There’s No Silver Bullet: A Review of Speed & Agility Training

Home/MOVE/There’s No Silver Bullet: A Review of Speed & Agility Training

There’s No Silver Bullet: A Review of Speed & Agility Training

In today’s world of athletic development a common marketable offering many coaches and parents may find appealing is that of speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) training.  The goal of such programs, as the name implies, is to improve the running speed and ability of athletes to quickly change directions.  Improvements in these areas, while of course positive, can often mislead those seeking athletic development into a singular training focus.  However caution must be applied by athletes, coaches, and parents targeting long-term athletic improvement. Many of these programs make use of cones and other tools as markers for athletes to run around until the sweat pours down their face and they feel they have had a “hard workout”.  While this training strategy has its use in the conditioning world, coaches must take into account each specific athlete’s “training load” - i.e. the cumulative volume, duration, frequency, and intensity, already persistent in their chosen sport, else risk overtraining, overuse, and injury.  Consider this, a soccer or basketball athlete that runs and cuts three to four times per week for two hours a session at practice may be putting themselves at further risk of overuse injury, if adding addition SAQ training when appropriate strength and recovery protocols are not utilized.  Ground reaction forces can be 4-6x that of an athlete’s body weight, and an untrained 100-pound athlete continuously putting 400-600 pounds of force into a change of direction could be a dangerous first step in athletic development. Sprint speed and agility are skills, similar to shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball.  Improvement of these skills requires specific attention to detail in movement, followed by specific strengthening of musculature that supports it.  For example - when athletes desire increased acceleration, if our interventions only focus on proper running stance, form and drills, improvements will be marginal at best.  An improved approach may be to look at speed and agility training as “movement training”.  First working to make improvements in movement mechanics to make sure the correct muscles are “turned on” and carrying the load, followed by specific resistance training protocols to reinforce these movement patterns and improve the strength of the muscles involved.  Improving strength will allow for higher ground reaction forces, which will improve the strength of each stride, and the correct technique will ensure these forces are put in the right direction to maximize speed.
[1][2] Furthermore, coaches must consider rest and recovery strategies when implementing a program targeted at improved SAQ.  A mentally and physically fatigued athlete, due to high volume and low rest periods, cannot expect to make the same changes as an athlete with similar training volumes yet higher rest periods.  Longer rest periods (12:1 - 20:1) are critical to ensure athletes are mentally and physically recovered and ready to exert the maximum effort with each repetition required to ingrain neuromuscular changes in technique, as well as muscle changes in strength.  In conclusion it is common to want to find the single method that will lead to success.  Whether that be finding the one food that will make you healthy, or the one exercise that will improve your performance.  Evidence continues to point to a comprehensive and deliberate approach; one that implements all facets (Movement Quality, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Flexibility, Strength, Speed, Power, and Mental Resilience) to facilitate the safest and most effective athletic development.  When refining athletic ability, training speed and agility is important, but it must be done in the right way, in conjunction with sport training, proper strength training, nutrition and appropriate recovery strategies.  I hope you’ll reach out if we can help you in best determining the nuanced details that all too often get missed. Chris Chris Gahagan, CSCS, PES is the Head Strength & Conditioning coach at Pro-Activity and can be reached at cgahagan@pro-activity.com Works Cited:
  1. Morin, Jean Benoit, Pascal Edouard, and Pierre Samozino. Technical Ability of Force Application as a Determinant Fact... : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. LWW. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
  1.  Stone, Michael H., Gavin Moir, Mark Glaister, and Ross Sanders. "How Much Strength Is Necessary." Physical Therapy in Sport. Physical Therapy in Sport, May 2002. Web. Mar. 2016.
By | 2017-02-20T16:11:01+00:00 March 31st, 2016|MOVE|0 Comments

About the Author: