They Can’t Run

One of the problems that I see when watching youth sports is that many of the athletes have poor fundamentals.  The major thing that many of them lack is the ability to run effectively and efficiently.  Obviously Strength and Conditioning Coaches notice things like this.  What gets me is, why doesn’t anyone else notice it?  Don’t the sport coaches see it?  What about the parents that sit at every practice and game?  It may take an expert to fix the problems, but it doesn’t take one to recognize that there is a problem.  When I watch young athletes run, I see arms flying in all directions, bodies out of control, etc.  Nobody notices this?  Even if the coach can’t fix it, he should realize that there is a problem and refer the kid to someone who can.  Or he can ignore it and let the kid continue to use poor movement patterns.  This leads to inferior performance and injury issues. So why doesn’t someone do something?  I guess it would make too much sense.

Mark

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Go Speed Racer

Speedy
Is speed important?

The old saying is “Strength thrills, speed kills.  If he’s even, he’s leavin’ “. How true is that saying?  Is speed the most important skill for an athlete? It probably depends on the sport, but for most athletes, speed plays a huge role in how competitive they are.  Isn’t speed largely genetic?  Can you really make someone faster with training?  Yes!!!

Every year, potential draftees for the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues spend lots of money to work with sports performance experts prior to the draft.  Their goal is to improve their strength, speed, and other measurable factors so that they can get drafted higher.  While some of these athletes have track backgrounds that have helped them out, many of them have gotten by on genetic speed ability alone.  Once they focus on speed training for 4-6 weeks, it isn’t uncommon for some of them to shave .2 of a second off of their 40 yard times.  Keep in mind that these are some of the best amateur athletes in the world.  They have been training hard for years and they are still able to make major improvements in their speed when they receive focused training on their form.

How does this apply to other athletes?  Try this for starters – the next time you go watch a youth sporting event, pay attention to how many times a kid gets beaten by two steps or less.  In soccer, how many times does a kid get beaten to a free ball?  In baseball, how many baserunners get thrown out by a step or two?  In football, how many times does a player need an extra step or two to get by (or catch) another player?  From watching all of the sporting events that I have in my life, I can say that it happens A LOT!! One or two steps often makes all of the difference.

So, is speed the most important skill for an athlete to have?  It is more important in some sports than others, but in most sports the fastest athletes have a distinct advantage.  When you compete don’t you want to have that extra step or two?  I’d bet that you do.  Keep this in mind when you train.

Mark

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Don’t Forget The Arms….

Jessee Owens during the 1936 Olympics

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the feet.  Today, I thought that I would address the arms.
 
I spent part of last week volunteering to help some 9-12 year olds in a camp.  My job was to teach them flag football.  During the week, I had a few opportunities to watch the kids and see how they performed the various drills (when they weren’t pouring water on each other and whatever else they could think of).  It amazed me how many of the kids didn’t use their arms correctly while running.  Arms were flying sideways, going in circles, and pretty much doing everything except being used to run like an “athlete”.  Now, I understand that the kids were young and had never been taught how to run.  It just made me think about a few how important the arms are.  
 
How important are your arms in sprinting?  The action of your arms is connected to the action of your legs.   Don’t believe it?  Try this simple drill.  Stand up and jog in place allowing both your arms and legs to move.  Now pump your arms faster and faster.  What happens to your legs?  They move faster!!!!  See, I told you they worked together.  This is a drill that I like to use when I start discussing arm mechanics with athletes.  No matter if they are 8 years old or 28, they can quickly figure out the importance of using your arms.
 
If you take a look at the above picture of Jesse Owens and two other runners, you can see arms a legs working together.  Each of the athletes is at a slightly different point in their stride but they are all using similar mechanics.  When the left knee drives upward, the right arm moves with it and vice versa.  In young, untrained runners this one of the most glaring problems.  Just like the kids in camp last week, their arms move through multiple planes instead of simply moving anterior-posterier.  This incorrect movement makes the body work harder and makes it slower going from point A to point B. 
 
Does this only apply when running in a straight line like a track athlete?  Not at all.  Look at the rugby picture and check out the arms. 
Rugby Pic

These guys know how to use their arms to run

These players are in the process of changing directions and they are still using their arms to help out.  The arms can help you to accelerate when you run and change directions.  One of the first things that I try to evaluate and correct in an athlete is the use of their arms.  Then I keep on them through running drills, conditioning, agility drills – pretty much any time that correct arm usage is important.   It really helps them to run better in all directions and to be a better overall athlete. 
 

Mark

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Put Your Feet In The Sand

Feet In The Sand Pic

Ahhhhh… the title of this post probably makes you think of the beach – the soft sand, the waves crashing, the sun warming your body.  Sounds like a great day.

Of course, since this is a blog about training athletes, we all know this post isn’t about fun in the sun.  While we usually think of the fun that we have at the beach, it’s also a place for your athletes to get some good speed & agility work in.  Now I know that you’re wondering “why would I take my athletes to the beach to train?”.  The question should be “why haven’t I been taking them?”. 

Benefits of Sand Training

  • Deceased forces on the body due to shock absorbsion of the sand
  • Increased use of muscles due to instability of the sand
  • Increased challenges to balance and coordination due to instability of the sand
  • Increased ankle strength

Once you read through the list most of it probably makes sense.  Many of the benefits do come from the fact that the sand is an unstable surface.  I have heard former NFL players claim that they never had ankle injuries in their career due to training in the sand.  That benefit in itself is huge for most athletes. 

I know that there are people on all ends of the “functional training” spectrum.  Some coaches design their entire program on balance pads and inflatable balls.  Others don’t do any exercises on either of them. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.  The thing about sand training is that it can keep both sides happy.  It allows you to do “traditional” agility and speed drills while also incorporating an unstable component.

So how do you design a sand workout?

First off, I wouldn’t plan on using the sand every day.  It can be taxing on the legs.  Plus, when it comes to sport specificity, unless you play sand volleyball you need to spend time on the court, grass, etc.  As for what to do, almost any type of cone drill, mini hurdle drill, jumping drill, or speed drill can be adapted to the sand.  Let your imagination go wild!! 

What do you do if you don’t live near a beach?  If you don’t want to build your own sand pit, you will have to look around a little.  Many places have parks with sand volleyball courts that you can use.  Some lakes have a recreational beach that has sand.  See what you can find that will work for your training.

Good Luck!

 

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