| | | Battle The Bullshit: Skill and Speed Resistance Training

Author / John

speed resistance trainingWe 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.

skill and speed resistance training

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:

  1. Number Encoding: activating and deactivating individual motor units
  2. Rate Encoding: the frequency of releasing motor units
  3. 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.

Dakota Hughes LFL skill and speed resistance training

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:

  1. Play your fucking sport
  2. Incorporate Sport Skill into training

Sport Skill? You mean like throwing a football or swinging a bat? No. We covered this already here. Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up:

Sport Skill:

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.

This approach dials in movement efficiency and motor control, while attack limiting factors like spatial awareness, footwork, and separation of shoulders and hips.

speed resistance trainingEmpower 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.


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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.


  1. menacedolan on December 3, 2015 at 8:37 am

    This is awesome! Thanks for breaking it down and keeping it simple. Another fantastic job Tex

  2. DavidMck on December 3, 2015 at 9:10 am

    @mcquilkin the deeper down the rabbit hole I go, the obvious and simple things become. Want to be fast, run fast, want to be strong, lift heavy, want to be injury free, move well. The hard part now is how do you convince and entire population of people who believe that if they simply squat down and stand up theyve completed a lift, if the bounce that bar off their chest and lock out the arms, theyve completed a horizontal press. If they run from point A to point B, as fast as they can, arms flailing feet kicking out, they have successfully completed the movement. The biggest problem im running into right now is convincing people that yes, it does take this much effort and practice to squat, press, and run… The industry is flooded with “trainers” or “coaches” or whatever you want to call them who allow people to move with shitty form, progress without perfecting movement, etc… Fortunately a lot of the people im working with are willing to do the work, but a handful of people who come my way leave if their not a crumpled soggy shit sandwich in the bottom of a brown paper bag by the end of the workout. Banded crossovers, step catch, sport cord rows are effective but not sexy, and thats what people want unfortunately.

    • Tex McQuilkin on December 4, 2015 at 7:30 am

      @Train608, I think the reason you’re running into this problem with people is that you’re trying to “convince” them versus CONNECTING with them.

      Diving into the archives: Power Coach: Connection and Communication

      Don’t try and tell these people why mastering the basics and posture are the truth, connect and show them. Find out what they’re training for and think hard about the connection between their goal and the application of the program. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, focus on the ones you got in front of you.

      The real problem is not with those ‘allowing’ shitty form, they probably don’t know any better. The problem is are those taking advantage of athletes with toys and bullshit to make a quick buck versus empowering their performance.

  3. Graham King on December 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Great article, Tex.

    Commenting on “The industry is flooded with “trainers” or “coaches” or whatever you want to call them who allow people to move with shitty form, progress without perfecting movement, etc…”

    Keep in mind that coaching goes both ways. People have to be receptive the cues, the corrections, the tips, etc. that coaches give them. And many times coaches see clients infrequently because they (the clients) train at many places. The corrections aren’t “sticky”. The coach, then, has to be cognizant enough to think through programming so that progressions in speed and resistance aren’t made until proper movement patterns are established.

    In other words, this is a challenge in the commercial fitness environment because clients have infrequent training times and aren’t always receptive to learning how to move properly. They want to sweat and go home.

    • Tex McQuilkin on December 4, 2015 at 7:42 am

      Fantastic follow up, Graham. The struggles of a commercial facility trying to do good in this industry are real. Google doesn’t help much either, now every father and desk jock are experts. Back in the day, it was always a pet peeve of mine to get an someone come in from another gym and tell me how to do my job. Especially if I was trying to help save their life from bad coaching. I always left those fools to @Cali.

      When working with athletes on the commercial side of things, I found it best to arm them with information (superficial and deep meaning), and empower them with the question, ‘Why?’. Telling them why we were doing something, whether they asked or not. This got them accustomed to that level of information, and they would ask why wherever they went.

      I know the impact of this because years later, I still run into some former athletes and they fire back at me, “toe check” or “A-frame”.

  4. Patrik on December 6, 2015 at 1:04 am

    Thanks for a great article!

    So this only applies to tasks requiring coordination like sport specific ones and speed? What if I’m using a cable machine to train sport specific rotation? Would that effect the coordination in a negative way as well?

    • Tex McQuilkin on January 15, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Sports specific rotation? You mean rotation? You’re adding resistance to your bodies ability to move through the transverse plane.

      The only sports that do not require rotation are Olympic Weightlifting, Power Lifting, and biking. Unless cable machine rotations are the next grid league, these are not sport specific. It is best to focus on your ability to separate your shoulders and hips through all planes and axes of rotation.

      Remember, accelerated adaptation is always the approach. Everything ‘works’, but how efficiently? We cover accelerated returns on trunk rotation in this article: Attacking Limiting Factors: Trunk Rotation.

      Thank you for replying, Pat. Let me know if you have any questions!

  5. […] Note: This post originally appeared on the Power Athlete HQ blog and was too good not to share (with their permission, of course!). It’s been modified and […]

  6. Jesse Gray on January 15, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Oh lawd this is stupid!
    For starters, I would love to know how they think this could possibly make you faster? All their resistance band crap is set up to resist anterior chain movements! There is a band connected to the knee to increase resistance on the hip flexor? Violent closing of the hips? I guess that might increase stride rate? Maybe? Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure the muscles that actually move you forward are located on the other side of the body and the bands are applying force in the wrong direction…

  7. Alec Davies on July 29, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Really good article @Tex, ultimately how can people expect to get good at a sport without doing that sport? Good breakdown of sport skills, adds a little more context to the programming section of the cert.

  8. […] Battle the Bullshit: Skill and Speed Resistance Training by Tex […]

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