Growing Pains

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

There’s something strange happening to a large number of adolescent and pre-adolescent children on sports pitches every where.

It’s not a new phenomena, but it seems to be getting worse and is occurring right under our noses. If the national media get hold of it it will be labelled an epidemic.

It’s not obesity… or acne… or the sudden personality change. Something far more disturbing.

Young, talented, hard-working sports people across The land appear to be having their bodies snatched, and replaced with the body of someone who has never played sport before.

Get after their Number 8. He looks like he’s going through a growth spurt.

It’s heartbreaking. One minute your child is an athletic young player enjoying their sport and displaying all the attributes of a future champion. The next they look as coordinated as a new-born giraffe on roller skates.

Years of hard work. Hours of dedicated practice and honing of their skills seems to have disappeared.

Not only that, but they spend most of their time with niggling injuries. Knee pain. Unidentifiable muscle pains. Thigh strains. Shin splints. Back ache.

The doctor tells you it’s growing pains and will pass.

The physio advice is to stretch the tight muscles to regain mobility.

So they stretch their hamstrings, quads and groin. They do it for a while but then give up.

Then on the return to the Physio, there’s a stand-off. The Physio says they aren’t seeing any improvement because they aren’t complying with the stretching. The child’s says the stretching feels like it’s going to snap and saw no improvement so lost the motivation to do it.

In the mean time, your young player is rapidly losing confidence. They have had to adapt the way they move to still play their sport with their new body. And these awful movement patterns are becoming permanently ingrained.

Players who were way behind them on the pecking order are now overtaking them.

The sport they loved is now just a constant source of frustration and inadequacy. Nobody has an answer for them and the coaches that couldn’t do enough for them a year ago, now seem to have little interest in their issues.

As a parent it’s painful to watch. You can see the pain and anguish they’re going through, but feel helpless.

This is one of the key reasons I formed Speed Academy. The majority of young players that come to me are in this exact situation.

Most parents don’t see the need for dedicated athletic development until certain developmental issues highlight the deficiencies in sports training and school PE.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When you understand what’s happening, it’s actually quite a simple solution.

Even better, if you have kids who are yet to go through this stage, it’s avoidable.

The medical advice that many parents get told is that the bones grow in spurts while the muscles and tendons grow at a steady rate.

So there will be periods, where the bones get too long for the muscles, making them tight.

So the answer is to wait until the soft tissue catches up and you can speed the process by stretching.

I used to advise this too. It kind of makes sense.

But then, when I started working more with young athletes, I actually had a chance to see what was going on.

The kids presenting with Osgood-Schlatter disease and other related knee problems all had the same faulty movement patterns.

Movement patterns that would cause huge stress for the knee joint and tendons. Allied to the multi-directional nature of the sports that they played and you have all the mechanisms for a chronic knee problem.

So what was the nature of this faulty movement pattern?

Why was it happening to young people that previously moved so well?

To demonstrate what’s happening, you need a hammer.

Get a big mallet and hold it in one hand half way down the shaft and lift it up and down using just your wrist.

Your wrist represents the hip, the shaft is the thigh, and the hammer mead represents the additional weight of the lower leg and foot.

Shift your hand a couple of inches further away from the head and repeat. Not as easy, huh?

Now try holding it right at the end.

This is how it feels when your thigh bone rapidly grows.

Where previously, the body could handle the shorter limb through a full range, the now longer and heavier levers create a higher strength demand.

The hip muscles can only control these levers through a much shorter range. Anything outside this range would be beyond the capabilities of the muscles thus leading to possible tear.

So in order to protect them from being torn, the body limits the length available.

With certain muscles shortened, movements have to adapt.

Feet splay out like a clown when trying to accelerate.

When they decelerate, the back bends like a willow tree in the wind. And posture all round is weak.

When they try to run, it looks like their feet are stuck in treacle. It looks like the whole body gets involved in dragging the foot off the floor and through for the next stride. Knee lift is none existent.

This isn’t a flexibility issue.

It’s a strength one.

We need to create a buffer zone of strength in the hip and trunk muscles. Then and only then, will the body will remove the safety restrictions.

Therefore, through this growth period the focus should be on postural awareness, and full spectrum strength through full range of movement.

Basic strength exercises performed with good technique are all that is required here.

With this understanding it is possible to prepare your players in advance so that the growth spurt has a minimal effect on their athleticism and hence enjoyment of sport.

It is criminal that young athletes – even those in professional football and rugby academies – can fall completely out of the system having shown so much promise.

It’s unnecessary if robust training systems are in place and the children, coaches and parents are educated and buy into it.

As part of my ‘Developing The Growing Athlete’ month I’ll be holding an educational workshop for parents and coaches on Thursday 17th April.

If you’re interested in helping your child/ren achieve their potential and continue to enjoy playing sport then please contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter for further details.

If you have found this article useful, I would be most grateful if you could share it in the usual social media channels.

Yours in speed


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.

Don’t Neglect This In Your Speed Training

In field and court sports, the speed and success of performance isn’t just down to the speed of movement. Speed of thought and interpretation of situations are equally important.

We all know those players who aren’t the fastest in the tests and races, but always seem to be in the right position.

A typist thinks in phrases rather than letters and words. This is called chunking. skilled players develop the ability to chunk and act in ‘action phrases’ through repetition. By always practising movement sequences in training, even simple practice situations, will contribute immensely to the speed and rhythm at which a team can play in competition.

At the same time, training for reaction speed will bear little success. Reaction speed is very specific to the stimulus. Responding to a single stimulus has very little impact on performance speed. Match situation involves a player having to filter constant information from the field of play. The ability to pick out and respond to the most important information develops through learning from previous situations. This will be facilitated through coaching feedback from live situations. Not drills or exercises.

True Game Speed is about:
1) always being in a ready position
2) reading the situation
3) movement

And I would put them in that order for most field and court sports. If you’re lacking in one department, you’ll always be beaten to the ball/tackle or have to work twice as hard to make up for it and fatigue too quickly.

Yours In speed




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.

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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.

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. 


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.


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.


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)


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


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.

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