The Importance of Skill Levels

This may seem like an obvious title, of course skill level matters in anything we do in life. Do you expect the same work output from a seasoned professional compared to the wide-eyed intern? The world in the weightroom is no different. As I scroll through social media, an obvious title considering skill level is often neglected when training people. Too often are people thrown in the fire and expected to perform without a negative consequence, and if the individual happens to fail they are often labeled weak, and/or lazy. This is not the case for most situations, and the actual cause for failure is a poorly executed program that failed to be modified to the individuals needs. 

I want to exclude military/special forces training right now. I do not have any experience working with armed forces, and the purpose of their training is to weed out people in order to find the elite of the elite individuals. In my line of work, I am not trying to weed anyone out of the program. The goal for the population I most often work with is to get them to a baseline of performance in order to better prepare them for the rigors of their sport, and future training. With that being said, the population I most commonly work with is the novice population, whether they are young athletes, or general population groups that haven’t spent a lot of time training. 

The phrase “baseline of performance” can be generic, but I believe every coach should attain to get their clients to their baseline before creating a more specific program can be implemented. For example, if an athlete struggles control their landing from a jump I am not going to demand them to land a jump and immediately perform second jump. They do not yet possess the ability to efficiently absorb force from the ground, which means they would not be able to redistribute that force in any controlled manner. There are certain thresholds that individuals must cross before reaching that next level of training. Once they check these boxes, I can confidently increase intensity, variability, etc. 

In the beginning, adaptation is almost guaranteed. Taking someone from 0, and performing any training, you will see great improvements almost immediately across all areas of ability. After a few years of consistent training, those big jumps of improvements have disappeared and one must be particular with their variables in order to accomplish their goals. Accumulating 10+ years of training and so on, the improvements become dependent on a person's ability to plan their variables appropriately to peak for performance, and continually push past their current ceiling. The focus shifts from generic capabilities to emphasizing exactly what the client needs in order to get the best possible performance. 

Be careful scarrowing the internet, looking for new methods of training for you or your clients to perform. One, you don’t know the context of the content unless you communicate with the creator of the content; only then can you pass judgement of the content. Two, know how to dissect what you are looking at in order to decide whether or not you should include the modality, or some variation of it in your training. Three, know the current status of the client being trained! No one should get hurt when training, so when creating a program for anyone, take into consideration these three principles and disaster will be avoided. 


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



The Aerobic/ Oxidative System and Training Implications

The final energy system we will cover is the oxidative/ aerobic system. This is the system we use primarily throughout the day. Most of us are at a low level activity during the day, sitting at a desk, writing a blog post, driving to work etc. These activities are low intensity in nature compared to repeated hill sprints. Because of the relatively low energy demands, your body has time to deliver oxygen to the working muscle, and the rapid anaerobic generation of ATP is not required by the phosphagen or fast glycolytic system. 

Training this system does not mean you get to sit on the couch all day! Activity with a low enough intensity that can be sustained for over 90 seconds is when this system really gets to work. After a couple minutes, your body should have reached a steady state of work. This means your oxygen consumption and heart rate have both leveled off, you are officially in the groove! There are a few different ways to train the oxidative system: Long slow distance, Pace training, Interval training, and high Intensity Interval Training. 

Long slow distance (LSD) training is a form of aerobic conditioning that is low intensity, but the distance you complete is longer. Heart rate should not exceed 80% of your estimated max or what’s known as conversational exercise (you can talk without struggle). The distance completed during conditioning should be longer or at least the duration of training should be longer than the race. People often use this form of conditioning to allow active recovery between intense bouts of training, while still receiving the benefits of training the aerobic system like: improved cardiovascular function, thermoregulatory ability, increased mitochondrial energy production, enhanced fat usage as a fuel source, and increased aerobic capacity of working muscle. All this means is that you become more efficient with energy production, and blood flow. However, using this training technique too often may detrain the body’ ability to kick into high gear towards the end of a race, or cause the athlete to perform a slower pace during their race. 

Pace training requires you to perform at the intensity of your race. You are pushing yourself to your lactate threshold (the point at which lactate starts to accumulate). Steady pace training is performed at lactate threshold for longer durations. This provides the athlete with the appropriate amount of stress in order to prepare them for their competition. Interval pace training shortens these bouts, and provides a short rest between each bout of activity. The goal is to get the body familiar with pace they need to run at in order to compete. This type of training improves the lactate threshold, and running economy. 

Interval training places the intensity of the intervals at or slightly above the athlete’s VO2 max (volume of oxygen consumed) which is related to the max heart rate. The individual bouts of exercise are shorter, but as mentioned previously, the intensity is through the roof. The work to rest ratio is around 1:1-3 depending on work time and goal of the session. The work time is anywhere between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. What this allows the athlete to accomplish is more time training at peak levels, compared to steady state at the same peak level. The allotted rest time gives the athlete a chance to recover, replenish energy storage and do it again. Increased VO2 max and improved anaerobic metabolism are benefits seen from this type of training. 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is performed at or above max capabilities for short bouts, followed by rest. The rest durations are the key variable that must be prescribed correctly in order to get the most out of the session. Rest periods that are too short will cause the athlete to fatigue rapidly and injury could follow. Rest periods that are too long will remove the benefits of performing intervals. There are long form and short form intervals, and each side of the spectrum should be taxed in order to see improvements anaerobically and aerobically. This type of training will allow an athlete to have an improved final push at the end of the race. 

A hot topic of conversation is whether or not to combine aerobic training with strength training (concurrent training). From poking around the rabbit holes of research articles and textbooks, there has been consensus around one topic. Aerobically dominated athletes such as runners, cyclists, rowers, etc. all show enhanced performance when adding strength training to their program. This is due to improved strength which improves the efficiency of the activity. Flipping to the other side of the spectrum is where things get hairy. Power dominate athletes like football, baseball, and hockey players seem to shy away from aerobic conditioning. People fear that the effects of power and strength training can be negated from aerobic conditioning. There have been studies that suggest it all depends on rest time between sessions. People have seen benefits of concurrent training when allowing at least 6 hours between the two types of training. In my opinion, having the ability to recover faster from sessions allows a greater volume of training to be completed. The aerobic system is an enhanced recovery machine when trained correctly based on needs. If an athlete has a solid aerobic base, the other two energy systems can only benefit from enhanced recovery ability. The effects of aerobic training last much longer than those of sprinting, or other power oriented exercises. This means that once a based is formed, you will not have to continue to train the aerobic system as often as the other two systems. When, how long, and how much aerobic conditioning taking place depends on what the goal of the program is. But, completely neglecting this system can spell trouble for work capacity ability in the future and hender recovery. 


(Posts with a little more controversy in the training field are soon to come) 

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Training Implications of the Fast Glycolytic Energy System

Training the fast glycolytic energy system can be tricky, and not as straightforward as the phosphagen system discussed previously. As we know, the fast glycolytic system “takes over” after about 10 seconds of work. Depending on the intensity of the work, this system can continue to dominate for up to 90 seconds. The variables of volume, rest, frequency, and exercise type seem to have more room for manipulation compared to the other energy systems in my opinion. For example look at American football, the average play duration is about 4-6 seconds with the occasional break away play. The time between plays is roughly 40 seconds, so the means the work to rest ratio 1 : 6-10. The sport is very anaerobic in nature and the body never reaches a steady state of work. Shifting gears to a soccer athlete, they also require short bursts of highly intense work, but they also require the ability to sustain this work for longer durations with shorter rest periods. At certain points, they may even cross the threshold into the aerobic system, and their conditioning will vary greatly from the American football athlete.

Working in this anaerobic zone leads to the accumulation of lactate within the working muscle (latic conditioning). No, this isn’t what causes muscle soreness, but it does create an acidic environment in the local muscle, making continued contraction difficult. Lactate has many functions in exercise training, one of which is to aide in the production of energy to continue work, and another is to serve as a biomarker of training intensity. As training continues, the body will become more efficient at clearing blood lactate, and have an increased tolerance for higher blood lactate levels. Other adaptations that occur with training of the fast glycolytic energy system is muscle fiber type conversion, increased muscle glycogen storage, and improved levels of anaerobic energy substrates (such as CP).

Training this system is extremely taxing to the body, both mentally and physically. To prevent overtraining, and chronic fatigue, one must consider the rest time and frequency to get the best out of the individual. To put it simply, the greater the intensity and the longer the duration, the more rest that is required before performing another session. The consequences of overtraining can be detrimental not only to sport performance and strength gains, but overall health as well. The immune system is weakened, loss of sleep, and increased stress levels are all signs of overtraining, and they will continue to compound the problem if rest is not allowed.

Recommended Parameters:

Work to Rest- 1 : 3-10 (10 sec < work time < 90 sec )

Frequency- 2-5 days/wk

Rest between sessions- 48-72 hrs

Intensity- 80-100% Heat rate max

**Training goals will dictate the overall focus of conditioning**

In my opinion, the benefits of improving the capabilities of the fast glycolytic energy system can be tremendous in relation to repeated force and power output, and increased anaerobic endurance. For the average Joe, throwing in some interval runs or circuits can be a great way to improve these qualities as well, while improving overall health. In the world of sport, this type of training should be reserved for those who need it. The needs of an American football player are vastly different than those of a baseball player. The football player requires the ability to repeat maximal effort on short rest working within the lactic zone, while the baseball player has a longer rest period and does not require the same anaerobic capabilities because they primarily work in the alactic zone→ (discussed in the previous post :) )

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Training the Phosphagen Energy System

The phosphagen energy system is how we get moving, especially when moving with a great amount of effort. When one attempts to jump, sprint, or lift a heavy object the energy system that dominates these activities is the phosphagen system. The system is anaerobic, meaning it does not require oxygen to function. This is an extremely important detail because without this energy system we would not be able to operate with any sort of speed or immediate strength. The fuel source of the phosphagen system is the direct use of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP). At any given time we have enough ATP stored in our muscles to supply 4-6 seconds of highly intense movement. PC stores are about quadruple this amount and facilitate the rapid replenishment of ATP for usage. We can generate enough energy to do incredible things, but sustaining this effort is not possible for long. Strength training can increase the amount of force generated and the ability to sustain the force generated over a longer period of time.  

Training to increase strength, and power requires specific considerations. Variables such as intensity (% load), frequency, rest period, speed of movement, volume, and duration all need to be manipulated appropriately to accomplish these goals. When training for maximal strength and power the conditions one puts their body through is taxing to say the least.

If someone has a goal to lift a heavy object 1 time, or perform an olympic style, power oriented lift, their plan should have the following parameters:

Volume: 3-10 sets x 1-5 reps

% Load: 0-50… 85-100 (0-50%.. Seems a bit low? If the goal is to move fast, train to move fast with lighter loads and HIGH SPEED)

Rest: 2-10 minutes

Frequency: 3-6 days/ week

There is a lot of wiggle room with the suggested parameters. This is because it all depends on: your training age, what plan you’re following, and what stage of the plan you’re in.

Outside of the weightroom, one way you can train the phosphagen system is maximal effort sprinting. Similar considerations must be made if one has a goal to improve overall speed and quickness. From research I have obtained, and my personal experience, the three biggest considerations for improving speed is: volume of sprinting, rest periods between sprints, and training method. When training, a common mistake made is treating sprinting as conditioning. Sprinting is a highly intense, single leg plyometric, and it requires max effort. If the true goal is to improve speed, one must not shorten rest periods, or maintain a high volume of sprint. Simply put, the training turns into a conditioning session where the athlete performs repeated submaximal runs and speed improvements do not occur. The method of sprint training is just as important. Breaking down the phases of sprinting, focusing on those phases, and putting them back together to perform the sprint is one way to improve speed.

Who needs this type of training? Anyone who has a goal to move heavy things fast, run fast, or send nukes into deep center field. When the goal of training is to increase speed, strength, or power, one must train within the framework of the phosphagen energy system. However, the ability to have enhanced recovery ability via increased cardiovascular function is another way to facilitate the achievement of these goals. Having increased recovery ability allows someone to train harder, more often, which results in increased ability. So, I might suggest some extremely light cardiovascular work every so often to improve these qualities. Maybe a day or two where the athlete hops on the bike and gets their heart rate up a little bit to about 50-60% of their max heart rate for about 10-15 minutes. There can be several benefits to properly prescribed aerobic conditioning, the main reason would be facilitate recovery ability. As mentioned in the previous post- all three energy systems play into each other, and without proper functioning of one the other two might suffer.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Energy Systems

-In the world of training, there are numerous forms of conditioning that can benefit performance. In order to get the most of out training one must know which conditioning method is most appropriate, in order to achieve their training goals. When training you can target one of three energy systems: the phosphagen system, anaerobic glycolytic system, or oxidative (aerobic) system. I use the term “target” loosley, this is because we use all three energy systems all day, no matter if we are training or not. All three systems play into each other, but focusing on one system specifically will primarily improve the performance of that system.


-After reading this blog, you decide to get up and sprint as fast as you can for 40 meters. How did you come up with enough energy for that activity? You just utilized the ability of phosphagen system. This system is a fast acting system and it does not require oxygen to generate energy for work, so it falls under the anaerobic training umbrella. Any activity performed for 1 to 10 seconds relies on the immediate functioning capability of the phosphagen system. The direct breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and utilization of creatine phosphate (CP) are the primary suppliers of energy. The supply of ATP at any given time is enough to sustain activity for a few seconds. Introducing CP allows the replenishment of ATP to match energy demands without the need for oxygen. This is important because the utilization of oxygen for energy production takes a relatively long time. The cost of rapid ATP production to match high energy demands is substantial, and can only be maintained for a few seconds.  Without the phosphagen system, we would be unable to perform explosive movements such as: short sprints, weight lifting, swinging a bat, and throwing a ball.


-After your 40 yd dash, you decide you want to run 400 meters as fast as possible. It is a little more difficult, the ability to maintain absolute maximal velocities starts to decrease, and when you stop you are probably winded. The world record for the 400m is 43 seconds, but for most of us, we can accomplish that task in about 60 seconds or longer. Either way, oxygen intake still hasn't caught up to meet energy demands of the run, so you are still performing under the anaerobic umbrella. However, the ATP used during the first few seconds has been “used up” (at least what our body allows us to use), so how do you continue to run without collapsing after 10 seconds? Well, you can thank the anaerobic glycolysis system for your continued running capability. Fast (anaerobic) glycolysis breaks down carbohydrates without oxygen to produce ATP. The rate at which this occurs is not as fast as the phosphagen system, but the amount of energy produced is much higher. This system takes over after about 10 seconds of work, and will continue until ~ 90 second mark, depending on intensity. Pyruvate is a product of glycolysis, and if training intensity is high enough, it will be converted to lactate as another mechanism to help replenish ATP faster. Carbohydrates, CP, and lactate are the primary sources of fuel for the anaerobic glycolysis system. Training this system requires repeated bouts of high intensity work such as: repeated moderate distance runs, a gymnastic routine,  a shift on the ice for a hockey game, or a 100 m swim.



-Now that you have sprinted 40m , ran 400m, you are feeling extra ambitious. So, you decide why not run a mile (1600m). The training intensity has decreased, and you are sustaining work for a extended period of time. Oxygen has time to be delivered to working muscle, and is in sufficient quantities to aide in the production of ATP. Slow (aerobic) glycolysis is the breakdown of carbohydrates into pyruvate, the difference between fast glycolysis and slow glycolysis is training intensity. If intensity is low enough the pyruvate is shuttled to the mitochondria of the cell, and uses oxygen to resynthesise ATP. The process takes longer, but can be maintained for a much longer duration. The yield of ATP synthesised is much greater, and more efficient, but as mentioned previously it is a slower process that requires several more reactions to occur. Carbohydrates, and fats are the primary source of energy in this energy system. Training this system requires longer durations (90 seconds and beyond) of a  steady work rate such as long distance running, swimming, or biking.


-This is a general overview of the primary energy systems utilized throughout the day and in training. Each is required by the other to function appropriately. There is much more that comes with the description of these systems, and there are many variables that must be accounted for when targeting a system to improve its capabilities. The adaptations that happen as a result of targeting each system is specific to what you target. A marathon runner will not have the same training regimen as a baseball player. The primary energy system used for each athlete is different and the required adaptations to perform at their sport is different. Moving forward, the next few blog posts will dive deeper into each energy system. I will pick the brain of a few strength professionals, and break down some current research into the hows and whys of training each system to help you make more informed decisions when choosing how to train for your goal.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Jumping, its Role in Training!

Coach Nate Garcia

Plyometrics is an intense exercise training method. The reason someone trains with plyometric exercises is to improve the “stretch shortening cycle” (SSC) of the muscle system. Similar to the energy stored when stretching a rubber band, when you stretch your muscle energy is stored and if the stretch is followed rapidly by muscle shortening action you are able to use this energy to your movement advantage. Whether you know it or not, the SSC is used throughout your daily motion. One example of your daily utilization of the SSC is the use of your calf musculature when walking. Striking the ground with your heel creates a pre-stretch of the muscles that stores some elastic energy. The energy is released as you propel yourself forward off your toes.


A common example of a plyometric exercise is jumping. Jump training is often looked at as an activity reserved for the sports that primarily involve jumping (such as volleyball or basketball). However, what a lot of people neglect to acknowledge is that jumping relates to numerous activities that people perform, like sprinting. When utilized properly, jumping can be used as an efficient and safe way to improve power and sprint capabilities. However, jumping shouldn’t just be reserved for athlete training. The benefits of having the ability to jump not only means improved athletic ability, it also means improved efficiency with everyday tasks such as: traveling the stairs, preventing a fall, picking up objects from the floor, and running!


Just as with any exercise, in order to see progress in jump ability, you have to properly plan for your goals. Total Performance uses various different jumps in order improve power development. Youth athletes, or those with a small training age, must have their volume of plyometrics closely monitored. A high volume of plyometric training can result in overtraining and ultimately be detrimental . Since jumping is an implication of power, and power is defined as work divided by time, in order to train safely, you need to be strong. Research recommends reserving high volume lower body plyometric training for those who have the ability to squat at least 1.5 x your body weight. If one is unable to accomplish this, it doesn't mean you shouldn’t jump, it just means you need to be extra cautious with your volume of jumps. Advanced athletes have the ability to handle a high volume of plyometric training due to their ability to handle intense training activities. Manipulating jump movements is one way to increase difficulty of the movement. For example; requiring the person to jump and land on one foot, jumping backwards, side to side jumping, and a depth jump from height. There are infinite ways to increase the difficulty of a jump and it all depends on the goal of the training.


What is a “high” and “low” volume of plyometrics? As defined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), lower body plyometrics are measured via contacts. A contact is defined as contact with the ground. So, after one jumps and lands, that contact is counted. Beginner contact volume is recommended to be between 80-100 contacts, intermediate contact volume between 100-120, and advanced between 120-140 contacts. Again, the actual amount of plyometrics you complete all depends on your ability, your training goals, and what other training is being performed with plyometrics.


The volume of plyometrics is one of the several variables that can be manipulated in order to achieve training goals. To be discussed in future posts: what those variables include, how to manipulate those variables, and what those manipulations mean for training goal achievement.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, reach out to Total Performance!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com



Proper Use of Over Head Movement and Rowing Techniques for Baseball and Softball Athlete’s

For a long time there has been the stigma that you should never use exercises that go above your head when training baseball or softball players.  To a degree this has some merit but, isn’t exactly true.  All rotational athletes have high repetitions of overhead movements within their practices so to say that they may be in that position too often is worth considering.  During periods of practice where volume of overhead movement is high I would avoid these types of exercises but, what about outside these times?  Off-season training is the time to work on skills that make you stronger for your season.  Being strong in overhead movements and rowing variations is the key to having a healthy shoulder.  Common questions we get are, when to do these exercises, what are the exercises and what is the proper technique.

When should I Incorporate Most of my Overhead Movements?

I already semi answered this question but I will reiterate it.  In general you want to work on qualities that enhance performance in the off-season and do the opposite in-season to keep athletes strong and healthy.  The reason for the switch is during periods of high volume is when fatigue can set in and athletes become susceptible to injuries.  The majority of their overhead work in-season will be coming from their sport (practice and games).  For example we may do overhead work and rotational work off-season but switch to anti-rotational movements, stability or horizontal rowing variations for in-season.

What are the Exercises and what is the Proper Technique?

In my opinion there are not a lot of exercises you can rule out because any exercise can be potentially harmful if not done with good technique.  This would be predicated on the individuals’ mobility, strength and motor control just to name a few factors that could potentially make an exercise harmful.  These will dictate which type of exercises would best benefit the athlete.  Some athletes may have great positions during overhead movements and can handle more complex exercises, others may have terrible T-Spine mobility and would be better suited with mobility exercises, it’s really an “It Depends” type of scenario.

As far as technique is concerned this is also an “It Depends” scenario.  If an athlete has kyphosis (Shoulders rounded forward) than we would work on getting more use of his scapula by retracting his blades together during rowing variations.  This is harder said than done.  Most people think they are rowing correctly but lack posture which negates any scapular movement and causes common problems such as excessive shrugging or rowing in that rounded position.  These athlete’s need to understand how to depress and retract there shoulder blades when they row.  On the other end, athletes that are over extended (big chest, arched low back) need to row in a more organized position.  Athlete’s that are overextended are usually very lat dominant so cue that can be ineffective for them is the “Big Chest” cue.  These athletes live in extension and getting them into more extension leads to a very lat dominant row and creates an anterior shoulder glide (Humorous coming forward excessively) during rowing variations.  This is extremely important to watch for baseball and softball players because most throwers are lat dominant already and have shoulders that are overly stretched anteriorly, so doing more of this could lead to shoulder problems.  If we want the shoulder blade to move well we need to maintain a neutral posture and row until our elbow is equal or slightly behind our body.

When referring to any overhead movements when the scapula upwardly rotates it needs to sit tight on the ribcage to move properly.  If our athletes have kyphosis or lordosis (shoulders rounded forward or over arched lower back) than we know that they will compensate when the arm goes above the head.  To help athletes move overhead properly they have to understand what correct posture is and learn how to move proximally to distally (Core to outside the body).  Mobility drills will help but if the compensation isn’t terrible we may look at loading them with lighter weights, splitting there stance during overhead pressing and giving them movements without fixed positions (Dumbbells instead of barbells).  Any rotational athlete needs to be strong overhead to remain durable through a season we just have to take a case by case approach to help certain athlete’s with movement restrictions.

Conclusion

All athletes’ need to move in organized positions to reduce compensation patterns.  The better the position the more efficiently you can move and produce force and any movement in the gym is no different.  We need to constantly be cueing our athlete’s about position first, load second and especially with baseball/softball players because the shoulder has become such an issue.  At Total Performance we try to put our athlete’s in the best position possible by taking a case by case basis when referring to any overhead movements.  These need to be done but, when to do them is critically important for the health of our athletes.

Speed Training with Limited Space, YES IT CAN BE DONE!

Stop Making Excuses

There is this myth that you have to have fancy equipment or tons of space in order to make athlete’s faster.  To some degree this may be true with professional athletes but with youth athletes speed is 100% trainable.  Now, I am not saying that we can develop everyone into Usain Bolt, what I am saying is if you are willing to put in the time and effort coaches can help you can become faster.  There are plenty of exercises that could have increase RFD (Rate or Force Development) without space, you just need some creativity.

Differences Between Acceleration and Max Velocity

To understand how to train someone to get faster we must first understand the difference between acceleration and max velocity (For the sake of simplicity we will not talk about the start).

Acceleration is the part of the sprint that happens right after the start and is usually maintained for the first 10-30 yards (Depending on the athlete this could be as little as 10 or as long as 60).  This part of the sprint is looked at as the most important skill to learn as an athlete because field/court sports are played in acceleration with rapid changes of direction.  Acceleration is very joint angle specific because if the certain angles are not achieved by the body we can’t project ourselves forward efficiently.  This part of sprinting is taken place at roughly a 45 degree angle (If looking at the body from the side). If angle that is missing, we can’t apply force properly and we start the sprint standing up which is ineffective.

Acceleration could be defined as the horizontal, non-time dependent part of the sprint because you need to spend a little more time on the ground in order to cover distance.  This part of your sprint would involve more of a “pushing” action as we are trying to apply as much force as possible (As quickly as possible)before reaching top end speed.  This is in my opinion the most trainable because there are a lot of principles that apply to strength that help in acceleration.  Most athletes who are slow will have trouble getting out of their own way when they run because they lack strength.  The stronger the athlete the easier it is to get faster when it comes to acceleration.  Some exercises that help are Squats, Deadlifts, Olympic Variations, Lunges, and Jumps.  The most specific exercises we have are heavy or light sled work (Push or drag).  If you remember reading acceleration is very joint angle specific which would mean those two exercises would be considered as “specific” as you can get.

Max velocity would be considered more of the vertical component of speed because of its vertical positioning of the body.  This involves running in an upright, tall position to properly utilize the hips to propel your body forward.  The leg mechanics are cyclical in motion and involves more of an elastic foot contact rather than a push when striking the ground.  Like in acceleration, posture is critical to maintain in order to run fast.  Unlike acceleration, max velocity is more “Time Dependent” because the longer you have contact with the ground the less elastic you are, which results in slower times.  Depending on the athlete ability to accelerate, max velocity can start from 15-40 yards.

To increase top end speed you would want to use exercises that are reactive, ballistic or fast.  Any exercise that would involve multiple responses (One movement quickly followed by another) would be able to simulate muscle contractions that would simulate max velocity.  Pogo jumps for height, Hurdle hops, box jump variations, any movement with timed sets and extremely light loads and exercises that involve intense hamstring recruitment are a couple that would benefit top end speed.  Training elasticity is another simple way to increase joint stiffness qualities and improve max velocity.  Simple drills such as hopping on and off and plate or tiny pogo jumps would help joint stiffness qualities so when you apply force into the ground you have a better chance of an elastic return (Mechanics depending).

Conclusion  

Coaches need to stop making excuses about training top end speed even if they don’t have the room to run.  Would it be ideal, yes it would however there are ways to elicit responses without ever having to run.  Simple doing multiple response jumping or hurdle hops are just some ways to make our athlete faster.  I find at first athletes need to have a foundation of strength and good mechanics which improves speed in the first 20 yards.  We need to understand that youth athletes are novice lifters and just by getting stronger we will improve sprinting potential tremendously.  Don’t over complicate it; work hard and the speed will come.

Do physical sport tests (I.e., 60 time) actually indicate sports performance?

Dilemma

Each sport has its own set of tools for evaluating athletes.  This can range from just a simple measurement of anthropometry, or strength movements like the 225 bench test or a speed test like the 60 yard sprint.  The unfortunate reality is that these tests are indicators for the coaches to see if the athlete has qualities that would lead them to being proficient at playing the sport. However, most, if not all, of these tests for field and court sports have little or nothing to do with the skill of the athlete inside the sporting event. Unfortunately, we have to “play the game” of being great at these tests because they help us get noticed. Baseball players rarely, if ever, have to run 60 yards in a single play, and if they do ever have to run 60 yards in a single play, it definitely wont be in a straight line. Therefore, how could it be an indicator of potential baseball performance? The 225 bench test in football is by definition, a strength endurance test. However, the sport is really based on horizontal power which has little to do with upper body endurance.  Do you see where I’m going here?

Regardless of the reality, you still have to do the test. So now what?

To be better at your sport you need to practice your sport to improve the skill of it, just like anything else.  In the weight room, the more reactive the training the more carry over to the sport (just one example).  Now the tricky part is to become better at certain tests you have to practice the test if you want to improve. This is where we come in… Improving your 60 time is not as simple as just running a 60 yard sprint every day. Rather, as strength coaches we work on force production, single leg strength, running mechanics, acceleration drills, your first 10 yards of the sprint, and so on, breaking the test down into parts that will improve relevant sport related qualities of the athlete, while also providing significant improvement in the actual “test”.

Take Home

We all have to show that we have put in the work for the up and coming season, so performing well at these tests will help you, but if you don’t have a great 60 time or weak numbers for other tests, don’t get discouraged. Nowadays every coach is obsessed with providing some metric or score to quantify the athletes or prospects ability, so all you can do is do your best and if you truly want to be noticed, make sure you put your best foot forward on film or during the actual sport related drill (like fielding, hitting and throwing).  If you hit 10 home runs in batting practice during a showcase but your exit velo was not off the charts, you will still get noticed.