Many parents, sport coaches, and athletes come to EB Athletics hoping to get fastER; they want that extra edge to get to the ball, or the opponent, faster. There’s nothing quite like watching someone catch a pass in football and fly by 11 opponents and into the end zone, leaving their competition in the dust.
When I took the head football coaching position at Cornerstone Charter, I was also the strength coach by default. We used a #GrindSzn approach of 300’s, ladder drills, and always jogging from station to station. After posting a 10-18 start to my head coaching career, we needed a change. But really, I needed to change. Adapt or fade away. What we were doing wasn’t making us faster, and we weren’t winning enough games.
We had adapted our weight room goals to be focused around power, and the next step was to learn how to truly create game speed on a roster of genetically slow people. We flew Speed Coach Dale Baskett in from San Diego and the rest was history. Baskett gained notoriety from working with Super Bowl winning football coach Pete Carroll, first with the USC Trojans and then again with the Seattle Seahawks (as well as with MLB and MLS organizations).
While at CCA (blue), we beat Rocky Bayou Christian 19-15. Speed matters.
In 12 months using the “Get better, not battered” mindset, and Dale Baskett’s speed programming, our roster went from two sub-5.0’s to a dozen sub-5’s 40’s, and another 5-6 guys between 5.00 and 5.10. Our roster was now faster than ever before.
Our quarterback cut his 40 time from 5.9 to 4.9 in 18 months. He also increased his yards per carry from 3.6 to 6.3 in a QB-driven offense. Our record flipped from 2-7 to 7-4. Our practices never exceeded 90 minutes, we drank a lot of water, we took weekends off, and we improved.
What changed? Not much in the weight room. But everything in how we trained speed.
Dale’s first lesson was, “My granny can blow a whistle and make some kid puke.” In other words, it doesn’t take a smart coach to make you puke, but it takes a smart coach to increase your performance. As Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky (“The Father of Plyometrics”) once said, “Any idiot can make another idiot tired.”
An extreme example: if you train on Monday to the point that you vomit, your body will spend all of Tuesday recovering to homeostasis (our body will always fight to get back to homeostasis) rather than using that recovery time for improving your athletic ability (adaptation). Do you want to vomit and not get better, or not vomit and get better? The choice is yours and your coach’s.
If you want to improve athletically- work smart and hard, not stupid. Working until you vomit or even worse, until you have Rhabdomyolysis (“Rhabdo”), isn’t beneficial in any way. It’s actually extremely detrimental to both your short and long-term health, and to your athletic performance.
Leaving a session feeling like you worked hard but improved will always be better than feeling terrible and potentially vomiting. At EBA we are not a CrossFit or Boot Camp gym, we’re here for Game Ready Intentional Training.
So, how do you get fastER?
1- The first aspect is to move efficiently. When you come to EBA I’m sure you’ve been sent over to “work with Justin (me)” by Erin and we’ve started with a high knee rhythm run. The speed program that I use is from Coach Baskett. We take a look at, and fix your mechanics (fingers like knives, elbows in/rub ribs, eyes up) first.
The more efficiently you move on the field, court, or ice- the less energy you will use to get from point A to point B. Essentially it’s aerodynamics and expended fuel/energy. In a race car that’s handling, horse power, and aerodynamics.
2- The second aspect is to sprint as fast (95-100% of your max velocity, not intensity) as you possibly can 2-3 times per session, at most two sessions per week. TCU S&C Coach Zach Dechant believes in a “quality over quantity” approach to increasing speed. Dechant programs max velocity (95%+) training 1-2 times per week for 2-3 sprints per session.
When we take out the Freelap Timer and you put that chip on your waistband, those sprints where you’re trying to set our gym record or your PR, are maxing out your velocity. We only run 2-3 of those “Fly10” sprints per session because of how taxing they are on your nervous system and limbs. Every sprint puts three to four times bodyweight on your leg each step of the sprint.
3- The third aspect is to recover fully between sprints. Unlike sports practices which want you to “jog from drill to drill,’ we rest and recover between sprints. Think of it like your iPhone battery. If you never let it charge to 100%, it’ll never charge to 100%. Charge your battery.
In team sports, the rule of thumb practiced by S&C Coaches like Kurt Hester (Tulane) is to rest 60 seconds per every 10 yards (meters) sprinted. When sprinting at max velocity (95% or above), the nervous system is heavily taxed. On change of direction-agility days, and on curved sprint days, we will rest less than 60 seconds per 10 yards. But when we’re focused solely on increasing speed- 60 seconds is the rule.
Walk back, sip water, relax your muscles, take a few deep belly breaths, sprint again.
On top of becoming faster for linear (straight line) sprints, curved sprints (like, how you play sports) and re-acceleration off of cutting and changing direction (again, sports!)- sprinting to max velocity instead of running up hills until you puke has its own maybe unintended benefits.
The Central Nervous System sees a spike in performance that no exercise can spike quite like sprinting. I doubt athletes can squat three to four times bodyweight (BW) in a split squat, yet in sprinting every step is 3-4x BW per step of the sprint!
As Tony Holler of the Track-Football Consortium says, “A high tide raises all boats.” Thanks to well programmed sprinting, we will be stronger in the weight room, and can re-accel out of our cuts and curves faster because we are faster.
Sprinting is both a science and a skill. If you want to get faster, run fast! But recover, too.
Justin Dottavio USAW, RPR, EPS