation, the height of the performance pyramid has been limited. 

The result is that many get frustrated and drop out of sport as they become less dominant figures. The ones that stick at it end up being injury prone. 
  
It is important to resist the urge to ‘over-teach’ or ‘make perfect’ the way youngsters are performing these skills. Babies go from lying on their backs to crawling then walking and running in a logical progression without any input from a coach. They’re very good at working things out for themselves. A coach’s role is to inspire in them the desire to learn.

Young nervous systems must be given the opportunity to learn through a trial and error process, what quality movement feels like. 
  
With pre-adolescent athletes, training efforts can become more teaching based. The focus will shift to honing movement habits and and putting into more complex scenarios. a strength component should be introduced here to facilitate the skill progression. This is important to understand. We are not trying to get really strong or build muscle. Pillar/core strength is of utmost importance to make skill progression a smooth process. It allows for better manipulation of their centre of mass (agility) and control over limbs.

Eventually as we reach 14-18 there will be more repetition of specific skills and they can be made much more sport specific. The ability to reproduce the skills under the pressure of higher speeds, loads and fatigue need to be introduced.
  
Do not be fooled into thinking that young athletes and more mature athletes can learn the skills associated with speed & agility in the same way. Programming must have a plan. 

There’s a reason they don’t teach Shakespear in Primary school. Speed and athletic development is no different.

Yours in speed

Rob

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD IN SPEED TRAINING?

I was reading an article by an American sprints coach called Latif Thomas. And whereas I don’t coach track and field, what he said resonated with me. The main crux of this article was that there is one thread that runs through all our training. And without constantly referring back to that thread, those different areas of training become disparate and fail to transfer to improvements in speed.

I was going to rewrite the article with my own spin for multi directional speed training rather than just sprinting. But I think it’s better that Latif should take all the credit.

Besides, he says it much better. Even with the track focus, you can easily transfer the information to multi directional sports.
Take it away Latif:

“Our athletes will be faster when they develop this quality.
Our athletes will be more explosive and powerful when they develop this quality.
Our athletes will be on the board (instead of over and behind) and won’t trip over hurdles (or themselves) when they develop this quality.
Our athletes will consistently hit their times during tempo runs and race modeling sessions once they develop more of this quality.
So, if all I’ve said here is true, then what is the most important word in all of speed training?

Coordination.

Everything we do in practice is designed to improve the ability to express technique in order to positively influence performance. An athlete’s inability to express said technique simply boils down to lack of specific coordination.
Of course, I didn’t invent this concept. I heard Gary Winckler (coach to Alyson Felix, Olympic 200m champion – Rob) talk about it. Then I thought about it. Then I stole it. Now here we are.

Here’s an example. Last week I ran the exact same workout with two different athletes.

One was a 16 year old high schooler with a 200m PR of 26.1. The other was a 22 year old post collegiate with a 200m PR of 24.7.
The high schooler has been doing consistent technical work all summer and fall, going back and forth between me and another great sprints coach, Marc Mangiacotti.

In our last session, she looked incredible. Her bad runs are now vastly superior to what good runs looked like in June. She can break down her own technique before I say anything which, to me, is a sign of wildly improved kinesthetic awareness and skill acquisition. Her confidence is light years ahead of where it was 6 months ago. I’m very proud of her and can’t wait to see her reap the rewards of her hard work.

The post collegiate, on the other hand, comes from a (Division I) college program that did absolutely no technical work, no speed work and sent 200m specialists out for 30 minute runs on a routine basis even in the middle of the competitive phase. She came from a good high school program (cough, cough), so that’s roughly the last time this athlete had good technical instruction (a 25.02 HS PR vs 24.71 collegiate PR is not a comforting improvement over the course of 4 years at the D-1 level).

Needless to say, this athlete was some sort of Hot Mess. She could feel it wasn’t right.

It wasn’t lack of effort or focus. And it sure wasn’t lack of ability. It was pure lack of coordination.

She lacked (’lost’ might be a better word) the strength (coordination training under resistance), endurance (coordination training under event specific time constraints), speed (coordination training to express highest force in the least amount of time and resulting in optimal displacement) and mobility (coordination training to dynamically express forces through desired/required ranges of motion) to accelerate to top speed and maintain that velocity with any semblance of efficiency or consistency of execution.

Once she acquires the coordination that the high schooler currently possesses, I know one thing for sure, she won’t be grinding to dip under the times she ran when she was 16.

My point is pretty simple. If you want to run a 21st Century program, it’s not enough to just run fast in practice. As coaches we have to have our own process for solving the acceleration equation. And, just as importantly, we have to be able to help our athletes solve it themselves. Because we can’t cue them or engage in technical feedback once the gun goes off. Their success fundamentally depends on the ability to feel what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and make corrections in real time, under the stress of competition and with 6-7 other athletes trying to beat them. Or with a crowd of people staring at them while they barrell down the runway.

It’s not enough to send kids into the weight room if you don’t have the same technical standards for a squat or clean as you do for coming out of blocks or doing phase work in the triple jump.

But if you reframe your training perspective with coordination being the ultimate goal and strength, speed, endurance and mobility being interdependent qualities, it will be easier to connect the dots between movements, event groups and specific skill development.”

OK, I’m back. Thanks Latif. Those Americans are good at self promotion aren’t they?

So what am I trying to get across with this?

Any body who has worked with me knows that I will not let poor technique go unchecked. In the weights room, it’s not just about shifting heavy loads. We want to understand what good movement feels like and how, when we have good movement, the force you can create is greater with more control and less stress.

In movement training, if we can hit the positions correctly, movement is much more fluid and effortless. What are the standout characteristics of the world’s best players? Fluid and Effortless. 

Fitness conditioning is about maintaining technique while resisting fatigue. 

By focussing on coordination you get a better understanding of what good a nd poor movement feels like. With this quality you can self correct. An essential ability to have once the whistle goes and there’s no coaching instructions to prompt you.

In your next practice, perform all your drills and exercises with this concept of ‘coordination as the ultimate goal’ in mind. It will be both liberating and overwhelming at the same time. Ask the coach how they want you to move. What should it look like? Get them to break the movement patterns down and demonstrate perfect technique (if they can). 

Slow it down, try different ways and see how they feel. Ask for coaching feedback. Only when you’re happy that you’ve mastered the technique should you then start to speed it up. If you haven’t learned something in your session, then it was pointless.

Yours in speed

Rob 

10 ACCELERATION TIPS FOR IMPROVING GAME SPEED

10 TIPS FOR FASTER ACCELERATION 

The ability to accelerate into space or away from defenders is a devastating skill to have. Instantly the opposition treat you differently because this kind of pace is hard to handle. 

Somebody with a high top end speed will just be marked closely and not allowed the space to get up to speed.

A player who can accelerate from a stand-still is much more of a handful. Get too close and they’ll leave you for dead. All they have to do is get you to commit one way and BANG they’re gone the other way. 

The key to rapid acceleration isn’t genetic (good genetics increase your potential but don’t guarantee good mechanics) it’s technique. I’m going to give you 10 ways you can begin to improve your acceleration now. If you improve 5% in each area imagine the difference that will make to your speed.

These are not in any particular order, but if you don’t do number 1, the rest will prove much more difficult if not impossible.

1. GET A MOVEMENT SCREEN
No, really. This is the most important thing you can do when approaching any kind of performance enhancement. 

The way you move is dictated by your history. 12yrs of sitting 5hrs a day at school takes it’s toll. As do any previous injuries, repetitive movements and poor coaching. There’s an underlying reason why you run the way you do.

Over the years, you’ve most likely developed various movement dysfunctions and/or asymmetries. Putting more force through a faulty mechanism will only lead to breakdown. 

Getting a movement screen will highlight anything that will cause you to compensate and move inefficiently. You can then correct these areas and it will be like taking your car in for a full service. All movements will be smoother, balanced and more efficient. The key attributes of speed.

Seek out a recommended strength and conditioning coach or sports physiotherapist who offer some kind of systematic movement screen. Ideally, I look for those certified in the Functional Movement Screen, or Kinetic Chain Assessment as they a robust systems providing reliable information.

2.  TAKE THE BRAKES OFF

So you’ve had your movement screen. It should have highlighted issues that are slowing you down. By applying a corrective programme you will mobilise areas that have become tight and activate muscles that were dormant. 

Do you think McClaren would send out a car that had a sloppy clutch, buckled wheel and warped brakes? 

Is it a good idea to increase engine power before dealing with these fundamental problems? 

To achieve an effective acceleration position you need sufficient mobility in the ankles, hips, rib cage and shoulders. To maintain those movements, you need to make sure there is good energy transfer from feet to hips and hips to shoulders.

Corrective exercise shouldn’t be viewed as injury prevention, it will actually vastly improve performance in itself. As well as allow greater power to be transferred through the system.

There’s no such thing as injury prevention work or prehab. Just good training. By improving the movement system, you move more easily with less resistance.

3. STRENGTHEN YOUR PILLAR

The core is a very ambiguous term. Most people tend to think of it as just the abdominal area. I prefer the term trunk to cover the whole area from the shoulder blades to the pelvis inclusive. Even better is the concept of the pillar I learned from Athletes Performance. This helps us envisage how we want it to operate – as a strong, sturdy support that all other strength is built around.

If every ounce of force you put through the ground is going to move you forward, then the pillar had better transfer that energy like a golf ball rather than a squash ball. All force is generated from and transferred through the pillar. So it had better be strong.

OK, when I say strong, I don’t mean cover model abs. Exercises where the trunk resists force rather than creates force are the order of the day here. Sit ups, crunches, side bends and like are exercises that flex the trunk. 

This will make you strongest in a flexed posture. This will lead to shoulder and neck tension when you run. It’s also a major cause of sports hernia. You want to avoid torso movement in sport, so that’s what you train for.

Exercises I use include various styles of crawling, single arm pushes and pulls, cable chops and lifts. You want to progress the exercise to finally perform them all in am upright, standing position. As you would be in your sport.

Sprinting places huge forces on the pillar in all directions. Deceleration and direction change even more. You cannot be too strong in this area.  

4. SINGLE LEG STRENGTH

Squats and deadlifts have their place, but the weakest link in acceleration tends to be the feet, hip and pelvic stabilisers. Applying force through one leg is very different to doing it through two. In your sport, how often are you on two feet?

Do a 2 footed jump as high as you can. Now do the same on one leg. Swap legs.

Was there a difference on one leg than two? 
How about the difference left to right?

Start practicing split squats and lateral squats TODAY! Perfect the technique with body weight only rather than add weight. Only add weight when you can still perform the exercise perfectly. If the hip or knee deviates, or you can’t relax your feet, regress the exercise.

5.  GET COMFORTABLE LEANING FORWARD

Many of the players I work with stand up vertical straight away when accelerating. This is the equivalent of attaching a parachute to your back. You can’t generate force from an upright position. 

Acceleration should feel like a perpetual fall. Your body will automatically rise as your speed increases. This does not mean look at the floor! You can’t see the game if you’re looking at the floor.

The causes of this problem are 1) Weak pillar (we’re dealing with that right?) or 2) fear of falling.

Use Wall Drills to get used to being in a leaning position:
Stand facing a wall at arms length with your hands on the wall at shoulder height.
Take 2 small steps back so you have about 50* lean.
Feet together.
Create a straight line head to heel, thighs and Glutes squeezed and chest lifted up through your biceps.
Now lift your right knee into a sprint position while keeping perfect alignment.
Push the wall away, do not lean on the wall!
Hold this position for 20secs the swap sides.

Sled or partner pushes allow you to get used to driving the ground away forcefully while keeping your acceleration lean.

Hill sprints bring the lean to you (see no. 7). Gradually reduce the incline as you get more accustomed to leaning.
 
6. DRIVE BACK AND DOWN

Many people reach forward and focus too much on driving their knees in front of them. Instead, focus on driving the knees back and down. Don’t worry about knee lift, that will just happen.

Drive the knees like pistons from the hips. Don’t be polite with this. The force created from hip to knee is the force that goes through the floor. The greater the force, the faster you move.

Pillar marches are a great tool for drilling in that knee drive and for firing up the Glutes and hamstrings prior to acceleration work. 

7. HILL SPRINTS

The benefit of hills is that they bring the angle of lean to you. Great if you don’t have the luxury of push sleds and harnesses.

A short sharp hill of about 10% will allow you to focus on the driving back and down in a leaning position. 

6-10 reps of 10-15m is ideal.
These are explosive so take 1-2min between sprints. This is technique work remember. Not fitness.

8. PUSH AS MUCH GROUND AWAY AS POSSIBLE

Fast feet does not equal fast acceleration. Tap dancers have fast feet, but they don’t get anywhere. We want force through the floor, lifting the foot off too soon will reduce force massively. 

Acceleration is the opposite of top end speed. You actually want to keep the foot on the ground as long as possible (as long as it’s pushing maximally).

All the time you’re pushing through the floor, you’re accelerating and the last 15 degrees of extension are the most powerful (which part of the squat are you strongest, the bottom or the top?). 

When driving out, think push, push, push. Try to make the stride as long as possible. But by pushing, not reaching.

9. WARM UP FOR SPEED

This sounds obvious, but your body must be fully ready to move fast through large ranges of movement. The warm up isn’t just about raiding body temperature. 

You need to ensure you have full range of motion, the sleepy muscles are activated, 
the muscles, nervous and energy systems are primed. It should flow seamlessly and take you from doing nothing to maximal performance without fatiguing.

Ours looks like this:
Soft Tissue Work (optimise tissue quality)
Active Isolated Stretching (remove the brakes)
Muscle Activation (fire up dormant muscles)
Dynamic Mobility (show the body the positions you require of it)
Integrated Movement (put it all together with rehearsal of good movement patterns)
CNS Stimulation (get nervous system up to speed)

10. WATCH THAT 2ND AND 3RD STEP

This is the one that pops you up. Trying to over stride or stopping yourself from falling will cause you to put your foot in front of your hips. The foot will land flat and put the brakes on instantly. You also run the risk of pulling a hammy doing this.

Focus on the knees driving like pistons and keep pushing the ground away. If it scares you, you got it right. You will feel no resistance and it may feel easy.

The key to remember about acceleration, If it feels slow, it’s usually fast.

Yours in speed

Rob

IS YOU WARM UP LEAVING YOU SLOW?

The job of the warm up is to turn you from a sedentary being (usually having just stepped out of a car) and turn you into a high performance animal. No mean feat!

Before we go into what needs to be achieved in a warm up, we’ll tackle what is being carried out by most teams across the country. Traditionally, warm ups for sport and training have contained the 2 following components:

  1. General warm up – to raise body temperature
  2. Static stretching  – to increase muscle length

Let’s look at them individually.

1.  The general warm up usually consists of a 10-15min jog round the pitch. In the gym it might be carried out on a bike/rower/treadmill, whatever is handy or the athlete likes. No real thought goes into that then.

Now, there’s actually very little wrong with the jog as a general rule. The desired outcome of raising the body’s internal temperature is effectively achieved. However, it doesn’t achieve anything else in preparation for the movement and energy system demands to come. It’s not a particularly effective use of the first 10-15% of your session.

2.  Static stretching sends the signal to the central nervous system to “shut this tightness off”. This causes the body to relax ad release the muscles. In so doing, neural activity is reduced for up to 2hrs and studies have shown strength and power to be reduced by between 5 and 30%. This is not ideal preparation for explosive movement. Post workout? Absolutely, as it normalises tissue length, calms the nervous system and restores structural balance.

This tends to last about 20mins before going into a more specific part of the warm up. Rather than setting you up for optimal performance, it leaves you with diminished power and strength potential for a length of time that will last the whole session. Plus it’s all a bit, well, sedentary really and absolutely nothing has resembled the movements you’re about to ask of your body.

Finally, do you find that you have to switch your mind from warm up mode to game/training mode? Yes? Then it doesn’t challenge or stimulate you enough to get your mind focussed. SO you are neither mentally or physically ready for performance. Remember, you are what you repeatedly do. If you are regularly training at less than optimal intensity/speed, then that’s all you can expect come match day.

So what CAN be achieved in a 20min warm up? Firstly, The name “warm up” implies that it does just that. Warm you up. What we really want to do is to prepare the body for the specific movements to follow in the session.

 

MOVEMENT PREPARATION

An efficient, systematic and purposeful approach used to prepare the individual for the specific demands of the day’s training sessions or competition.

Prior to Movement Preparation, all athletes at Speed Academy have undergone 7-10mins of Pillar Preparation involving soft tissue work, active stretching and muscle activation techniques focusing on identified dysfunctions, limitations and weaknesses. In a team setting it is the individual’s responsibility to carry this out prior to going out on to the pitch.

Then we move on to Movement Prep

There are 4 components of Movement Prep:

1)      Glute Activation

2)      Dynamic Flexibility

3)      Movement Skills Integration

4)      Neural Activation

 

GLUTE ACTIVATION

A massive problem with many athletes is that their glutes are often “shut off” through poor posture and repeated or lengthy sitting. The gluteal or bum muscles are the power source for the legs and are vital for multi-directional speed. We also know from our physiotherapy friends, that weak or inactive glutes lead to a variety of soft tissue problems such as hamstring and groin strains as well as further down the chain to chronic and acute knee injuries.

We use various types of mini-band walks to fire up the glutes while moving in a sporting position. Muscle activation in movement is dictated by proprioceptive feedback and movement intent. It should be reactive and automatic. Just squeezing the muscle doesn’t carry over to movement, just as firing a muscle from a prone position on the floor will not activate the muscle to work while in a standing position.. The muscle firing patterns when lying on the floor is very different to standing. Gravity can be such a pain sometimes.

Exercise Examples:

  • Lateral Walks in Athletic Base Position (band round knees or ankles)
  • Hip External Rotation in Athletic Base Position (band round knees)

 

DYNAMIC FLEXIBILITY

Here we move actively through various movement patterns specific to the training demands of the day. This provides us with active elongation of the muscles and active mobility of the joints. Any range of movement improvement is usable because it is task specific.

These exercises or movements are a rehearsal of the fundamental movement patterns and sequencing relative to the work to be done. If you don’t perform them well, on the field, movement will be poor.

Examples:

  • Lateral Squats
  • Lateral Lunge
  • Drop Lunge

 

MOVEMENT INTEGRATION

This now builds on the movement pattern efficiency where we progressively increase the force and velocity. We also progress from simple movement patterns to complex movement skills (depending on skill level of the athlete). Here we are looking for complete mastery of movement skills apparent in the training programme.

Examples:

  • Lateral Pillar March
  • Lateral Pillar Skip

 

NEURAL ACTIVATION

We are now almost ready to start. If the tempo was right, athletes should be breathing heavily, sweating and feeling like they’re already mid-workout. Now we put the cherry on the top to optimise performance. We need to prime the nervous system to work at optimal speed. We want very quick, short bursts of controlled movement.

Rapid jumps from an athletic position or 2” runs work well here. Bursts last about 3 seconds only. Long enough to fire up, short enough to prevent fatigue.

Examples:

  • Rapid Response Hip Turns
  • Rapid Response 2” Run

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WARMING UP THIS WAY?

  • Gradually increases core temperature; this helps with

  1. blood flow
  2. tissue elasticity
  3. range of motion
  • Muscle Activation

  1. Improves body awareness and control
  2. Improves self correction
  3. Decreases injury potential via better mechanics
  • Actively elongates muscle –  strengthening and lengthening

  • Creates Integrated Stability through

  1. Engaging key stabilisers of the trunk in multi-joint movement
  2. Decreases energy leaks – improved power transfer
  • Engrains Good Movement Patterns

  1. Repetitive ritual
  2. Unloaded so none fatiguing
  3. Covers all planes of motion through full range
  4. Provides coaching opportunities to focus on quality and set tone for session
  • Nervous System Activation

  1. Sharpens nervous system and prepares to respond quickly
  2. Elasticity (reactivity)
  3. Challenges dynamic mobility and stability

 

The time spent on movement prep should depend on the needs and ability of the athlete along with the needs of training today. There should be 2-4 exercises in each phase, depending on the needs of the athlete and the demands of the session, lasting anything from 10-25mins.

You should now be ready to go into your plyometric drills, specific movement skills work or pre-match drills.

 

Olympic Legacy – Are We Just Chancing It?

Early Sport Specific Training Allied To An Otherwise Sedentary Lifestyle Is Leading To Chronic Injury And Unfulfilled Potential In Our Young Athletes.

 

The next generation of sports stars may have been inspired by the amazing performances at the Olympics, but long periods of sitting and the health and safety police mean they stand no chance in the world of elite and professional sport.

 

This is compounded by early sport specialisation that is being promoted by sporting governing bodies to ensure that the best athletes aren’t lost to other sports. Repetitive movements lead to asymmetries, inhibited movement ability and pattern overload leading to chronic muscular/joint conditions.

 

Despite the fact that success in football and rugby is heavily reliant on athleticism, very little emphasis is placed in the coaching curriculum on developing good mechanics in acceleration, deceleration, changes of direction and athletic body positioning. While lip service is paid to Istvan Balyi’s recommendations on Long Term Athlete Development, how many coaches out there has the skill and knowledge to be able to correct a player who is off balance when decelerating? It’s not the coach’s fault. He can probably see the problem, but no amount of cueing will get a body to hit a position that it doesn’t have the physical capabilities for.

 

What does the coach do? Shout the cues louder? Accept that the kid is not going to make it?

 

Relying on “natural talent” coming through will provide an ever decreasing pool in years to come.

 

In previous generations, schools and sports clubs didn’t need to teach these qualities because they were  developed through general play. However thanks to the health and safety police, along with the fear of expensive law suits, climbing trees, jumping off high walls, British Bulldog, playground skipping and evasion games have become, in the main, extinct.

 

Our children have replaced running, jumping, throwing, dodging, landing, cycling, pushing and pulling with sitting, slouched over a pc or x-box.

 

When they aren’t doing this, they are playing or training for their chosen sport. The training at sports clubs tends to be focussed more on doing things more or faster than doing it better. So movement quality always gets compromised. Supplementing training with going to the gym and doing single plane, muscle based workouts, or going for a long run will only exacerbate the problem.

 

It seems the coaching federations have been a bit slow to respond to this change in youth lifestyle. They were probably wasting time looking at what the successful countries a doing. Do you think Spain, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand have an outdoor play problem?

 

Recognising Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) and testing for physical competencies is a start, but it’s not widespread enough and the lack of experience, knowledge and coach training in this area means that its implementation is average at best. Don’t get me wrong. This is neither the coaches’ nor clubs’ fault. I’m a believer in coaching only what you’re good at and doing it very well.

 

*****

After working with and testing many young football and rugby players coming through professional academies, I recognised a trend. They were not physically prepared to cope with the requirements of top level professional sport.

 

I don’t mean they weren’t strong or fit enough. That’s easy to rectify. No, they were mechanically poor.  And this takes a lot more time and dedication to reverse, as well as being far more dangerous. Imagine Lewis Hamilton going out in the next Grands Prix driving your car, but with an F1 Engine. How long do you think the tyres, brakes, clutch, suspension, chassis would handle it? How competitive do you think he’d be?

 

I set up Speed Academy to bridge this gap in LTAD and provide young athletes with the athletic foundation required to succeed in professional sport.

 

Most people are not slow because of their genes. They’re slow because their co-ordination is compromised. Why? That’s where a good assessment comes in, but in most cases, co-ordination is something you lose rather than gain. Look at any 5yr old run, squat, jump and land. By the time we leave school, our movements are a product of what we repeatedly do. If we are not doing all the movements I described earlier, we lose that ability.

Very rarely in training will a football or rugby player sink into a full deceleration position. Most of the time it will be a rushed and abbreviated movement. Then, when required in a game situation, the movement isn’t strong enough. So a compensation is made.

 

The period from 14-18yrs is a time of high speed growth. Limb lengths grow at a different rate to the muscles and tendons. This leads to co-ordination, strength and flexibility issues. This is also the time when there is a pressure to be bigger, stronger, faster. Loading up faulty or compromised movement patterns will compound the poor movement.

 

Training at this age must be very movement quality focussed. Strength, speed and power improvements will come as a consequence of this. You can’t rush strength and size gains at this stage. The hormones in the body will control this. If you maintain co-ordination and movement quality through this period, the player/athlete that comes out of the other end of this hormonal cyclone will be awesome.

 

At the end of August, I’ll be running a 1 day Speed Camp to give aspiring future champions an insight into what is possible. They’ll discover areas where they can improve their athleticism. But most importantly, they’ll learn HOW.

 

At the Future Champions Speed Clinic, attendees will learn how to:

 

  • Warm up for optimal performance
  • Optimal athletic stance for reactive movement and strength
  • Accelerate quickly and efficiently
  • Decelerate rapidly while keeping your eyes on the game
  • Change direction with balance and control
  • The first step tricks used by the quickest players

All this will take place outdoors on a 3G surface at La Liga Soccer Centre in Thornbury.

All attendees will receive a free Speed Academy T-shirt, supplemental speed training handout and a £50 voucher for Speed Academy.

Who is it for?

Anybody playing a multi-directional field or court sport aged 14-18 who want to get an edge on the competition.

Date: Thu 30th August

Time: 9:30-4:30 

Venue: La Liga Soccer Centre, Thornbury, Bradford

Only 20 Places available

 

You can learn more and register here

 

 

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

 

Rob

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