We at Power Athlete have declared war on the bullshit in the strength and conditioning world.
Lately, I’ve been seeing athletes and training sites showing off new resistance toys they’re convinced will increase speed and improve sport performance. Athletes, in your world, these tools will do more harm than good, as it will adversely affect sport speed.
What’s sport speed? The fastest at which the athlete can move while executing their sports task(s) and remain under control in a chaotic environment.
Sport speed and tasks like passing a football or shooting a three pointer under duress are manifested from an athlete’s performance traits – strength, power, and speed. However, most S&C pros miss the most crucial trait that binds them all: coordination. In sport, coordination is an athlete’s ability to call upon their performance traits to a volume specific to the task. An athlete with a 38″ vertical like Santonio Holmes doesn’t use the top end of their capability every play, just enough the moment his team needs it. Success is determined by their Praxis: the ability to react to a new situation with appropriate, task-specific force.
The Secret Is, You Got to Coordinate
Sport task and speed are connected by efficiently coordinating individual muscle fibers (intramuscular coordination) and muscle groups (intermuscular coordination). The nervous system generates this in three ways:
- Number Encoding: activating and deactivating individual motor units
- Rate Encoding: the frequency of releasing motor units
- Pattern Encoding: synchronizing motor units
Executing a sport task with both precision and maximal speed is a result of great coordination. For example, a single sprint stride activates over 60 lower leg muscles, all of which must synchronize and coordinate. To produce maximum force (in turn, producing maximum speed), the CNS must recruit the largest amount of motor units, release at maximum frequency, and simultaneously work motor units in a period of maximum voluntary effort.
Non-resisted speed training should work towards creating an optimal movement model, which is based on the coordination of muscle group work. Overloading an athlete with resistance disrupts this movement model, thus decreasing the athlete’s sport speed.
Speed Kills (But Only If Under Control)
Power Athlete contends, applying resistance to sprinting/lifting in training may decrease times in a linear and general movement pattern for ADVANCED athletes, but will negatively affect development of untrained athletes and sport-movement patterns and coordination come Game Day. Put simply, resisted sprints may cut your straight-sprint time, but this new found linear speed blunts your ability to control max effort direction change, reaction, and field sport-specific feats of greatness come Game Day. What good is gaining new powers if you’re unable to control it?
No glory in shaving your 40 if you’re getting juked on the field. This goes back to the Welbournism, “look like Tarzan, play like Jane.”
sobering Fact of the day
One of the primary mechanisms for a torn ACL in contact sports is the inability to control the body at top end speed. Learn more about the connection of change of direction and neuromuscular coordination here.
don’t put a band-aid on it- let’s fix this
So, what then? Are you stuck at whatever speed you were given? Relax, Power Athlete won’t leave you hanging.
To increase your speed, apply these Five Sprint Fixes and then run as fast as you freaking can. We’ve done the hard work for you, and have programmed Volume and Intensity sprints into Field Strong and The Basics that are structured for continual speed development.
To increase neuromuscular coordination for your sport:
- Play your fucking sport
- Incorporate Sport Skill into training
Low Heart Rate: This is not a met-con for time or reps. This focused, deliberate practice requires keeping the HR in check.
Sub-Maximal Effort: The skill in itself should be the stress. This is the introduction to, or perfecting of, technique. We are not challenging it with resistance, time, or pre-fatigue.
Low Stress Training Environment: The athlete must let down their guard for the process. No one’s pressuring them, and mistakes are allowed!
Compound Movements Broken Down: Take the skills found on the Movement Demo page and break them up into 2-4 components. This could either be the phases of the movement (set up, initiation, transition, follow through) or positional breakdowns (given the squat: Dead Bug Home Position, See Saw Walk, Spiderman w/ Elbow Drop). Mastery comes from the sum of the parts!
Improves the Athlete’s Ability to Play Their Sport: Skill practice gradually improves an athlete’s ability to play their sport.
Empower Your Performance – Train Fast, Not Stupid
Developing maximum speed for your sport is a long term process directly related to how well one controls their Primal movement patterns. Adding resistance here will hinder performance. In top end speed movements, development of force is a key factor of movement efficiency. In finesse movements, how well you calculate, coordinate, and apply task specific force determines success in the sporting arena.
DO NOT detract from your athlete’s performance by implementing any tool, I don’t care what it is, if you do not understand how they work and the consequences, both good and bad, of their application.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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