Why You Should Never Chase 2 Rabbits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in Speed

Rob Gascoyne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in speed


Is Your Strength Training Making You SLOW and Weak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what should you do? 

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in speed



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