Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Speed"

Day 347 - Speed and Agility Program Design

In order to design and plan a speed and agility training program, many variables need to be addressed on many different levels. The variables are:

Exercise interval - duration (time) or distance

Exercise order - sequence in which a set of reps is executed

Exercise relief - work to rest ratio

Frequency - number of training sessions in a given time period

Intensity - effort at which each repetition is completed

Relief or recovery interval - rest period between reps and sets

Repetition - movement technique

Series - group of sets and recovery intervals

Set - group of reps and relief intervals

Volume - amount of work (reps x sets) completed during a specific training session

Short-Term Planning

Fatigue is a natural occurring process of the human body that can effect performance long before complete failure happens. Individuals should use speed-endurance training to help train multiple metabolic systems in order to improve fatigue-resistance. As the body becomes better at being fatigue-resistant, special speed and agility skills can therefore be performed with greater efficiency.

By using short, intense, exercise, an individual can target phosphagen energy systems and improve their recovery. Phophasgen systems are used in virtually all athletic movements as they are vital to explosive actions and movements. These types of short, intense efforts should be completed early on in a workout before other fatiguing exercises.

Medium-Term Planning

Proper planning and design needs to be implemented into medium-term exercise program design. Research has shown that recovery efforts or growth from one form of exercise can inhibit or hinder the recovery of another form of exercise.

Long-Term Planning

As an athlete progresses through their training program, the speed or effectiveness of their progression may alter the direction of their future training.

Quote of the day:

"How long should you try? Until."
-Jim Rohn

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Methods of Developing Speed & Agility

Primary Method

Many skill-specific activities should be started slow so that proper mechanics can be learned. Once the proper mechanics begin to take hold, then an individual can increase speed to that, or exceeding that, of game speed.

Some mechanics we take for granted and may learn on our own throughout life, such as running or throwing a ball. Unfortunately, there may be flaws with the technique since some individuals may not have be given proper coaching on the specialized technique. In this case, proper technique can be introduced to the individual to help perfect form.

Secondary Methods

Secondary methods involve sprint resistance and sprint assistance:

Sprint Resistance - Also known as an overload effect, the idea is to use resistance in some form to improve explosive strength and stride length. Examples of resistance that can be applied in such a situation would be gravity (running up a grade like stairs or a slope) or such apparatus such as parachutes or weighted vests.

Sprint Assistance - By using assistance techniques such as running downhill or a high-speed towing apparatus, the aim is to maintain proper running form but increase stride frequency.

Tertiary Methods

Tertiary methods are broken down into mobility, strength and speed-endurance categories:

Mobility - Athletic tasks require specific ranges of motion (ROM). If an individual does not use their full mobility at a certain joint or limb, they can impact performance or even increase their likelihood of injury. For example, someone who is running, if there is not enough mobility at the hip joint, there could too much braking effect caused by the foot strike on the ground. Proper stretching and flexibility should be used by all to maintain proper range of motion.

Strength - In order for individuals to improve their speed and agility, their resistance training program should include explosive, quick movements. This does not necessarily mean that only light weights with high velocity should be used. Resistance training that targets a wide range of muscular fiber types should be employed.

Speed-Endurance - To train for speed-endurance events, athletes must use a wide variety of training styles including short-duration intense training as well as long-duration, less-intense exercises.

-Tyler Robbins

Running Speed

The mechanics involved in human running is substantially different than when walking. When human beings walk, the body rotates through various positions including balancing on one leg, while the weight shifts from one leg to both legs, to again on one leg. There is a cadence that rotates through these general positions.

Running, on the other hand, is more of a ballistic action with the body continually launching its weight from one leg to the other. The speed at which someone runs is directly linked to the stride frequency to stride length relationship. For example, when comparing novice to elite sprinters, studies have shown that elite sprinters achieve greater stride length and can increase it further up to about 45m from a static start of a race. Compare this to novice sprinters who peak their stride length around the 25m mark of a race from a static start.

When comparing novice to elite stride frequency, elite sprinters can achieve faster slightly higher frequencies (~5/second) and maintain that pace for a longer period of time compared to novices. When you think about the mechanics behind sprinting, it is easy to understand that a sprinter that has a high turnover stride (stride frequency) and is pushing off for more power (stride length) will elicit a greater speed.

One thing to understand, however, is that due to varying leg lengths amongst different individuals, stride length is difficult at times to train. Stride frequency, however, can be trained effectively to increase running speed.

Sprinting Performance and Stride Analysis

Below is a summarized list of the major muscular requirements during sprinting:

1. As the back (recovery) leg swings forward, eccentric knee flexion controls its forward momentum, prepares it for an efficient foot strike.

2. Muscle action then shifts from eccentric to concentric action and continues to the support phase (leg beneath center of gravity) which transfers power to the leg.

3. During the ground support phase, the high joint angle at the planted foot allows for stored elastic energy. Eccentric knee extensor activity also allows the quads to store and recover elastic energy.

4. There is a triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip all at once allowing for propulsion and drive forward.

Training Goals

To maximize sprinting speed, I have listed a few training goals below that can help in running efficiency:

Minimize Braking - By aiming to plant the supporting foot directly beneath the center of gravity and maximizing the backward velocity of that leg during the propulsion phase will minimize the braking effect of forward momentum.

Fast Foot Strike - By increasing stride frequency and backward propulsion, you minimize the amount of time the foot has contact with the ground, therefore minimizing the braking effect of forward momentum.

Strengthen the Hamstrings - Eccentric knee flexor strength is the most important aspect limiting recovery of the leg as it swings forward.

-Tyler Robbins

Plyometric Safety Considerations

Whenever someone is exercising or performing physical activities, there are inherent dangers that accompany said activities. Plyometric exercise is no exception to this, and may even have more potential dangers involved, but usually only when certain guidelines are not followed. I have detailed some of these guidelines below and given some insight into each.

Pretraining Evaluation of the Athlete

Every individual that wishes to begin plyometric exercise should evaluate their current health and fitness status to determine if they are an appropriate candidate to follow such an intense training regimen.

Technique - Individuals should be not only physically mature, but mentally mature enough to be able to follow instructions to follow correct form and technique. For example, proper technique should be followed to maintain control of the body's center of gravity. A specific example of this would be the body's shoulders staying in line with the knees when performing jumping type exercises.

Strength - For lower body plyometrics, the NSCA recommends that an individual's 1RM squat should be at least 1.5 times their body weight in order to be strong enough to perform plyometric exercises. For upper body, the bench press 1RM should be at least the individual's body weight.

Speed - Again, for lower body plyometrics, the NSCA recommends that an individual be able to 5 reps of the squat with 60% body weight in 5 seconds or less. Upper body speed should be able to perform 5 bench press reps of 60% body weight in 5 seconds or less.

Balance - Plyometric exercises are not always done in a vertical plane, as some plyometric and agility exercises require lateral or horizontal displacements. An individual should have a good level of balance and spatial control over their body so that they reduce their risk for injury when exercising. An example of a balance test would be an individual balancing on one leg for 30 seconds without falling.

Physical Characteristics - Joint disorders, back disorders, or other disorders that affect an individual's ability to control their limbs in a controllable manner could increase the risk of injury. Not only that, but the NSCA recommends that individuals that are over 220 pounds may be at an increased risk of injury due to the immense stresses and strains placed on the body.

Equipment and Facilities

Going beyond the physical demands required for plyometric exercise, certain equipment as well as the area used should be of ideal conditions that are detailed below.

Landing Surface - As shock-absorbing as possible such as a grass field, suspended floor, or rubber mats are the best choices.

Training Area - This category is entirely dependent on the exercise being conducted. Bounding drills may require large horizontal spaces, whereas standing power jumps could be done in a small relative space.

Equipment - Boxes or platforms used for depth jumps, jumping on or off of, should have non-slip surfaces to prevent slipping and injury.

Proper Footwear - Cross training shoes are the best fit for plyometric exercises as they generally have more support for lateral movements of the feet and ankles.

Depth Jumps - This exercise in particular warrants its own category because a height of 48 inches (1.2m) is the recommended maximum height from the NSCA as jumping from a platform any higher than this could cause injury.

-Tyler Robbins