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Youth Speed Training - Part 1


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#1 DevelopingAthletics

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 09:56 AM

If you have ever read my articles or listened to my audio interviews on speed training and the young athlete, you will have already heard my stance on technical improvements over adjunct training. Does adjunct training (i.e. strength training, power training etc) serve to improve the relative power or speed of a young athlete? Sure. Kids and adolescents can have general adaptations to various stimulus not unlike adults. Of course, there is an assumption that this adjunct training is being developed and implemented by a qualified professional with both theoretical/academic as well as practical experience working with young athletes. I have personally beaten this point into the ground, but will happily keep bringing it up until the state of this industry changes for the better - There is no 'one size fits all' approach to training a young athlete, nor does adult-based exercise prescription belong in a program created for a pre-adolescent/adolescent athlete. Furthermore, high speed treadmill usage, time/count based plyometric drills and fitness machine-based strength training ALL fit into the category of 'trendy' and 'easy' exercises that will likely improve a youngster over a typical 6-week training cycle, but lack any degree of long-term forecasting or development. The early years of a young athlete's life MUST be spent on exposure and eventual mastery of multi-directional and multi-planar movements (and therefore motor skill development). Additionally, as with my point regarding the uselessness of high speed treadmills, speed development and increases should come in the form of technical running ability improvements, in which the youngster is learning how to effectively push off of the ground and utilize his or her own strength via force production. Sprinting on the ground (in which YOU are producing the force and driving yourself forward) is significantly different than running on a treadmill (in which the ground is coming at you). The force production implications are different - so much so that treadmill speed training for young athletes should be considered a waste of time.

Now, once you have decided to conduct speed training where it belongs - on a field, track or grass - there are a couple of key points to consider. I have outlined the specific points regarding proper running form in the past, but just so we are all on the same page -

Proper Sprinting Technique

•Head and neck should be aligned with body, not forward.

•Arms should be relaxed and flexed to 90̊ at the elbow.

•Arm swing should come from the shoulder and should be linear, not crossing the body.

•Let the body lean, but do not bend. The body should have a slight forward tilt from the ground, not a bend at the hips.

•Run on the balls of the feet, not the toes.

•The foot should land directly underneath the sprinter. An over-stride results in the foot landing in front of the center of gravity, which causes braking. Under-striding causes a lot of fast movement and energy expenditure without covering enough ground.

•Keep the head and trunk still and the entire body relaxed.

These are extremely crucial biomechanical aspects of speed production and should be reinforced through fun games and exercises with kids. The key is to get young athletes to a point at which they no longer revert back to their old running styles when they are in 'game' situations (i.e., they have adopted this new style of running wholeheartedly).

In our discussion regarding motor development, you may remember that with young athletes, the plasticity of the nervous system is high and therefore prone to accept biomechanical changes in movement.

As the athlete ages, however, the plasticity levels begin to close and the prospects for successful change becomes limited. Yet ANOTHER reason to address biomechanics and movement ability with younger athletes, and get them away from treadmills, fitness machines and plyometric drills in which the number of reps is more important to the training than the quality of the reps.

Part Two, coming soon...

- Brian
Complete Athletic Development

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#2 Frank

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 08:23 AM

Brian,
My son, age 9, has picked up the habit of crossing his body with his arms when he runs. His arms stay about waist high and his shoulders move in a slight twisting motion. Do you have any tips on getting everything moving in the right direction? He plays baseball and gets tagged out when a quicker kid would be safe.

#3 DevelopingAthletics

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 05:47 AM

Hey Frank,

Don't be too concerned. At your sons age, there is still ample time for him to develop new habits and gain tremendous speed.

I would go through correct arm motion with your son at a very slow pace. Standing still, teach and show him to drive the arms hard up and back, each time making sure that his elbows glide past his ribs. As he gets more comfortable and relaxed, you can start him jogging and eventually running while using this new technique.

If he starts to falter at higher speeds, have him decrease his speed and practice the technique correctly - practice DOES NOT make practice. Practice makes HABITS... we just have to make sure that the habits are right.

- Brian
Complete Athletic Development

#4 Zoom Sports

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 11:37 AM

Brain,
Don't take this the wrong way, you stated in a previous post that developing motor engrams "engrained pathways to the brain" are important. Well, time base plyometrics with repetitive multidirectional patterns have been shown to develop these pathways.
On that same note an excellent way to develop appropriate running form is to do form running on a treadmill, so the instructor can give verbal cues and sometimes even tactile cues to assist in developing good mechanics. Good running mechanics are also reinforced by the athlete seeing themselves in a mirror. Repitition in a controlled environment develops motor engrams or "pathways". Overspeed training is not always the goal of these "high speed treadmills" you speak of.
I would like to know why you knock these programs that have been shown to improve athleticism, decrease injuries, and improve overall self-confidence. I agree that cookie cutter programs and untrained individuals are a problem in our line of work.
Jake Thompson

#5 DevelopingAthletics

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 12:00 PM

Hi Jake,

You certainly sound like a well-read professional and I respect that. I have worked in 'high performance centers' in two different countries, and will attest to the fact that many (most?) 'youth performance coaches' are not nearly as well-versed as you seem to be. If you (or any other capable coach) can identity WHY they are doing something with a young athlete, than I am all for it. However, it is the cookie-cutter aspect of just following 'what the other trainers are doing', that I have sincere objection with.

To answer some of your questions -

1) "Well, time base plyometrics with repetitive multidirectional patterns have been shown to develop these pathways." ----

My research shows otherwise. A colleague of mine in California has shown that any type of pre-determined jumping/agility pattern is more effective at ingraining pathways towards that particular drill pattern, and not global ability. That not-with-standing, it is once again HOW you use the drill. I can accept a well-versed coach INSTRUCTING the young athlete as to jump/land techniques during this exercise. It is the trainer who stands absently with the clipboard merely counting reps that I am concerned with -- and that is the norm. Drills like this were intended to improve motor skill (etc), NOT for young athletes to 'beat there last score' without cause for body mechanics.


2) "Good running mechanics are also reinforced by the athlete seeing themselves in a mirror. Repetition in a controlled environment develops motor engrams or "pathways". Overspeed training is not always the goal of these "high speed treadmills" you speak of." ----

Again, I respectively disagree. in addition to adequate form, one of the primary concerns of speed development is leg drive. If you condition a young athlete on a moving ground, and at slow speeds, than how can that translate to a non-moving ground and at increased speeds? Adaptations are specific. Having said that, if you have noticed improvements with your athletes using this method, I think that's great. However, when it actually comes to speed work, the bulk of 'performance centers' I know are still using high speed treadmills. GRF alone are enough of a reason to minimize this.

3) "I would like to know why you knock these programs that have been shown to improve athleticism, decrease injuries, and improve overall self-confidence. I agree that cookie cutter programs and untrained individuals are a problem in our line of work." ----

Where has this been shown????? I mean critical case study research. Again, if you are using some of these drills with upmost professionalism and care, I congratulate you! The cold, hard reality is that this is not typically the case.

Your last sentence said it all... "I agree that cookie cutter programs and untrained individuals are a problem in our line of work"...

That is my main point... Sounds like we agree, just have different means of getting there!

- Brian
Complete Athletic Development

#6 Losman69

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 05:47 PM

Dear Coach,

I thank you for this speed information and I have some questions:

First my situation.....I have a youth football player (he actually is 12 years old and by the time he put this to the test he will be a freshman in high school)

He has played Youth contact football for the last 4 years...he has always been a big hitter, sure tackler, strong, sure handed receiver, etc etc

But one thing that has hurt him every year is he simply is not in the top 10 percent of his team as far as speed goes.....he isn't slow....but you can just tell that he doesn't run right and lacks speed burst he basically runs the same speed all the way.......my questions:

- I have gym equipment and a swimming pool.....are there any exercises that would help develop his speed

- I live in the Southern California area...can you recommend anywhere I might be able to aquire a speed coach for him?

#7 DevelopingAthletics

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 07:37 PM

Hi Losman69,

Speed should be PART of a solid, foundational program meant to improve your young athlete in every facet. Far too often there is a want to look at 'lacking' attributes in young athletes and provide specific remedies for them. For example, my son is slow; I need a speed coach. My daughter can't jump high enough; I need to increase her vertical.

The fact is that speed (or lack there of) could be due to insufficient strength, genetics, flexibility issues, various dysfunctions/structural imbalances or lack of mechanical efficiency.

In your area, Alwyn Cosgrove is THE guy I would advice you see. Email me for his contact information -

- Brian Grasso
Complete Athletic Development

#8 rkarboviak

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 11:01 PM

I'd like to add a few things on the topics of the high speed treadmill and its applications.

I've been on both sides of this fence: first, working in a 'said facility' with the high speed treadmill in operation. I was one of the trainers who ended up mindlessly counting reps on plyos and pushing kids through workouts on treadmills because the management was more about money than about the athlete's health overall, and of course, my burnout rate of increasing magnitude. It was very frustrating, as they had me training 7-8 kids an hour on the treadmill, and I couldn't really focus on the training of the athletes, just trying to get them through to make the boss happy.

I left the job for a new startup company in Ohio, in which we promoted our advantages over 'treadmill training and its worthlessness'. Well, what I started to realize was that there were some advantages to the treadmill training and the company I now worked for had a hard time getting athletes there to train. I used the basics of what I learned as a trainer in my first years and applied it, along with other knowledge I gained from teleseminars, reading training articles and sites, listening to training CD's, etc.

I then got a job offer to return close to the area where I started my career, and work for a new startup high speed treadmill franchise, same kind of program as I once ran. I would be the only trainer, in charge of the athletes and scheduling, and management wasn't breathing down my neck to push large numbers of athletes. I was in more control with this method of training. I started to include some of the principles I learned from guys like Brian Grasso (thanks Brian!) and others from the site at Sportspecific.com, as well as other things I learned from the books & articles. I have now found a good mix of how the high speed treadmill can be an effective training tool, and that's all it really is, just one tool in the toolbox of the athlete's training program & strategy. Strength, flexibility and body control are key components to the development of all athletes. I also have attended the Administrator workshop for this franchise and have tapped into their knowledge and wisdom as well on new training methods and techniques being applied. It is a sad thing though that the image about them is tarnished by the 'clipboard holders' they call trainers, who most of the time are college kids who are athletes, doing a summer job in the peak training times for these businesses. The nice thing about being in charge of this site is getting qualified interns with a definitive goal of doing this line of work seriously, and I can take them under my wing and teach them more than just how to count reps on a four square drill and spot a kid on a treadmill. I just want to say that every training method has its place in an athlete's landscape, and if high speed treadmill work can be beneficial for the athlete at that time in their training, then let them use that under the guidance of a professional that knows what he/she is doing for that athlete's potential. Education to the athlete is paramount, just as much as the training session is.
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
www.thetipedge.com

#9 Brian Grasso

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:05 PM

Hey Rick,

Don't tend to have time to read or write long posts, so in a nutshell...

I also worked at a Frappier-based facility early in my career so understand the premise very well.

My concerns with treadmills are many, but include -

a. Force Production - FP on a moving surface is significantly different than on a field or track. This is one of the main reasons that the fastest linear athletes in the world (sprinters) do not train on treadmills.

b. Change of Direction - Cutting, looping and other directional changes are part of all sports. That is why the 'speed' work my athletes endure involves learning angular positioning when changing direction. This refers back to 'a' - force production refers to not only traveling linearly, but laterally and diagonally also. A recent study showed that ACL injuries occur during a cutting motion via a valgus, not saggital, motion at the knee. Avoiding valgus is part of the angular positioning that young athletes need to be taught. Treadmills can't accommodate this multi-directional approach to speed and angular force training.

c. Deceleration - Preventing injury and learning appropriate (optimal) directional change ability is routed in deceleration. Deceleration technique is not taught on high-speed treadmills. In fact, last time I saw a Frappier clinic in action, athletes were jumping on and off the moving treadmill - So, initiating force production and decelerating the systemic unit were not involved in the teaching process. Those are both tremendously important issues with respect to developing an athlete.

d. Plyo-step - A plyo-step is a brief, often backwards step that an athlete will take when they initiate force to propel themselves. The plyo-step is a self-regulating neural feature that is crucial to orienting the athlete. Jumping on and off a moving treadmill quite obviously does not include a plyo-step.

My concern with treadmills goes beyond these points, but to summarize, I am typically against any artificial environment with respect to training young athletes. Weight training machines are held in much the same light. My largest concern with fitness machines is similar to my concern with treadmills - they don't transfer to real-time sport participation. Even if study's show that kids become faster as the result of treadmill usage, it must be understood that linear speed is not itself a commodity when it comes to transfer to a soccer pitch or football field.

Anywho, my two cents!

Have a great Holiday!

- Brian
Complete Athletic Development

#10 Coachingdad

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 12:05 PM

Hi Brian

I have a 9yo with good speed. We follow your instructions and exercises as you write. I have been recording his times in the 10,20 and 40 yd dashes since age 7. His times have decreased as he gets older but looking at the numbers raises several questions. Is his increased speed do to the leg and core exercises or really because he is growing and practicing sprinting? I also notice he is not progressing in quickness at 10 yds as he is in the 20,40 yd dashes any thoughts on that? Finally many speed clinics use some form of speed training devices and many NFL players go to them ,have them or indorse them,your thoughts on this? Are there any studies that put some of these training aids to the test? Thanks.

#11 sportsbunch

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 12:19 PM

Where can I find more of your articles ?
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#12 hollad6636

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 06:42 AM

You can find more of Brians articles and information about his products at Complete Athletic Development
Brian has developed a proven system for developing speed, strength and flexibility for young athletes.

IC,

Schann

#13 sportsbunch

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 11:35 AM

Thank you for the information!
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