Owen Strength and Conditioning Center

Acceleration and maximal speed are both important qualities of athletic performance. These qualities are more vital to successful performance for some athletes than they are to other athletes. It is the demand placed on the athlete by the sport and position they play that will dictate how much of a priority these qualities are.

Training of maximal speed is not a primary focus for most sports that we prescribe speed and conditioning work too. Top speed is usually reached by 35 to 60 meters, depending on level of preparedness of the athlete. We rarely have athletes performing bouts of high intensive linear running at those distances, but there are a few exceptions based on the benefit provided to athletes of certain positions and sports (i.e. football backs, soccer players).

Acceleration is often emphasized heavily since most sports require changing direction. To change direction, one must decelerate, stop, and reaccelerate. In order to maximize the different components of change of direction, we concurrently focus on deceleration and acceleration. This is done either separately or combined depending on the specific goals we emphasize during a particular time in the season, and based on our multi-year plan for all of our athletes.

Deceleration and Change of Direction/Agility
The ability to safely and efficiently change direction is an essential quality in many sporting activities. Agility and change of direction is often trained by setting up cones and having athletes run around them in various patterns with little to no attention being paid to the mechanics behind the change of direction being performed. As with any physical skill, the inappropriate training of change of direction can result in faulty mechanics and/or muscular deficiencies that can result in inefficient movement or even worse, injury (chronic or acute).

The Redbird strength and conditioning staff firmly believes that like any other skill, change of direction/agility needs to be properly taught and performed in order for the athlete to receive the full benefit of their training. We have experienced tremendous success following the provided progression in teaching and improving change of direction with our athletes.

The progression provided includes the general skills we are working on. Keep in mind that many different drills can be used to enhance these skills. No general skill is specifically trained until the following skills have been mastered; this is progressed on an individual basis.

  1. Stopping/Deceleration
  2. Acceleration from a deceleration position
  3. Programmed change of direction
  4. Reactive change of direction
General Deceleration and Change of Direction Recommendations
  1. Perform deceleration and change of direction work on intensive lifting days.
  2. You want to be relatively fresh when performing this work so either do it before lifting, or separate lifting and deceleration/change of direction by a couple of hours in the same day.
  3. Technique is the number one priority.
  4. We have found that it often takes around 6-8 weeks to get our athletes through the progression with a high level of proficiency. Leave yourself plenty of time to get familiar with, and perfect the technique. Once this is accomplished, speed up and progress through the drills. It often takes an athlete a while to become proficient/comfortable with the mechanics at high speeds.
  5. Even athletes in those sports that do not have a great demand for change of direction (baseball, softball, etc.) can benefit from this work. The benefit received from the improved dynamic stabilization at the knee joint alone makes this training worthwhile for these athletes.
Energy System Training
The human body provides its energy through three different energy systems. These energy systems are: Short-term (ATPPC), Intermediate-Term (Glycolytic), and Long-Term (Aerobic). In brief summary, the Short-Term energy system uses ATP and Phosphocreatine. The Intermediate-Term and Long-Term energy systems produce energy from stored or circulating nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Every position in every sport requires energy from each one of the three energy systems. For instance, football primarily uses the Short-Term energy system but relies heavily on the Long-Term system for recovery. Likewise, tennis is primarily Short-Term, yet it also yields energy from both Intermediate-Term and Long-Term. Since every sport has different requirements, energy system training must accommodate those differences by providing a training stimulus that closely resembles the energy demands of the sport being trained for.