Winter is Coming: Sprinting

Hi Guys,

Today’s field strong has the circuit in it. Now I often have to head out to do it as I have a home gym in the garage and bashing a medball against the wall is a no no when the kids are in bed (Kids are 2.5 and 9 months). Today I can’t.

So thoughts on a sub for this movement? Keep it plyo? Or something else rotational?

Also I’d love to hear your thoughts in the future podcasts on trampoline sprints (as I’ve just acquired one). Can they be directly subbed for a sprint lasting the same length? Sometimes I have the kids whilst the missus is out at her exercise classes and it would be better than sprinting 100m down the road around the corner. The baby monitors range just isn’t good enough!

Mr. Ben.

Winter is coming… no really, winter is coming. If you’re like me and you live in an area where this white stuff will soon start falling from the sky, this means you’ll need to start thinking about a change in your approach to programming; this is particularly important when it comes to sprinting.

A crucial component to our Field Strong and Bedrock programs, when sprinting pops up during this time of year we get asked all the time how to handle this very scenario. In today’s article I’m going address Mr. Ben’s questions, along with sharing some of the ways I have made the most of the winter months with my athletes, finding new ways and opportunities to keep driving adaptation.

Question 1

According to olympic sprint coach Charlie Francis, there are four key performance factors to improving sprint performance: improve the start, increase acceleration, increase maximum velocity, and increase speed endurance. When you are confined to the walls of a gym, whether it be because of weather or lack of space, increasing speed and speed endurance is going to be challenging. However, improving the start is definitely within your control. No matter the sport, practice fundamental start and stop steps athletes need in their arsenal:

If you are fortunate to have 10-30 yards you can also work on increasing acceleration. Acceleration can be thought of as the capacity to gain speed within a short time/distance; think a linebacker closing the gap once he sees a running back. These short distances are where the greatest increases in speed  are found. That speed will continue increase beyond this initial distance, but is more gradual. Acceleration is the first step to speed, and the greater speed equals one BMF.

This is also an opportunity to chunk out components of sprinting, and work on perfecting common limiting factors such as the arm swing and leg drive. Improving mechanics in these two areas will have a big return on investment in the speed development of athletes at all levels. These drills allow you to coach within a window, and don’t take up much real estate. From there you can use various skips, Pele’s, and trampoline sprints to allow your athletes to pair the two elements together and develop the proper patterning for speed. When you are looking to use trampoline sprints as a substitution, look at how long it would take you to run the prescribed sprint, and apply that to your time spent on the trampoline. 

(Most) sports don’t happen in a straight line. With that in mind, the colder months are also the perfect time to shift your focus to work on change of direction skills. These drills are great for this time of year, because they can done in a more confined space. A big part of change of direction comes down your ability to produce, reduce, and reproduce forces. Working efficiency/competency in this area is not only going to improve performance but will also decrease injury potential.  

Question 2

Any time we are looking to make a substitution, we first need to look at the intention of the drill, and find a way to best replicate it. Don’t confuse activity for achievement. In the Medball Plyo Circuit, we are using it to challenge your ability to produce force and reduce force, in primal movements through different planes of motion. They are also a great tool for training anti-rotation, a crucial component of injury prevention.

One way that you could keep intent of the circuit, but not wake the kids up, is by attaching a band to a squat rack and execute the circuit this way. For example, the Resisted Rotational Squat Hop is an amazing anti-rotation tool. Just like the medicine ball, a lighter tensioned band is going to have more benefit.

Bonus! For those of you are looking to supplement your winter speed work, plyo medball work not only has the benefits listed above, but is also great for developing explosive strength, a key component in the start of a sprint.

Conclusion

Don’t think of the winter as a time where you have to make concessions with things like sprinting and hiding your dad-bod in a Cosby sweater. Look at this as an opportunity to work on specific attributes of speed work that will pay off come springtime. Plan ahead and periodize your programming to make the most of what the weather and your space will allow.

Carl Case

Carl Case has been an athlete his whole life, playing both football and rugby in high school. After high school, he directed his focus to rugby where he went on to become a collegiate Midwest All Star. Carl continues to play rugby on a mens team near South Bend, and was part of a National Runner Up team. He found CrossFit and then Crossfit Football as a way to fuel his rugby performance. He has been following the CrossFit Football program since it’s launch in 2009 and attended his first CrossFit Football seminar in August of 2009.

After an introduction to CrossFit in 2007, Carl became a certified coach in 2009 and co-owner of CrossFit South Bend in 2011. In addition to coaching CrossFit and CrossFit Football classes at the gym, Carl has been coaching high school rugby since 2009. He uses the CrossFit Football and Power Athlete concepts to help his young athletes identify their goals and provides pointed instruction to help achieve those goals.

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