3. Power & Speed

Books

WHY: Book reviews topics from sprint speed, intensity limites, tempos, utility of power speed drills, and program examples.

WHY:  Tony Giuliano and Ty Terrell present great information about velocity-based training and creating athlete profiles in order to address limitations and design programs. This resource is a great tool to provide you context for other resources.

WHY: “Speed is king in sports, and The Mechanics of Sprinting and Hurdling is an essential text for any coach who wants to understand and improve the ability of their athlete’s to sprint well.  One of the most detailed and comprehensive looks at the mechanics and physics of elite sprinting there is.  Complete with diagrams, models, and objective data compiled from over 30 years of analyzing the best sprinters in the world, Dr. Mann’s book gave me the foundation that allowed me to develop a technical model and coach linear sprinting effectively with my athletes.”   – Justin Moore

WHY: “Henk Kraaijenhof is one of those people that nearly every coach I respect in our field points to as being an innovator, far ahead of his time, and as having had a huge influence on the current generation of speed and power coaches around the globe.  This book is a simple, easy to read manual detailing every aspect of Henk’s approach to training some of the world’s best sprinters over the last 30+ years. The book covers numerous topics including:

1)     Athlete profiling

2)     The bioenergetics of sprinting

3)     Sprinting technique for acceleration, max velocity, and speed endurance

4)     Methods for improving acceleration, max velocity, and speed endurance

5)     Strength training for speed

6)     Jump profiling

7)     Muscle fiber research on athletes from decades of muscle biopsies

8)     Short and long-term planning and periodization for sprinting

Any coach who wants to learn more about how to develop speed with their athletes can benefit from Henk’s vast experience in the field, and his understanding and appreciation of the complex output that is human sprinting.” – Justin Moore

Articles

WHY: “This series of articles changed the way I look at plyometrics and training to increase rate of force development forever.  Up to that point, I had classified power exercises under the same umbrella, and I didn’t have a firm grasp of what differentiated something like a depth jump from a vertical jump. These articles detail what the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) is, differentiate between fast and slow SSC plyometrics, give examples of each from both a training exercise and sports performance perspective, and give examples of how to assess and train to improve each.

Understanding how to assess my athlete’s fast SSC and slow SSC capabilities, determine what they need to improve based on their presentation and the demands of their sport, and then create a training program that systematically addresses both appropriately has taken my athlete’s speed, power, and resiliency to new levels.”-  Justin Moore

WHY: “This has been an extremely influential article on me as someone who has heard over and over again that acceleration is the key to improving sports performance as well as combine/pro day performance. Make no mistake, acceleration is incredibly important, and is something every athlete should be working to improve in order to maximize performance, but max velocity sprinting has been ignored and even demonized, and this is a mistake. The major criticisms of max velocity sprinting are that there are very few times where field and court sport athletes will actually reach their max velocity, and that max velocity sprinting carries with it a greater inherent injury risk, especially to soft tissue structures like hamstrings. Unfortunately, following this line of thinking and neglecting to train any max velocity sprinting with athletes misses out on the myriad of benefits of training top end speed.  These benefits include improving the athlete’s max speed, which not only just means they are capable of running faster, but that every speed under that max velocity is now more submaximal, improving mechanical efficiency to maximize effective force application to the ground, and injury prevention.

In this article Cameron Josse discusses the application of max velocity training both for assessing speed in field sport athletes as well as improving athletic performance.  He details programming, exercise selection, and the technical model for top end speed development, and builds a strong case for using maximal velocity instead of a 40-yard dash to measure speed in athletes.” – Justin Moore

WHY: “This is a follow up to Cam’s previous article “Maximum Power Sled Sprinting For American Football,” but is once again a fantastic article and case study for any coach looking to improve the explosiveness and/or acceleration performance of his or her athletes.

In this article, Cam builds off of his previous work and details the results of his case study implementing heavy-resisted sprint work with elite-level football players, gives a 4-week template of how he integrated it into a holistic speed, strength, and change of direction program, describes different theoretical strategies for determining appropriate resistance without the use of extremely expensive technologies, explains when it’s appropriate to use different loading intensities to target specific phases of a sprint, discusses the importance of training all aspects of the force/velocity spectrum to optimize speed, and includes a number of videos of his athletes sprinting against various loads to demonstrate the difference in position, ground contact times, velocity, and limb action.

This was a great follow up to his first article, filled with theoretical information and practical examples that coaches can use to audit their own coaching, exercise selection, and programming design.”  – Justin Moore

WHY: “Scott Salwasser is the Director of Speed and Power Development at Texas Tech University and is doing of a tremendous job of integrating cutting-edge assessments and training methodology with the big-time football program there.

In this article Scott explains what force/velocity profiling is, why it’s valuable to a physical preparation professional, how it can be done for both sprinting and jumping with an inexpensive ($10) IPhone app, the difference between force/velocity profiling for a vertical jump and a sprint, the concept of ratio of force in sprinting, strategies and specific exercises for addressing force and velocity deficits, and case studies where he has used these concepts with his athletes to increase performance. 

If we want to take the speed and power performance of our athletes to the next level, we have to dig deeper than simply programming random speed and power exercises and heavy strength training.  We have to appreciate that all explosive actions in sport performance are time-dependent, and we need to train with this in mind.

We have to understand how much force an athlete is producing during the short ground contacts seen during sprinting and how effectively they’re orienting that force to propel themselves forward.  We also have to understand how much force an athlete is able to produce during the time-dependent action of a vertical jump.  If an athlete is extremely explosive but lacks general force production, they need to address total force production to balance their force/velocity curve.  On the other hand, if an athlete can produce a ton of force against high external loads, but is unable to jump very high, then they are not able to use the force they can produce in the window of time they have available during that particular dynamic action, and they need to train to increase force production at higher velocities.

This article is a fantastic introduction to force/velocity profiling, and any coach that wants to improve the speed and power output of their athletes should take the time to check it out.”   – Justin Moore

WHY: “Like most coaches I was taught that the aerobic system is only useful for endurance athletes like marathon runners, long swimmers, triathletes, etc.  I viewed the field and court sports as purely anaerobic phenomenon, jumped on the HIIT bus, and admonished coaches who included long-duration, low-intensity exercise in their athlete’s development for wasting time and potentially eliciting undesirable adaptations.

This article by the brilliant Eric Oetter opened my eyes to the flaws in my thought process regarding capacity development for repeated sprint athletes, and started me down the path of gaining respect for the numerous benefits of training the oxidative system, as well as to improving my understanding of the purpose and physiology of energy systems as a whole.

This article includes an explanation of the three primary energy systems and how they ACTUALLY work together to re-phosphorylate ATP as well as manage and mitigate increases of heat and acidity in the body as a result of physical exertion, a definition of what a repeated sprint athlete is, the energy system demands of a repeated sprint athlete, time-motion analysis to demonstrate the actual activity of a repeated sprint athlete during a competition, the biochemistry of interval training, and recommendations for training various limiting factors related to improving repeated sprint performance.

To this day, this is still one of my favorite articles of all time regarding energy systems development for field and court sport athletes, and a piece that I recommend every single physical preparation coach I know read.

If you work with baseball, soccer, basketball, football, tennis, volleyball, hockey, or any other sport that involves short bursts of extremely high outputs repeated over time followed by relatively long periods of light activity (jogging) or no activity at all, you are doing yourself and your athletes a disservice if you do not read this article.” – Justin Moore

WHY: “Mike Young is one of the most sought after speed and power coaches on the globe, and in this paper he does a tremendous job of bringing together decades of experience working with athletes, his time working under some of the best track and field coaches in the game including Dan Pfaff, and the literature on the subject to paint a simple, straightforward, and yet comprehensive picture of the mechanics of max velocity sprinting.

In this paper, Mike addresses the importance of “posture” and proximal position on the ability to express optimal limb mechanics, stride length and frequency, force application to the ground, minimizing braking forces, increasing propulsive forces, arm action, and an in-depth breakdown of the sprinting gait cycle including description of muscle action, limb position, and forces involved with each phase.

This is a great paper overall, but I think one of my favorite parts is the emphasis on preservation of stability.  The link between the position and the maintenance of the position of proximal structures such as the pelvis and the thorax and sprinting mechanics is not often talked about, but it’s critical to optimizing mechanics and therefore the effective and efficient application of force to the ground.

This concept just isn’t appreciated enough at this point in the field of physical preparation, but it’s something that elite track coaches have understood for decades.  If we want athletes to be able to adopt the front side mechanics needed to apply a ton of force to the ground during the support phase of sprinting, we need to position the axial skeleton and pelvis so that we can express full ranges of motion of a femur in an acetabulum and a humerus in a glenoid fossa on a posterior ribcage.

This is one of my favorite papers on the mechanics of max velocity sprinting because it brings together such a wealth of information on an incredibly complex topic in a simple and digestible fashion. This is a fantastic resource for new coaches looking to learn sprint mechanics as well as seasoned veterans who are looking to sharpen their swords.” – Justin Moore

WHY:  “Too often we focus on methods over patterns and principles.  Young coaches are especially guilty of this, but it’s not their fault, and there are certainly seasoned veterans out there doing the same.

Mike Robertson does a great job breaking down why the days of putting a barbell on an athlete’s back on day one are gone, and why training to challenge a pattern is the real goal.

For example, when many coaches think of a squat, they think only of a back squat.  But a back squat and the squat pattern are not synonymous.  The back squat is a specific exercise, it is a way to apply external load to challenge the squat pattern.  A squat is a pattern of movement that can be challenged by manipulating the load (goblet squat, front squat, back squat, zercher squat), the intensity (amount of weight used), tempo, velocity, volume, etc.  It’s time to stop thinking in exercises, and start thinking in challenging an athlete’s ability to maintain the integrity of a pattern.

In this article Mike breaks down his progression for developing and challenging patterns to build more competent, robust athletes.  It begins with achieving position, then static stability and control, followed by patterning, load, and finally expression.

Topics within the article include the importance of proximal position, the generally extended position that most athletes present with, the limited transfer of maximum strength to athletic performance, the management of an individual’s center of gravity, and the concept of load as simply a way to develop tolerance to stress.

I can’t recommend this article enough for coaches to begin the process of changing their perspective on the gym from training exercises to training patterns, and for the simple but profound way that Mike Roberston goes about doing that.” – Justin Moore

WHY: “Much like Joel Jamieson’s book, “Ultimate MMA Conditioning,” I believe the title of this article does the article a disservice, as it will likely make some coaches believe that it is only applicable to those that work with American football athletes.  Make no mistake, acceleration is a vital biomotor ability to ANY field or court sport, and if your goal as a coach is to improve your athlete’s abilities to accelerate effectively and be powerful from initiating an explosive movement from a static position or when changing from a low speed of movement to a quick burst, look no further.

Heavy resisted sprinting has become extremely popular in the physical preparation world in recent years, lead by research that flies in the face of the classic rule in the track and field world that resistance should never decrease the athlete’s velocity by more than 10%.

Recent research has shown that heavy resisted sprinting, up to in some cases the athlete’s body mass on the sled, can improve acceleration performance.  The authors of these studies concluded that the improvement in performance was as a result of an improvement in the ratio of applied ground reaction forces directed horizontally as well as an increase in horizontal power production in an activity that is relatively specific to the action of acceleration.

Essentially, heavy-resisted sprinting is specific strength training for the sprinting action.  Additionally, because it allows the athlete to maintain an acceleration position and forces them to strike down and back throughout the entire sprint, the athlete accumulates more specific volume of acceleration work.  Whereas during an unresisted sprint, the athlete will decrease ground contact time and become more upright with each step, during a heavily-resisted acceleration, the athlete can maintain the forward angle and long ground contact times seen in the first two to three steps of an unresisted acceleration for longer.  This increased volume may lead to technical improvements in the critical initial steps of acceleration and an improvement in the athlete’s ability to orient the forces they apply to the ground in a horizontal direction to propel themselves forward.

Additionally, because we are decreasing the velocity of the sprint by weighing it down, resisted sprinting can actually be looked at as a technical regression, giving athletes more time to find and feel the appropriate positions and limb actions associated with acceleration.

In this article, Cameron Josse, Director Of Sports Performance for Defranco’s Training Systems, breaks down the science behind the research into resisted sprinting with loads that optimize power production and then lays out case studies and the results he’s gotten from implementing heavy-resisted sprinting with his elite-level football players.  This article comes complete with video examples and data derived from Cam’s use of the 1080 sprint machine.

The emphasis on ratio of forces applied to the ground, the horizontal nature of acceleration, and the concept of training force and power in an exercise that is more specific than a squat, for example, makes this a fantastic article for young coaches, while experienced coaches will appreciate the application of new research that is pushing our industry’s understanding of improving speed, power, and specifically acceleration, forward.”  – Justin Moore

WHY: “This article breaks down just about everything you need to know about acceleration. It’s very well organized and easy to refer back to.”  – Lucy Hendricks

Research Articles

  • The Role Of Elastic Energy in Activities with High Force and Power Requirements: A Brief Review by Jacob M Wilson & Eamonn Flanagan in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
  • Faster Top Running Speeds Are Achieved With Greater Ground Forces Not More Rapid Leg Movements by Peter G. Weyland, Deborah B. Sternlight, Matthew J. Bellizzi & Seth Wright In The Journal of Applied Physiology

WHY: “In a world of foot ladders, speed bands, and all manner of gimmicks claiming to increase speed, this paper is a breath of fresh air.  Weyland’s group measured 33 individuals with max velocities from 11.1 m/s down to 6.2 m/s and concluded faster top running speeds were not achieved by repositioning the limbs in the air faster, but by applying more force to the ground during the support phase. This is one of the key principles we teach our athletes when it comes to improving speed:  it’s not about moving your feet faster, it’s about applying more mass-specific force to the ground, in a shorter period of time, oriented in a way that propels the body through space effectively and efficiently. This permeates every aspect of our speed development with athletes.  From the warmup drills we choose, to our technical progressions, to the way we cue our athletes during field sessions, to the way we attempt to transfer weight room exercises to the field or court, the principles of pushing, projecting, and applying greater force to the ground is always present. This paper is a must-read for any coach who wants to improve the speed of their athletes.” – Justin Moore

  • New Insights Into Sprint Biomechanics and Determinants of Elite 100m Performance by Jean Benoit-Morin, Pascal Edouard, and Pierre Samozino

 Products

WHY: “Tony and Ty go through all the myths and misconceptions when training athletes and show you a system that produces results. With years of combined experience, they provide you with a system that will help take your athletes to the next level.” – Lucy Hendricks