Big 4 Speed Formula Infographic

Velocity Speed Formula

Velocity’s Speed Formula is proven to get results for athletes at all levels of sport.  Developed by World Famous Track Coach Loren Seagrave, it’s used in elite sports around the world to make sure athletes get faster.

While it appears simple, it’s based on complex biomechanics and motor control theory.  By improving these 4 elements, you can improve your speed too.

To go more in depth and learn more checkout: Velocity’s Big 4 Speed Formula

Velocity Big 4 Speed Formula

Velocity’s Big 4 Speed Formula

Velocity Speed Formula

World renowned track coach Loren Seagrave was teaching me his system of training some of the world’s most elite speed athletes. Over 50 track medalists at world and Olympic events.

And this was it? “That’s too simple,” I thought.
 
I was a coach who was working with elite and professional athletes in the weight room and on the field. With a graduate education in biomechanics and motor control, and undergrad education in engineering. I just thought; The Big 4 was simplistic.
 
Fortunately, I kept looking at it, applying it and learning. I was wrong. It wasn’t simplistic, it was in fact incredibly complex and elegant underneath. Yes, The Big 4 was simple, and the best tool to organize speed training I have ever seen.
 
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The Components of Speed

To coach movement effectively, you need understand the movements’ biomechanics. You need to understand motor control. You need to understand the types of movement occurring in sport.
 
It takes years (decades) to truly gain this knowledge.
 
How to analyze a movement, the athlete’s movement skill, and then determine what training methods and drills will improve performance. That’s a lot.
 
The Big 4 are basically the “formula” for speed. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary.
 
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
 
That’s what we coach. This formula has all of the complexity underneath, but it‘s simple to apply and understand. It can also save you decades and help you achieve better results with your athletes. That’s why I use it.
 
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ~ Albert Einstein
 

Big Force

You have to apply force to the ground to go somewhere. The faster you want to go the more force you have to apply. Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue.
 
This doesn’t mean you need to be just bigger or become a powerlifter. However, biomechanics research tells us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
The Big Force you need is developed by sprinting fast, using specific sprint and plyometric drills, and getting in the weight room. There are 6 different strength qualities we train. For speed, focusing on Max strength, Strength-speed, and Speed-strength are key.

Small Time

In sports, speed counts. So applying that force in a small time, while in contact with the ground, is critical. You don’t often see the opponent saying, “sure, take all the time you need to generate that force, I’ll wait.”
 
Yes you need a Big Force, but you have to apply it to the ground in a (very) small time. This requires the right strength and motor control qualities.
 
We develop those through technique drills that reinforce a small ground contact time. Through plyometrics and strength training which develop Rate of Force Development and Reactive strength.

Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity. Efficient and effective movement requires more than just the right amount of force. That force has to be applied in the right direction.
 
Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way. When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”
 
The motor control to create Proper Direction is developed through technical drills. These drills teach athletes to move optimally.
 
The stability to transfer those Big Forces comes through specific training drills. It also comes from getting stronger with resistance training. Finally, it’s also enhanced in our functional strength components.

Optimal Range of Motion

Goldilocks had it right, not too much, not too little, but just right. We need optimal range of motion in our joints, muscles and tendons. In some movements we need large range of motions, and in others we need smaller. The key is that the athlete can move without restriction or compensations.
 
Many of our technical exercises and dynamic warm-up drills develop this range of motion. In addition, we use mobility work. Things such as self-myofascial (foam rollers, balls, etc..) in conjunction with stretching techniques. Sometimes it may include working with a tissue specialist.

Training “Game Speed” Big 4

One of the strengths of this “formula” is that it doesn’t just apply to the track or linear speed. It applies to all aspects of multi-directional speed and agility as well. That’s what puts it above so many speed training systems that are only designed for running straight.
 
There are lots of ways this becomes useful in training. From analyzing our athletes’ movement, to selecting training methods, it acts as a guide. In a group setting it allows us to improve different parts of the formula for individuals using the same or similar drill.
 
Same drill, different focus.
 
Different focus, different training effect.
 
That’s why the Big4 is such a powerful tool for individualizing training. Even in a group setting.
 

Training Programs

Often athletes come in to get faster and when we introduce them to the weight-room, or stretching, they may ask “Why? I want speed training.”
 
I get it. It’s common sense, to get faster just do sprint training. Although it appears logical, it’s NOT the most effective and efficient method.
 
The Big 4 explains why:
 
We have different components to our overall program to comprehensively develop each of the Big4. Yes, the “speed training” component can be used to address all four components of the speed formula. However, we can achieve better results and faster results by adding other things.
 
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” ~ Bruce Lee
 

Simple vs. Simplistic

I once thought it was too simplistic to train something as complex as human movement using a formula like the Big4. It isn’t simplistic, it’s simple. Underneath this clear, concise training method is the incredible complexity of biomechanics and motor control. Organizing it into this 4 piece formula and removing the confusion on so many aspects of speed training, is the genius of the Big4.
 
Thanks Coach Seagrave.

Is Your Agility Important for Soccer?

Soccer Agility

Is Your Agility Important for Soccer?

Sprinting speed is very important, but soccer isn’t a track meet. It’s not a linear game, and elite soccer players have great agility in addition to blazing straight-ahead speed.
 
We divide agility into two key components—quickness and change of direction. Sprinting speed is great, but if you can’t change direction, you’re going to get burned.

Velocity Speed Formula

The Velocity Speed Formula doesn’t apply only to linear sprinting. It also applies to multi-directional movements. The motor control may be different, but Newton’s Laws of Motion still apply, no matter what direction you are traveling.  The Velocity Speed Formula has 4 components;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

RELATED: The Velocity BIG 4 Speed Formula

There are differences in how we apply the Formula with agility compared to sprinting. When we compare BIG FORCE, the magnitude may be different, as might the type of muscle contractions.
 
For agility, SMALL TIME and PROPER DIRECTION usually become more important. When it comes to OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION, it’s usually smaller in agility than in sprinting.
 
Same scientifically based formula, different types and values going into it.

Quickness

You know the feeling you get watching elite players with incredible quickness? Their movements are crisp, precise and lightning fast. They are able to keep their bodies in total control while making moves.
 
Lightning-fast movements made in 1 or 2 steps can make all the difference when reacting to an opponent, or leaving one on the ground.
 
When we consider Quickness, the emphasis moves away from BIG FORCE and changes to SMALL TIME, PROPER DIRECTION and OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION.
 
Body control and balance are big parts of true athletic quickness. Without them, you are like a fish out of water, flailing ineffectively. Athletic quickness requires that you have the balance to keep your body in control. That you can apply ground reactions forces effectively to move you in the PROPER DIRECTION.
 
This becomes even more evident in soccer, where many of your moves are made with a ball at your feet. You must have excellent single-leg balance, stability and quickness. This let you forces to your body for movement and still maintain good touch on the ball.
 
When it comes to quickness and your footwork, smaller, not bigger movements, are usually the OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION. That’s because you need your feet close to the ground to react and make movements quicker.
 
The ground reaction force is smaller, but quicker and more reactive. When most people think about strength, they imagine how much someone can lift on a barbell. However, that is only one type of strength.
 
The Velocity Sports Performance methodology uses six strength types to make athletes more effective in the game. To improve quickness we are more focused on developing Rate of Force Development and Reactive Strength.
 

Rate of Force Development

This type of strength is all about how fast you can turn on your muscles and generate force. In biomechanics, it’s called Rate of Force Development (RFD).
Player A may be stronger when squatting with a barbell; but since Player B can turn his muscles on quicker, he’ll start moving faster than Player A. As shown above, when it comes to quickness, it’s not how much force you can produce, but how quickly you can produce it.

Reactive Strength

If an athlete is already moving one way, he or she has to apply force to re-direct his or her momentum. This is Newton’s First Law of Motion. Paraphrased, an object will keep going in the same direction unless acted on by another force. Exercising agility and quickness, an athlete must apply this other force.
During quick agility movements, the foot’s contact with the ground first requires an eccentric muscle action. Eccentric actions occur when the muscle is exerting force one way to resist the athlete’s momentum.
 
This rapid eccentric force to change momentum is immediately followed by a high RFD to redirect the athlete. Rapid eccentric force coupled with a high RFD in a small time are what we biomechanically call Reactive Strength.

What You Need

Here are some examples of how you might improve your quickness.
 
Reactive Strength and RFD
  • Single-Leg Hop Back
  • Ladder Drills – Backward Single-Leg
Body Control and Dynamic Balance
  • Hexagon Agility
  • Single-Leg Med Ball

Change of Direction

Soccer isn’t linear; it constantly changes from one part of the field to another. You have to mark a player who is going one direction, then another. As a soccer player, you need to be good at both.
 
If the angle of the change is less than 90 degrees, it’s an obtuse (quick) cut. If it’s more than 90 degrees, it’s an acute (sharp) cut. You want to think about this, because the SPEED formula is a little different for each. As a soccer player, you need to be good at both.
 
Both types of change of direction are common in soccer. They are among the most demanding actions for your muscles and for your energy systems. They also can make or break key moments. If you can’t shake a defender when attacking, or can’t stay glued to the attacker when defending, you lose.

Quick Cut

The quick cut usually happens at speed. You’re dribbling down the field and want to make a small change to throw the defender off balance or get to an open space. Or, you may be defending a tracking a player as he or she moves across the field. He or she is trying to lose you, and you need to make small cuts to stay with them.

Sharp Cut

Sharp cuts also happen. You’re defending a player with the ball racing in one direction. He or she makes a quick stop, pulls the ball back and goes the other way.  You’d better make a fast sharp cut to stay with him or her.

The Formula for Change of Direction

The Speed Formula is different for BIG FORCE and SMALL TIME in cutting movements. The quick cut is just that—quick, meaning the time on the ground is smaller and the angle change (and therefore the amount of force applied) is smaller.
 
This requires Reactive Strength. In the sharp cut, you have to absorb a lot more momentum to stop going one way, then reapply large force to re-accelerate in a new direction. This requires a combination of Eccentric Strength and Speed-Strength.
 
The Formula is also different in the OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION. The sharp cut has to absorb more momentum eccentrically. This means the knees and hips will bend more and/or you will take more steps, whereas the quick cut should only see a little bend at the knees and hips.

Improving Change of Direction

Change of Direction is about the physics of momentum. For best results, you need to understand how to apply the Speed Formula properly. Here are some examples of exercises you can use;
Strength Needed for Agility
Eccentric Strength
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Single-Leg Hurdle Hops and Stick
  • Ladder Lowering
Effective Mechanics
  • Activate Base Drills
  • Inside Box Drill
  • Wall Crossover Drills
  • Carioca Quickstep

Soccer Agility Makes You A Better Player

True soccer game speed means linear speed and agility. Whether it’s the quickness exhibited with fast footwork and dynamic moves, or rapid changes of direction, you can’t be lacking. These are skills that can be trained through better movement mechanics and by improving the right physical qualities. Take control of your game speed and improve to succeed.

Do athletes need a bigger engine or better brakes?

When it comes to training for performance, many, if not most, people immediately thinking about being faster and more powerful. After all, victory often depends on getting to the ball, finish line, goal line, end zone, or basket before your opponent.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

This is the same as buying a new car with only one concern: How big is the engine? How fast can it go? How quickly does it get to 60mph? This is, of course, very important to athletic performance.

So, if we stick with our car metaphor, what’s going to happen if you buy a brand new Ferrari but the breaks don’t work? It won’t matter how fast you can go, because, without breaks, you can’t control all that speed.

In fact, the majority of non-contact injuries happen in just this way: athletes can’t manage stopping because they don’t have strong enough brakes and something, well, breaks.

So which one should you pick? The answer is that it depends. If you’re an explosive athlete who can’t change direction quickly, then you probably need better breaks. If your top speed blows away your competition but it takes you too long to get there, then maybe you need a more powerful engine. The first step is to assess where you are now and where you need to be.

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than How Much Weight You Can Lift On A Barbell?

At Velocity, we use a battery of tests to see where our athletes are strong and where they need to improve. Based on this and other information, like injury history and goals, our coaches can make smart decisions about what our athletes need in order to improve their performance.

If you want to see how your brakes and engine are working, contact us and schedule testing!

Velocity Coach’s Favorite Speed Drills

Speed training is fundamental to the Velocity system. We asked four of our coaches which drills were their favorites – a kind of “desert island” scenario for speed training. If you don’t have much time, or maybe just don’t know where to start, try these.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

Coach Kenny’s pick: The Single Leg Tuck Jump

Reason
Every athlete needs to be quick and powerful on just one leg. Whether it’s cutting, jumping, landing, or sprinting, sports are mostly about exploding, stopping, and exploding again as quickly as possible.

Focus
This drill requires athletes to generate as much force as they can while getting their foot off the ground as quickly as possible.

Execution
While in a single-leg stance, jump as quickly as you and tuck your knee up toward your chest as soon as your foot leaves the ground.

Sets & Reps
As many reps as you can on one leg for 20 seconds.

60 seconds of rest.
As many reps as you can on the other leg for 20 seconds.

Repeat this series three times and you’ve done some respectable speed training in under four minutes.

Coach Yo’s Pick: Build Your Brakes! (Level Lowering Series)

Reason
In addition to being a place where many athletes can make a meaningful difference in their on-field or on-court speed, the moment when an athlete needs to change direction or decelerate is where the majority of non-contact injuries occur. This is due to lack of strength, poor posture or position, or a combination of both.

Fortunately, these types of injuries are easily preventable by learning good base position and improving eccentric strength.

Focus
Learn what good base positions are and how to get in and out of them quickly.

Execution
Work on your base positions:

  • Practice the Square Stance
  • Next try the Staggered Stance
  • Advance to the Single Leg Stance (on each side)

Next, you need to learn the “Loading Position.” At Velocity, we often refer to this as Level Lowering. While you can do this without any equipment whatsoever, we often use the following tools to help with these drills:

  • Agility Ladders help with your tempo and target ground contact time.
  • Minibands are fantastic for activating and keeping athletes’ glutes engaged.
  • Other variations include adding anti-flexion and anti-rotation elements to target different muscle groups and strength qualities.

Sets & Reps
Level Lowering is about posture and position before it is about volume. Therefore, going through a certain number of reps if the correct posture cannot be maintained is at best unhelpful and may be dangerous. The best way to approach these drills is to work until you master the positions.

 

Sports Medicine Specialist Misao’s pick: 5-10-5 Change of Direction Test

Reason

The movement patterns involved are simple, excellent for training specific movement, and are common to any sport that involves more than running straight ahead.

The test is very short, lasting at most six seconds. This means that an athlete’s performance is determined by their foot quickness and ability to change direction, not by endurance.

Another benefit of this drill is that it’s not a drill – it’s a test. Athletes get timed, so not only do they tend to push themselves harder than they would otherwise, they also get direct and immediate feedback as to whether they are getting faster or slower.

Focus
This test is about how quickly and athlete can change direction, plain and simple.

Execution:
Place three cones (or something similar) in a line with five yards between each cone. The athlete starts in the middle in a square stance, facing directly ahead, with one hand on the ground. The athlete sprints five yards one direction, then ten yards back the other way, then turns around to sprint back through the middle.

Time starts as soon as the athlete makes his or her first move coming out of the square stance and ends when the hips cross the middle line.

Sets & Reps
We suggest giving an athlete one or two test runs at about 80% to get a feel for the movement and decide which direction they want to start running. After that, more than three or five times through the test is adequate. If you are looking for a change-of-direction drill for conditioning purposes, we would suggest something like suicides or the 300-yard shuttle.

Coach Rob’s pick: Jump Rope

Coach Rob spends a lot of time with our Youth athletes, whose ages range from about 8 to 12. While simplicity is valuable regardless of your athletes’ ages, its importance increases with younger athletes, whose attention spans and motor control are not yet fully developed.

Reason
Part of the Velocity Big Four Speed Formula is small time, which is purely about getting your feet off the ground quickly. Jumping rope correctly teaches athletes how to get their feet up quickly and improves their ability to do so. It gives them immediate feedback as to whether they are getting better at being quick – they get over the rope or they don’t.

The coordination required to jump rope is another reason it work so well. Many of our young athletes need work in this area, and when they can coordinate their jump roping, it usually translates in to an improvement in overall coordination. This helps with running technique and a wide variety of other movements.

This drill requires a lot of focus, and nearly all of our youth athletes need more of that. In fact, our coaches know the quality that determines which athletes excel is often not talent or strength, but the ability to focus. We’ve found that giving our athletes drills that force them to lock in their attention to the task at hand is a great way to develop that ability.

Focus
Developing quick feet, coordination, and focus.

Execution
Jump over the rope by picking up your toes, not by bending your knees.

Sets & Reps
Set a goal for your athletes to be able to do 100 jumps in a row without stopping for any reason. Beginning with just five minutes of practice every day will yield great results. Once they can do that, move on to single leg jump rope, and then to double-unders.

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4 Myths about Muscle Pliability You Need to Know

Trainer performing graston technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Defining Words

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term.  Pliable expresses some of the important qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “Soft isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short’.”

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight Is on The Barbell. 

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

Becoming More Agile: Teach, Train, Apply

agility

When athletes walk into Velocity, they expect us to improve their physical performance. Their goals are often to fun faster, be more agile, or hit the ball farther. While their goals may differ, the solution is almost always the same: make their movements more efficient and their bodies stronger and more explosive.

What is Agility?

Before we can help our athletes improve, we need to measure their performance, but first we need to understand exactly what we are measuring. If we want to quantify a movement quality like agility, we need to understand exactly what we mean when we say “agile.” Let’s consider two possible definitions:

“The athletic ability to either create an elusive motion or a defensive REACTION with an emphasis on speed and CREATIVITY.” – Carl Valle

“Rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in RESPONSE TO STIMULUS”
–  Science for Sport

The most common test for agility is the 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test. If you’re not familiar with this test, it involves an athlete sprinting five yards to his left (or right), then 10 yards in the opposite direction, and finally five yards back the other direction. While this test does capture an athlete’s ability to change direction quickly, it captures nothing of an athlete’s ability to be creative or react to an uncontrolled stimulus.

In most cases, performance tests are conducted in a controlled environment for the sake of validity and so that they can be reliably reproduced. Consequently, they cannot truly measure an athlete’s creativity or reaction skills. If we accept that these abilities are essential components of agility, then we know the results of these tests will never give a complete picture of agility.

What makes good agility training?

Ladders, cones, and resistance bungees are commonly used in training drills to develop athletes’ footwork, coordination, and change-of-direction skills. If you’ve ever seen an athlete showing off their abilities with these drills, you might assume that they are extremely agile, but that’s not necessarily the case. If agility includes the ability to quickly respond to a stimulus, then we should realize that those rehearsed drills improve this skill. They can help develop quicker and more accurate feet, but every time an athlete practices that drill they are practicing it the same way. It’s like learning the alphabet: a child learns it in the same order every time and it is easily memorized – but no matter how quickly that child can repeat the alphabet, it doesn’t tell anyone anything about their ability to spell or form sentences.

Real agility is like the ability to quickly form concise, beautiful, grammatically correct and advanced sentences, only the “words” are the different movement skills an athlete has in his toolbox, and the “sentence” is the combination of how he puts those skills together. An athlete who has mastered agility is like a poet with his, or her, body on the field. It is no wonder that the best demonstrations of athletic ability are often called beautiful.

Drills are still great tools for teaching movement variations and improving their quality, but if we stop there, we have only added to our athletes’ “movement toolbox.” To make them more athletic we also need to help them develop the ability to know when to use those tools and be able to do so at a moment’s notice. This ability separates a great athlete on the field from one who is merely great at performing drills.

Velocity Sports Performance’s “Progressive Training Method”: Teach, Train, and Apply

Teach: Our coaches first introduce movement techniques to our athletes. We explain the biomechanics that make a particular movement efficient.

Train: Next we provide series of exercises or drills for athletes to practice specific movement skills.

Apply: Once they have a new movement skills in their tool box, our coaches create opportunities for them to explore their movement skills in non-rehearsed, random, and chaotic situations like mirror drills, reaction drills, or game-like scenarios.

Agility may be hard to measure, but we can still help our athletes get better at it. First, as their coaches, we need to study which movement skills are critical for success in our athletes’ sports – only then can we decide which drills our athletes need to practice and master. This is the “train” part of the Velocity system.

Next, we teach them to apply their new skills by taking them out of rehearsed patterns. We put them in situations that mimic game-like opportunities to use whichever movement skill we trained that day. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. If we skip it, all we have done is teach our athletes to be better at drills, and we have done nothing to make them move better on the field, court, ice, pitch, or any other arena of competition.

Seeing Agility

Are your athletes becoming more agile because of your coaching? You may not see it during the training session, but you will know it when you see them compete. We cannot put in the hard work required for our athletes to improve, but we can always support them by planning ahead and structuring our coaching sessions the right way.

 

Yohei Arakaki – Sports Performance Coach

3 ways to get an edge this summer: hockey specific training

winners never quit

Summer is the off-season for hockey, but it’s a great opportunity to get an edge over other players. If you want to get ahead and not fall behind the competition, here are three keys to your summer training.

Get Stronger

Summer is a great time to get strong. In-season you can do it, but it’s a lot tougher. The off-season offers a chance to get in the gym 3-4 days a week and see some gains without tiring you out before games.

Strength has a correlation with reduced injury risk, lower-body power, and on-ice speed. To get these benefits, a hockey player needs to increase his or her athletic strength. This means your strength training must be ground based, use multi-muscle/joint exercises, and include elements of both force production and rapid muscle contraction.

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight You Can Lift On A Barbell

Build Athleticism

While it may seem to be counterintuitive, training to improve your hockey game doesn’t always mean more hockey drills. When you increase your overall athleticism through dynamic movement training or even playing another sport, you challenge your coordination, functional strength, and have fun at the same time.

Building a broad base of athletic skills can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries and increase your long-term potential. When an NHL team has a choice between two equal players, they typically pick the one who is more athletic across a broad spectrum.

Get Fit

The season might be a few months away, but don’t lose your fitness. No one wants to go into the new season and be dragging in the first few weeks. A fit player has more confidence in training camps.

Keeping up your base of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is key even if you’re not on the ice. For the summer off-season, two days of longer aerobic work build a good base and help you recover from the strength and power work. Another 2 days can be used for higher intensity intervals and circuit style workouts.

Use the summer to get an edge. If you’re fast now, you can get faster. The strong can be stronger, and the fit can be fitter. Imagine where you want to be at the start of next season and get to work!

Soccer – What is Fast?

soccer speed training

 

Soccer Specific Speed

Everyone knows sprinting is an important part of performance in soccer, but it doesn’t take an English Premier League coach to see that other things like quickness, agility, and change of direction are important parts of game speed.

Today, with combinations of GPS and video tracking we have more information than ever about the movement demands of soccer players. At Velocity, we look at data from around the world, in different leagues and levels of competition. We know everything from how many runs players make at different speeds to how often they change direction.

What does it tell us? The game keeps getting faster every decade. It also gets faster as you move up each level, so if you want to compete you’d better be fast.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

Sprinting

During a match, a professional player makes between 30 – 40 sprints.  We’re not talking about a 100m dash; these sprints range from  1 – 4 seconds over distances of 3 – 39 yards.

Sprinting has two main components: acceleration and maximum (or max) velocity. Acceleration is speeding up rapidly, and maximum velocity is sprinting over ~75% of full speed. Since the sprints can reach 39 yards, and this is far beyond the distance even the best payers can accelerate, we know that soccer players need both.
We know the technique needed for acceleration and for max velocity are very different. The two most apparent differences between acceleration sprint mechanics and max velocity sprint mechanics are body angle and leg action. Soccer players need to develop both movement skills to be exceptional.

Agility

While sprinting speed is very important, soccer isn’t a track meet. It’s not a linear game and elite players display incredible agility. Agility can be broken down into two key components: quickness and change of direction.

Sprinting speed is great, but if you can’t change direction, you’re going to get burned.

Quickness

Lightning fast movements in 1-2 steps can make all the difference in reacting to an opponent or leaving one on the ground.

Change of Direction

The game isn’t linear; it constantly changes direction. A player who can change direction in fewer steps and faster than the opposition has an advantage.

Fast on the Field

So to play your best game, you need several kinds of speed. Players will usually be better at one part or another, but you can’t afford any glaring holes.  As an elite player you need:

  • Acceleration
  • Maximum Velocity
  • Quickness
  • Change of Direction

You don’t have to leave this to chance, nor should you. While you may need the right genetics to be the fastest in the world at any of these, through training you can improve – at anything. Improve both your physical attributes and your motor control and you’ll be faster.  Speed is a skill, and like any skill it can be taught.

 

Research Proves How Strength Can Make You Faster

agility

Research Proves How Strength Can Make You Faster

Research from the worlds leading sport scientists at places like Harvard University and SMU’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory have shown that faster sprinters are able to apply more force to the ground. They’ve proven that if you want to maximize your speed, you need the strength to apply big forces to the ground quickly.

The Velocity Speed Formula has 4 main components and two of those are BIG FORCE and SMALL TIME. In multiple studies over the last decade, researchers have confirmed that these 2 components of the Speed Formula are a big difference between faster and slower sprinters.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

To propel your body forward, and to keep you upright, your leg has to produce a lot of force into the ground on each step. That’s what builds your momentum during acceleration phases and keeps it going during your full speed sprinting.

You create that big force, by first getting your leg up into the right position on each stride. Picture a sprinter with their front thigh up high, about parallel with the ground. Then you use the explosive strength in your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to generate power and drive your foot down into the ground.

Your speed dictates why the big force you generated has to be applied in a small time. Think about. As you sprint faster, your body is moving over that piece of ground your foot hit faster. The faster you sprint; the less time your foot is in contact with the ground. That’s just simple physics.

Now let’s combine that big force with the small time. This is the hard part, and where some athletes fail. You need the explosive strength to get the leg attacking down at the ground as hard as possible AND you need the reactive strength to apply it efficiently and quickly.

When your foot hits the ground, it’s driving down with a lot of power. There’s only 90-150 milliseconds of time to get all that force into the ground. Your ankle, knee or hip all have to stay “stiff” enough to apply the force and not bend or absorb it.

This doesn’t mean stiff as in lack of flexibility. It means that the muscles and tendons in your lower body can hit the ground and deliver all your power without stretching or relaxing. An analogy to help visualize this is to picture 2 bouncing balls. One is a bouncy, superball made of a “stiff” rubber. The other is more like a beach ball and soft. Which one bounces higher when it hits the ground?

The stiffer superball does because it applies the force to the ground and stores elastic energy. The beach ball absorbs some of the force and doesn’t have the eastic energy to rebound. That’s like reactive strength. Your muscles and tendons don’t relax and absorb the force. They store elastic energy and use it to help you go faster.

To generate a big force with your lower leg you will need explosive strength and to apply it you need reactive strength. The good news is that research has also shown that getting stronger correlates with getting faster. You can develop these specific strength qualities by working in the weightroom using Olympic lifts, doing plyometrics properly, and learning the optimum mechanics for sprinting.

The Velocity Speed Formula is built on science and proven in sport. The research is starting to catch up and show why we can help you get faster.

Selected References
Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements
Weyand, et. al , J Appl Physiol 89: 1991–1999, 2000.
Are running speeds maximized with simple-spring stance mechanics?
Kenneth P. Clark, Peter G. Weyand, Journal of Applied Physiology Published 31 July 2014
Relationships Between Ground Reaction Impulse and Sprint Acceleration Performance in Team Sport Athletes, Kawamori, et. al, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3), April 2012
Increases in lower-body strength transfer positively to sprint performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Seitz, et. al., Sports Med. 2014 Dec;44(12):1693-702