Rapid Acceleration – It’s In The Detail

Acceleration is the holy grail of most multi directional sports. If you can burst through tackles or accelerate yourself out of trouble, it’s a priceless tool to have. If you’re slow off the mark, it doesn’t matter if you have amazing skill, you’ll rarely get the chance to show it because it’s so difficult to find space.

You accelerate out of a direction change. First step quickness is only useful if you continue to accelerate away. Deceleration doesn’t just stop at a standstill, you accelerate back out. This is why I always work on acceleration first in any training programme.

The goal of acceleration is to sustain a balanced posture while optimising the direction and magnitude of force in an effort to reach maximal velocity as fast and efficiently as possible.

There are three things we work on when improving acceleration:
Posture
Leg Action
Arm Action

When you break things down this way, the training becomes logical and you don’t just spend all your time doing starts and trying to make them faster. We all know that doesn’t work.

POSTURE
Your trunk needs to be strong enough to remain still while the arms and legs are driving it maximally in all directions. We need to train the pillar (core) to resist movement. So sit ups, side bends and Russian twists are of little if no use.

In order to keep the pillar still, we also need to improve hip and shoulder range of motion. if the hip lacks extension 2 things will happen, you will have a shorter stride length (we’ll discuss this later), and/or your body will make up for the discrepancy by extending the lower back. This results in slower acceleration and painful/tight lower backs and hamstrings.

If the shoulder lacks range of motion, the compromise comes fro the upper back, causing restricted lung capacity, collapsed posture and excessive rotation of the upper body.

We work on these deficiencies with daily prehab and again as part of the warm up. The warm up is vital to this. You need to prepare the body for what it is about to do. Every body is different, so needs preparing differently.

If the pillar has been worked on in an isolated fashion, it needs to be integrated into the required movement patterns otherwise it’s a lot of good work with no benefits.

At Spped Academy I like to use Pillar Marching and Skipping to focus on posture while the limbs are driving hard and Wall Drills to get the body used to the correct body position and force direction.

LEG ACTION
this is where some people get it (the fast ones) and some people don’t (the slow ones). The beauty is, as soon as the ones who didn’t get it, do get it, they are no longer the slow ones.

Te leg action really comes from a mindset. Your mind is telling your body to get from A to B. quickly as possible, so you begin to reach forward, both with the arms and the legs. This is what is called over-striding and actually causes a braking effect. so how do you take those brakes off and start to accelerate to your potential?

Focus on driving the knees back and down. Think about pushing the ground away behind you. The harder you push, the faster you’ll accelerate. If you focus on driving the knees, the force will come from the hips (Glutes). These are your power source. Think about power rather than quickness. Don’t try to rush side frequency. That will increase naturally as your body accelerates. Quick feet is not a part of acceleration.

Our Pillar Marches help your mind focus on the knee action while keeping posture still. Hill sprints of about 15m bring the angle to you while you are getting used to the Wall Drill. At Speed Academy we also use a push sled (not pull) to integrate the leg drive with body position.

Once you have developed your plyometrics programme, bounding exercises are excellent to work on that powerful back and down knee drive.

We always finish off with 4-6 x 10m sprints to put it all together.

ARM ACTION

Your arms will not make you faster – but they will make you slower if they are not efficient and in sync with your legs. What I mean by this is, don’t waste too much time on the arms unless they are holding you back.

The main mistake here is the same as with the legs. Most often athletes reach forward and focus too much on the hands, when what we want is to drive the elbows back to create a blocking effect for the leg action. This is where shoulder range is important. With the elbow now driving back, look to snap the hand back and down. Imagine you are flinging spaghetti at the wall behind you.

Without great posture the arms a of little active use. posture allows the shoulder blades to drop down into their rightfully place. Weak posture causes the shoulders to rise. 

 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

This is how an acceleration session looks at Speed Academy.

Pillar Preparation 10mins – 
Foam Rolling 
Active Isolated Stretching
Muscle Activation

Movement Prep 10-15mins – 

Band Walks 
Dynamic Mobility (focusing on the requirements of acceleration) 
Movement Integration (pillar marching/skipping)
CNS Activation (rapid response jumps/hops/runs)

Movement Skills 30mins – 
Wall Drills (e.g. posture holds)
Prowler March
10-15m Hill Sprints 
Lean, Fall, Run

I will work on one specific movement skill 2-3x a week for at least a 4wk block to allow the movement patterns to be learned, grooved and then applied to the sporting situation. You can’t expect the skill to hold up in a reactive, chaotic situation like sport unless it has been mastered in isolation first. 

The next block might be first step quickness. This begins the integration of your acceleration skills into realtime play.

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

Rob

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