Follow us on


07976 306 494

Tag Archive: speed

  1. Speed Training for Gymnasts


    speed training for gymnastsHow to get to the Vault or Double Mini Trampoline quicker

    .In order to generate a bigger jump, gymnasts need a faster approach to the Vault or Double Mini Trampoline (DMT). This involves them running for about 20-30m and then jumping onto a springboard or the DMT.

    Speed training for gymnasts starts with posture (again)..

    speed for gymnasts

    Strong hips help speed

    Regular readers and athletes I work with will know that I start off with posture. It is hard to run fast if you are sagging like a jellyfish before you start.

    Whilst gymnasts are very strong at what they do, their lifestyle is affecting their standing and running posture.

    We have to put certain exercises and training in first to allow their bodies to get strong and support the speed. This is developing their structural integrity.

    Coach the cause rather than the symptom

    I made a mistake when first working with the Wellington Whirlwinds on trying to fix the very strange arm actions that the trampolinists had when running. I worked hard at getting them to use an “elbow high and back” arm action to be more efficient.

    However, Gary Winckler had previously spoken to me about the upper body being an indicator of what was going on below. When I saw Gary at GAIN  a few years ago, I said I had some sucess and he said the weird arm action was due to gymnasts being excessive plantor flexors which leads to straight leg running action, which then leads to straight arms.

    DOH! Blindingly obvious when I thought about it. I had been working on the overall sprint mechanics but had been distracted by the arms.

    We did a specific speed session out on the track with the group which was a break through moment. We established some common drills and common language which made it easier to go back into the gym and coach on the runway.

    This included:

    to help the run action. Speed for gymnasts needs to be constantly refined and the warm ups are a good place to reinforce these correct mechanics at every opportunity.

    Shorten the run up

    speed training for gymnasts

    Shorten the run up

    When working with the youngsters at Gemini, I asked them why they started their run up where they did: they were just guessing.

    When I watched them approach the vault, there was a lot of pitter pattering as they got near and they were slowing down. This meant a loss of speed.

    I got them to start near the springboard, then go back two metres at a time to see how they could maintain their speed. When they started the pitter patter, they went forward again two metres. That was their new start position.

    I got the youngsters to self assess where they should start, rather than Carolyn and I dictate. This became an “honesty competition” and we were delighted that they became very accurate on their self assessment.

    There is little point starting a run up from 30 metres away, then having to slow down as you approach take off. Instead, start short, get used to the take off and gradually increase the distance as you run faster and you can control that speed. Speed for gymnasts is different from top speed running because of the short  distance.

    When I coached at Exe Valley Gymnastics I helped this this young gymnast who is very fast. She has a short run up (due to hall constraints) but really attacks the vault   

    Her foot strike is excellent, as is her hip position of the stance leg. However, she does use her arms too early, looking more like a long jumper here.

    Here is me doing a less technically good  and slower vault, but using the arms correctly: 


    Speed training for gymnasts is a work in progress because as the gymnasts develop their technical skills and perform more complex routines, they need more approach speed.

    As they develop more approach speed, they need to be able to convert that speed into vertical/ horizontal jumping ability.

    Underpinning all of this is strength/ posture to allow them to move efficiently and be robust enough to withstand the rigours of training.

    Thanks to Carolyn and Bernie and everyone at the clubs for their input and efforts.

    I am currently implementing these ideas in Willand and Wellington with the young gymnasts I work with at our gymnastics club.

  2. How to make Pre-Season Training Interesting, Relevant and More Fun


    I Hate Pre-Season Training

    This is often the thought of players who are forced to undergo various fitness tests and long slow runs as part of a pre-season training and fitness programme.

    Doing repeated doggies, shuttle runs and various circuits, with barely a ball in sight is enough to put most players off.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    As a Coach, you can make pre-season training interesting, relevant and more fun. Your players will be fitter, faster and stronger. More importantly, if they are willing, engaged and able to play, they will put more effort in.

    Why Pre-Season Training Needs to be Turned on its Head

    pre season training programmeDo you start your pre season with an endurance fitness test? Your players turn up and do either the bleep test or the yo-yo test.

    You then train them for a few weeks doing lots of endurance running and re test them before the season starts.

    Is this interesting, relevant or fun?

    Or are you just gathering random numbers?

    I used to do exactly this. When I started working with London Welsh RFC 10 years ago. My plan was this:

    • Test the players
    • Develop an aerobic base.
    • Build up into intermittent endurance work with strength training.
    • Finish the last 2 weeks with speed training.
    • Re test the players

    exercise physiology testI checked this plan with some “expert physiologists at Brunel University” they thought it was a good plan.

    Of course they did: in a laboratory situation this would look good as I was training to the test.  

    Over the last 10 years, working with hundreds of athletes I now realise that the situation should be reversed.

    As an athlete I hated getting tested if I didn’t get the feedback, if I didn’t think it would help me fight better, or if there was no follow up training plan to help me improve.

    Get Fitter, Faster and Stronger in Pre-season

    As a coach you want your team to be Fitter, Faster and Stronger. But fit for what? You want them on the pitch ready to train and ready to thrive in competition when the season starts.

    So, I look at developing 3 qualities:

    1. Efficiency: Get them moving well and with control
    2. Robustness: Get them able to do that under load, faster, further or heavier.
    3. Resilience Get them able to sustain that quality of movement or load for longer.

    Who wants to practice bad running, bad lifting, slow agility and irrelevant skill patterns?

    It is demotivating as a player, and a waste of your precious Coaching time as a Coach.

    pre season training programme

    How to Start Pre-season Training

    pre-season trainingTesting and evaluation are an important part of pre-season. But just telling players to run further or run faster to improve their test scores may only reinforce their bad technique, and could lead to injury.

    My overriding consideration as a Coach is to give the players the tools to do the job.

    Choose your tests carefully. If you are in a team field or court sport like Football, Hockey, Rugby or Basketball then the bleep test or yo-yo tests are relevant to the demands of the game. More so than a 1500m or 5km running (or even worse rowing) test to assess your endurance (more test detail here).

    But, understand that these tests measure more than endurance. They measure your ability to: accelerate, brake and change direction. All of which are needed in your sports.

    So, in conjunction with one of those tests, your first week would be well spent assessing the players’ ability to control their own body.

    Here is a FREE handout on the 5 tests that I use with players. (This is the Foundation week 1 of our Sports Training System)

    My motto is “Little things, done well, consistently.” If the players are given the tools to do the job, they gain in confidence and progress accordingly. You have 6-12 weeks to get players fit, you have to ask yourself

    Robin Williams blind football

    Easy to get players tired

    Are you making them better, or just making them tired?

    Over the next few weeks we will be looking in detail at a different quality that is needed in pre-season training:

    If your players can accelerate and change direction faster, are strong enough to handle the braking forces when stopping and have a higher top speed, they will improve their test scores.

    You can then work on doing more quality movements with a shorter rest time: this will then lead to an improved work capacity.

    Most importantly: they will be able to transfer those fitness qualities to the Game where it counts.

    Please share with your team mates and fellow coaches. Have you got a favourite pre season fitness test? Please leave a comment below. 

  3. From the ground up: how to get fit for netball part2


    How do I get fit for Netball?

    netball fitnessIn part 1 of this article we looked at the demands of the game and the different positions. Today we will look at how to train for Netball.

    Netball is primarily a female sport, which due to their anatomical construction are prone to knee injuries in sport before adding in the complications of landing, jumping and multi directional movement.

    Netball is a game of high impact and stress, resulting in injuries occurring in:

    • Lower limb (ankle, knee)
    • Lower back/ Pelvis
    • Shoulder

    Typical types of injury are ligament strains and sprains, these can occur during training or competition especially if you are de-conditioned (Physio’s perspective here)

    Improve the quality of movement first

    If you move badly, you are slower and more likely to get injured. By improving how you move first, you can then look to improve how much you ove afterwards.

    You can improve movements with 5 minutes practice a day, done for 5 days a week, 50 weeks of the year this equates to 20 hours annually.

    For netball you need to improve lower body strength, postural strength both static and dynamic and shoulder strength.

    It is best to start with simple exercises before progressing to more complex ones when you are competent at the basics.

    The exercises can be done outside of a netball session, as part of the warm up, as a break for netball drills or in the cool down.

    Simple progression of 5 exercises:

    Basic Exercise



    Squat with overhead press

    Lateral lunge

    Clock lunges

    Walk Out

    Walk out press up


    Single limb lift in press up position

    Single leg squat

    Step to single leg squat

    Many players returning to netball will work all day, this can have an adverse affect on their ability to do basic movements. For example, if you are sat down all day your hamstrings become shortened and pelvis may tilt, this could lead to poor mechanics when squatting which in turn will lead to bad landing technique and injuries.

    To help correct this you can look at your posture at work/ home, train and stretch regularly and warm up and cool down sufficiently at training and matches.

    Improving agility

    netball agilityEvery position requires agility, whether it is moving around the court or evading the opposition in the circle. When looking to improve agility we first need to look at strength, if we don’t have the movement efficiency we cant improve agility.

    Once able to perform basic movements we can look at more dynamic movements, for example, progressing a squat to a double leg jump forwards, then to zig zag jumps forwards and then to single leg jumps. Technique is priority to start:

    • keeping knees in line with toes
    • looking ahead
    • pointing toes forwards 

    This is the first step of our 4 step progression to improving agility.

    netball speed

    Improving work capacity

    The rules of netball state players need to be able to play at least 15 minutes before substitution, they also need to change speed and direction.

    Due to limited time with athletes, we need to be smart to improve work capacity, this involves working with netball coaches. Small sided games can be incorporated in to training to target different intensities, with all small sided games we need to give sufficient rest.

    Type of game

    % max heart rate

    Single game duration

    Work: rest ratio

    Medium intensity


    5-10 minutes

    1: 0.5-1

    High Intensity


    5 minutes

    1: 1-1.5

    Maximal intensity


    Up to 2 minutes

    1: 1.5-3

    Jogging should be avoided: it just makes you tired and rehearses incorrect running techniques. Instead think 4 Rs

    • Run Well
    • Run Fast
    • Rest 
    • Repeat


    With the intermittent high impact nature of netball players need to be proficient in movement.  Correct jumping coaching can address part of this issue during Netball specific warm ups. This will help to reduce injuries and improve the players’ enjoyment of the sport.

    Complete training plans can be found in our ebooks Jump Higher and Get Stronger

    James MarshallDuncan Buckmaster      

  4. Speed and Power Training for Gymnasts


    How to get faster for gymnastics

    power gymnasts

    Plyometric drills for speed

    I presented two workshops last month at a conference for gymnastics coaches: speed training and plyometrics myths.

    The coaches ranged in age, experience and their gymnastic discipline.

    There is no one size fits all approach to gymnastics, so I tried to cover the underlying principles first so that the coaches could then apply it in their own context.

    I made sure I asked questions first: what were their concerns, existing practices and type of gymnast they work with.

    power gymnasts

    Coordination for running

    We then did practical drills with progressions from simple to complex.

    “Running is a co ordination activity”

    As I keep reminding the athletes I work with! The drills were designed to improve the 7 key aspects of running faster .

    The coaches were enthusiastic, and had a go, even if they struggled somewhat to the new exercises.

    With plyometrics training, it is important to do the work that is right for each athlete, so I showed several different progressions and variations.

    The Coaches asked some great questions, and I hope I was able to help them. We have followed up since with the back up material and more video clips.

    Looking forward to next time. I have since worked with 2 clubs on their specifc speed training for gymnasts on the vault and double mini trampoline.

    Please see read our club page if you are interested in taking up gymnastics in Willand, Cullompton, EX15,

  5. Speed Training Exercises

    1 Comment

    “Build the quality, then learn to endure it”

    speed training exercises devonThis month of our internship we have been learning about speed and the most effective ways to train for it writes Matt Durber.

    The speed training I have experienced up until now has typically consisted of a few drills through ladders and over hurdles to warm up followed by 50-100m sprints with walk back recovery.

    (Pictured are some speed resistance drills being done in Willand, Devon by our ADC athletes).

    Although these exercises are performed at maximum intensity, it is more speed endurance as there is little recovery time in between efforts. Training this way is also very limited, as at no point are you training to make the 50m run faster. As James said “build the quality, then learn to endure it

    When observing James coaching the speed drills to athletes, it immediately became clear that there is a lot more to running fast than just maximal effort. This week the focus was on reducing ground contact time when running.

    James introduced a number of drills and the complexity of them soon became clear with athletes interpreting instructions in their own way and performing completely different techniques (some not too dissimilar to the moon walk).

    The take home message for me is to go away and practice the drills until I have learned them well enough to think about, demonstrate and explain all at the same time…easier said than done!

    How to plan your speed training

    As well as knowing the training tools to increase speed, it is important to deliver the coaching in a way that will benefit the athlete the most. James’ recommendation was to include a small amount of speed training regularly within a training plan.

    Fatigue will hinder the ability to run at full speed so it is better to perform a small amount at the start of a fitness or team training session when fresh. This should be done regularly throughout the week to reinforce the mechanics.

    I have also learned that in addition to planning the drills to use each session, it is important to allow time for the athletes to practice the skills when running. This can be done by interspersing drills with 2 or 3 sprints focussing on the technique.

    These running techniques and coaching tools are new to me so I look forward to learning more and watching the athletes develop over the next few weeks.

    Matt Durber 

    These form the basis of our Run Faster programme 

  6. How to make your warm up sport specific


    Is your warm up sport specific?

    netball warm upAs many people in the world know and understand you can learn so much by watching and observing other people.

    How society works? How people act in different situations, being a couple of examples.

    This skill, of observing and reflecting is so important to a coach’s personal and professional development. I have had the change to work with some excellent coaches over the last 5 years and from each I have gained new skills and qualities. 

    While waiting for Matt, (as he was late to our meeting) I have the opportunity to watch two teams warming up for a game of Netball. As I was watching I noticed that both teams were doing the same drills and activities. And I got thinking…… is this normal? Does every team warm up the same? If so does that mean that each person that plays that sport is the same? Is that warm up effective for them?

     Warm Ups

    This is a message that we James has been drilling into the athletes we work with, over the last couple of weeks. We have spent time planning and reflecting upon their individual and team warm ups and how they prepare themselves before they compete and it has proven to be very useful for the athletes and us.

    Here are some tips:

    Have a plan. Write it down if necessary. Make it simple.

    • Make it personal to you- don’t copy what anyone else is doing.
    • Move generally before you get ready for your specific event.
    • Use large muscle groups first, get warm and sweaty.
    • Introduce technical drills for form.
    • Build up speed and intensity.
    • Integrate speed work with mobility, so that you don’t get fatigued.
    • Practice in training and experiment with what works for you.
    • Keep it short- that way if you are called up sooner than expected you won’t panic.
    • Routine is key; it will be a comfort before you compete.

    What I saw and what I was thinking….

    While watching the Netball warm up I saw:

    • A lot of running in a straight line (A to B)
    • A low to medium intensity of running, and not explosive movements, high intensity actions
    • Limited decision making and interplay between players.  

    When I look at Netball, I see a high intensity game (for those actually involved with the ball), that is multi directional and at varying intensity of movement thought-out the game. When in netball does a player run completely straight with no change or pace or direction. Did the warm up resemble the actually activities and movements required in the match? Probably not.

    A warm up is so important to mentally and physically prepare athletes for competition. Yes we can physically prepare athletes with the implementation of correct movements and actions, but who can we mentally prepare them? As each athlete has a different make up and needs.

    What we can do it stimulate each athlete sensor systems, in so that their make fast, and correct decision in the heat of battle. This means include decision making into a warm up, especially for team evasion sports.

    My favourite is keep Ball, a simple game that requires the players to many a number of pass between each other, without letting the opposition gain the ball. This activity is multi directional, varying of intensity running and movement, and include communication and decision making.

     Ask yourself, are you actually preparing your athletes for competition?

    Read more here

    Jason Slade

  7. Pre-season speed training


    “Don’t run the speed out of you”

    Speed kills, and every coach wants a faster team. The best way to get a faster team is to recruit faster players. Failing that, get your existing players to run faster.

    Your team needs to be able to run fast at the end of each half, not to be able to jog aimlessly. around. Traditionally pre-season training has started with long slow runs and then worked towards trying to get faster.

    bad runnerOne certain way to get your players to run slower is to keep running them into the ground until all technique has been lost (pictured right).

    My focus is always on giving the players the tools to do the job. Coach them well, give the Run Faster  programme.

    You hopefully have read and followed our guides and built a good foundation, got the strength that you can apply, and become more agile. Now is the time to get faster.

    The 2 key components of running faster

    1 Get a higher top speed

    2 Accelerate to that top speed

    But in my sport we never get to top speed as we only sprint over short distances” I used to think this way, thinking “what is the point of getting rugby props working on top speed?” (apart from amusement!)

    The question you have to ask is “What am I accelerating towards?

    If your top speed is higher, then the percentage of that top speed that you are striving for at each stage of 5m, 10m, and 20m (common sprint distances in team sports) will also be higher.

    So, if you can only get to about 45% of top speed at 10m (based on what Asafa Powell can do), then all things being equal, increasing your 60m speed will also help your acceleration.

    Increasing your top speed.

    Pre-season speed training

    Sprint drills

    Running is a co-ordination activity,it requires practice and refinement. I get the players to work on 7 different aspects of running (see here) and use a variety of drills designed to help them achieve this.

    I focus on one thing at a time and vary the drills to challenge the learning and co-ordination of the players. Just like any other skill that you teach as a coach.

    Get the players to practice running, focussing on that one aspect, then rest and repeat. Introduce the next drill, practice, and then use it when running.

    (An example of me coaching a drill can be seen on this video)

    If you just run without technique focus, you will just get tired. If you just drill without applying them into the run, you just get better at drills.

    Accelerate fast

    acceleration drillAcceleration is crucial in team sports. “More specifically, horizontal acceleration of body weight. The simplest and most accurate description from physics for explosiveness; quickness, agility and even speed

    Jack Blatherwick GAIN 2011

    The ability to control the body in a Straight Line Extension (SLX) is the difference between a fast person and a slower one. Strengthening drills that incorporate the whole body in that position are very useful.

    speed drillIn the first 2-3 strides the Gluteal Muscles and Quadriceps are a key factor in providing force for the thrust. After that (5-25 metres) the co -ordination and SLX are more important.

    That is why your team must be doing lower body strength work, especially on single legs and in different planes.

    I work on acceleration over 5-10m using a top down and bottom up approach.

    Top down is “Lean, fall and go” which can be done against a wall, with partner assist, harnesses and then “free fall”. This gets the players to practice their first step and feel comfortable with SLX.

    acceleration drillBottom up is from a bear crawl into a sprint. Bear crawl over 5m and then come up gradually into a sprint over 15m. This helps with reciprocal arm and leg action (co ordination) and again on SLX.

    Tips for fitting in pre-season speed

    “This all sounds well and good, but how do I fit it into my technical and tactical sessions?”

    The traditional view of team sports coaches is diametrically opposed to that of speed coaches when it comes to work:rest ratios.

    We can not have team sports players having 15 minutes rest between 300m intervals. This is the real world and time is precious. Similarly we can not have “speed sessions” turning into shuttle runs with jog back recovery. That is not Speed.

    I go for the more pragmatic approach of doing shorter speed sessions, more frequently. This way your players are able to cope mentally and physically with high quality work, and you can then do your tactical \ technical coaching afterwards.

    Active recovery of skill work such as passing and catching, or dribbling is acceptable, but remember only do that walking or stationary.

    Elliot HoyteEvery time you jog a drill, you have to finish it which requires braking: this is not rest. Metabolically your players will not appear tired, but mechanically they will have been loaded heavily.

    Stress is stress, and your body can only cope with so much.

    Avoid the volume trap on speed.

    I have found that good Coaches like me getting their players faster, more resilient and less likely to get injured.  This has taken some change of thinking and heavy bartering on allocated times!

    Perhaps, more importantly, players appreciate getting help on How to get faster, rather than told to run faster.

    (Download our Free “Run Faster Guide” here for 6 example sessions) 

  8. “The true Art to what, how and why we do”: Jim Radcliffe


    What it takes to be a successful strength and conditioning coach.

    “People in support positions should be seen and not heard” Jim Radcliffe strength and conditioningJim Radcliffe at the beginning of his presentation on successful S&C coaching.

    (By successful, he means producing extremely fit, agile and fast athletes that then produce results on the field, court, track or pool. Rather than how many twitter followers you have got!)

    Successful coaches explain the “Why”

    Most coaches are good at telling athletes the what to do, some are really good at explaining the how, but very few are great at understanding the Why.

    simon sinek's golden circleRadcliffe explained this at the outset, based on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, coaches need to understand why they are doing things, before they start just doing exercises or drills.

    His #1 factor of great or elite athleticism is acceleration or burst. The more people in the team who can do this, the better. This is the why.

    Rehearse consistently is the “how”

    In an average football practice at Oregon, they have 90+ acceleration reps for the exterior positions and 65+ for the interior positions.

    This includes burst requiring decision making. An example was his Punt Returners hold lacrosse balls when about to return a punt. This forces them to have correct body alignment and position when they do catch, which then facilitates a burst upfield (a great example of task constraint for you motor learning buffs).

    Negative practice drills which detract from the ability to burst must be eliminated. This includes the butt kick drill which just encourages a pendulum swing action and overstriding when running: failure practice!

    Thwe warm up is an opportunity for rehearsal, rather than just getting warm. Radcliffe teaches and reinforces  push mechanics in every warm up.

    “Agility is about efficient transitions”

    agility transitionsAgility progresses through these stages:

    • Start
    • Acceleration
    • Deceleration
    • Change of direction
    • Reacceleration

    This requires the ability to maintain correct posture as the body flexes, extends and rotates (pic of Excelsior athlete Sean Clifford).

    One great tip was to emphasise knee seperation over foot seperation. If the feet are getting further apart than the knees, then it shows poor hip projection.

    Ladder drills are redundant because they do a lot of footwork, but do nothing for knee seperation and hip projection.

    agility drillsThis can easily be seen in drills such as the one pictured with mini bands. The athlete at the front as feet coming out wider than the knees (poor hip projection) the athlete behind has knee above foot (better hip projection).

    Every drill and every athlete must be coached to ensure consistency.

    The 2 key points to be emphasised here are

    1. Body posture cues.
    2. Increase strength- power-impulse.

    How to develop explosive power on the pitch

    Being able to apply and strength and power develeoped in the gym onto the pitch requires the ability to apply great force over a small base of support and great righting and tilting reflexes.

    Radcliffe said that explosive power can be borken down into 3 areas as shown in diagram below.

    how to develop explosive power

    This requires practicing fast, explosive intense movements. Another key point was “The more time spent on the ground =the more BAD things happen than good.”

    Here Radcliffe was talking about an athletes’s ability to negotiate the ground. The ability to turn and run fast is a sign of efficient quickness and correct mechanics. There is a need for fast response to a stimulus.

    Placing the feet outside the knees is a sign of the less agile athlete:  (I question the transference of ultra-wide squats to agility work: hence my athletes squat with feet under hips).

    agility drillsOne of the ways to get the athlete to improve mechanics is to train barefoot. This give better immediate sensory feedback about the ability to have a spring loaded foot, rather than a flat foot.

    The whole foot lands on the floor, but only a tiny heel mark is left on the grass or sand. A spring loaded foot is essential for running fast and quick turns/ reactive jumps.

    Agility drill progressions

    Radcliffe spent some time going over how he progresses his agility work with his athletes.

    Starting with the two basic actions of:

    • Speed cuts: Pivot action, rolling off the inside foot.
    • Power cuts: The sit, dip and drive action, pushing off the outside of the foot.

    He then progresses to the Sway drill, lateral starts, backward starts and then elastic lead-ins to the the speed and power cuts. This could be stepping off a chair and landing on the outside edge of the foot to push sideways for a power cut.

    This then leads to to reaction drills (with directional components such as a clock drill) to a games related skill or drill.


    How to get agile for sportsFrom Day 1, practice 1, Radcliffe emphasises the “Go as fast as you can go” approach to training. Initially this may only be 1/2 steps in different directions, but they are FAST.

    This seminar showed how Radcliffe has a truly great understanding of Why, brilliant progressions of how, and then practically he can do the what.

    Jim radcliffe agilityWhat is really refreshing about Jim Radcliffe, is that he is at GAIN to learn as much as to teach, he is always writing notes, or asking the different presenters questions so he can improve his own practice (see pictures of him sharing with Vern Gambetta and Finn Gundersen).

    This is the 4th year in a row I have seen him present, and I always get something new. I have completely changed how I coach agility and pliometrics as a result of seing him in action. Highly recommended.

    Further reading:

  9. How to get faster for football


    How to get faster for football

    With the football season finally over (for barely a few weeks!), we take a look at how you can use the off season to give you or your team the best preparation for the season to come.

    Football is an increasingly high intensity and high tempo game, often decided by the smallest of margins. Having the fastest players then gives your team the best chance of success.

    Speed training for football

    There are two main aspects of fitness which relate to speed for football:

    1. Maximum speed– needed when chasing a long pass or an opponent.
    2. Changing direction at speed (agility)– needed to beat an opponent in a small space or to track an opponent who is trying to move into space off the ball. 

    Both aspects are vital for performance in different scenarios in the game; however they require different physical abilities and should therefore be coached as separate skills.

    This article will focus on improving running technique and speed. For more information on agility, see our pre-season guide to agility training

    Maximum Speed

    football speed trainingThe ability to run fast in a straight line can be broken down into two components:

    1) Acceleration– the ability to get to top speed quickly.

    The key to acceleration is horizontal displacement of body weight. Although this requires force which can be achieved through strength training, what is more important is how the force is applied and how quickly.

    Training sessions (gym and field based) should include work on applying force in the right direction and as fast as possible to improve acceleration.

    2) Running technique– the coordination of the body to maintain horizontal velocity with minimum energy expenditure.

    Running is a skill, with key technical points to be coached. These points can be worked on in specific running sessions (see below), but can also be included in warm ups and worked on during skill sessions too.

    How to apply this to football training

    football speed trainingPre-season training is the optimal time to begin working on speed and running technique as players are generally fresh after a few weeks off post-season.

    Speed sessions could be scheduled as standalone sessions, or at the start of a team session followed by technical skills training.

    Try our speed guide with 6 sessions each designed to work on a different aspect of running technique. With 2 sessions a week, you have a ready made 3 week speed block to greatly enhance the athleticism of your players.

    It is important to remember that these sessions should focus on quality, rather than quantity. Running is a technical skill and once players begin to get tired, their running mechanics will decline.

    Players should have adequate recovery between efforts in order to perform the exercises well and reinforce good technique. Think of the 4 Rs:

    • Run Well
    • Run Fast
    • Rest
    • Repeat

    Once players have developed their running technique and speed, sessions can then be designed to increase speed endurance and conditioning. Now your players will be able to run further, faster and then repeat that speed.

    Without speed training, what will they be able to endure?

    Matt Durber 

    We are currently running weekly “speed training for team sports” sessions in Willand, Devon. Contact James for details.

  10. Force, power or acceleration?


    “What is power?”

    jump powerWas my opening question at yesterday’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshop for strength and conditioning coaches.

    “Force times velocity” was the text book response from the ex- students.

    They are of course technically correct, but how does this affect how we train our athletes? What about momentum, force, impulse, velocity, mass and acceleration?

    Powerlifters are powerful (high force, low velocity) as are gymnasts (low force, high velocity). Most sports people fall somewhere in between these extremes, or use different parts within their sport.

    Applying power

    snatch trainingThe workshop was split into three parts:

    1. Terminology and theory: I went through this in some detail and based it on questions I have been asking since I saw Jack Blatherwick present two years ago at GAIN (see below).
    2. Practical exercises to develop acceleration. This included detail look at the snatch and assistant exercises to help develop the snatch. I also covered runs, jumps and throws for the “application” cornerstone.
    3. Programme design: the coaches had prepared a 4 week programme to develop power and they shared and discussed this in small groups.

    (One interesting question came up: velocity is a vector quantity, it has a direction. If power was force times speed, then the direction of travel would be irrelevant. So, if we develop power in one direction, why would that apply in another?)

    “What are the best ways to train for acceleration of body weight?”

    As part of my preparation for the workshop I trying to find research that was both current and measured what we are trying to train (rather than some abstract concept only lab technicians are interested in).

    I contacted Jack Blatherwick hoping he might point me in the right direction, instead he was kind enough to respond with his thoughts:

    Coaches: Trust your logic. Some research and propaganda is misleading.
    I do not want to leave the impression that a coach should avoid research. Read everything you can, but do it knowing there is likely to be something incorrect or misleading along with those things that are helpful.

    There’s something good in every article, even the worst pseudoscience … but misleading information is quite prevalent in current popular thoughts about Power and Force.

    Acceleration = Speed, Quickness, and Agility

    acceleration trainingWhat is ‘Acceleration?’ In kinematics (the most basic topic in Physics, dealing with movement), ‘Acceleration’ is defined as any change in velocity, encompassing all changes in direction and speed.

    Agility is included in this definition, because we associate agility in sports with quick changes in direction, like cutting sharply to dodge around an opponent, or perhaps cornering at high speed on the hockey rink.

    Speed is also included, because even at relatively constant speed, there is deceleration and acceleration with each stride. Horizontal acceleration of body weight is therefore one of the highest priorities in sports that feature
    speed, quickness, and agility.

    In other words, for this priority, the critical question is: “What are the best ways to train for acceleration of body weight?”
    However, for some reason, throughout history, coaches asked for research on Force and Power, and this has led to training advice that might not be the best fit for acceleration of body weight.


    roundhouse kick powerTheir question seems entirely logical, and advances the discussion to ‘Kinetics,’ the second basic topic in physics, because we are certainly accelerating a mass.

    Therefore, Force and Power would seem to be logical extensions of our question: “What are the best ways to train for acceleration of body weight?

    But … it is an absurd thought (which no one intended) that nerves and muscles might understand the following abstractions:

    • Force = Mass x Acceleration
    • Power = Energy Expenditure / Time = Work / Time = Force x Distance / Time = Force x Velocity

    Nerves and muscles only understand (and remember!):

    • (a) how fast they have been trained.
    • (b) through what range of motion.
    • (c) how much effort this takes.

    That is called SPECIFICITY, the principle that performance is enhanced when the training ‘looks and feels’ like the desired outcome (my simplistic definition, not to be blamed on anyone else).

    Therefore, if ACCELERATION is a priority for our sport, and we use the abstraction (F=ma) we are not violating any formulas from physics … but we might be wrong.
    Consider the continuum (Force = Mass x Acceleration) that represents various speeds and weights, along which we might choose our training exercises:

    force, power and acceleration

    The thought is that to improve acceleration we must increase Force, and strength coaches love to do this by increasing the mass we lift in the weight room. But, of course, the more mass we lift, the slower the acceleration. Might this be considered a good way to train for slow acceleration?

    Please don’t misunderstand my purpose. I believe in lifting weights – sometimes heavy weights, at an appropriate age and level of fitness. But, it is obvious that we must also incorporate more training in which we accelerate our body mass as quickly as we can.

    Complex Training

    jazmin sawyers jumpFurthermore, in every weightlifting exercise there is a deceleration (to zero velocity) toward the end of the range of motion. This occurs at precisely the moment when sprinting and skating require an explosive acceleration.

    Considering that we are ALWAYS forming neuromuscular habits when we train, there should NEVER be a phase of the year in which we exclude quick acceleration from the program, and just work on strength.

    In fact, I believe every strength exercise should be accompanied in some way with an explosive exercise featuring acceleration: jumps, weighted jumps, sprints, hills, sleds.

    Neuromuscular learning occurs with every movement. Myelin is being formed along axons which innervate muscle fibres that are training at high speed.

    Timing is a critical part of athletic development,and slow training – if overdone – will certainly not enhance quickness, agility, and speed.

    Peak power?

    The simplest word (acceleration) for our highest priority has been needlessly replaced by Force and Power.

    The word ‘POWER’ has so many colloquial uses that it is often misinterpreted in communications between the physics (biomechanics) lab and the important group of users: athletes and coaches.

    One question that has been examined for decades is: “What is the optimum amount of weight to be incorporated into a training exercise to maximize power?” Research is inconclusive, but many believe the optimum weight should be about 30% of a maximum lift with one repetition (1RM).

    How important is this question for sports that depend on speed, quickness, and agility?

    If the question had been: “What is the optimum weight to lift to maximize ACCELERATION?”  The answer is “Zero. Just use body weight.”

    Many coaches and athletes (as well as scientists and professors) incorrectly believe that explosiveness or explosive starts from a standstill are where athletes demonstrate the greatest power, like exploding out of the starting blocks.

    But, looking at the equation Power = Force x Velocity, it is easy to see that there needs to be substantial velocity for Power to be a maximum. Of course there also needs to be a high rate of acceleration as well,because Force = mass x acceleration (F=ma).

    Think of it this way: If an athlete accelerates at the same rate between zero and 5 miles per hour as he does between 5-10 mph, his Power is greater from 5-10, because velocity is greater.
    Usain Bolt’s graph of velocity vs. time (modified from IAAF data), demonstrates this point clearly.

    usain bolt powerHis maximum power does not occur at the start. That is where acceleration is greatest. Power does not peak until a couple seconds into the sprint where both acceleration and velocity are high.

    Explosive movement from a standstill is not where an athlete expresses peak power. When we observe a dragster take off at the start, it is common to use the word ‘powerful.’ But the dragster exerts much greater power somewhere later in the race.

    Training Programme Design

    force power accelerationACCELERATION is the correct and simplest word for quickness and agility, and this is the highest priority in many sports, except where the athlete has to move large external masses.

    In designing training programs, keep in mind the objective. If the athlete needs to accelerate his own body weight to be successful, there should be a lot of that in training programs.

    Heavy strength training is slow acceleration. That does not mean it is wrong, but it must be accompanied by fast acceleration of body weight. 

    Jack Blatherwick

    Thanks very much to Jack for that excellent advice. We kept touching upon training principles yesterday: coaches like doing what they are comfortable with as well as what the physical constraints of their “weights room” dictates.

    Reminding ourselves constantly that we are trying to develop better athletes, rather than solely bigger numbers in the gym is crucial!

    Please leave your thoughts below (with name).