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Speed and Agility Training for Athletes: 10 Concepts for Understanding Acceleration

Speed is a crucial element in athletic performance, yet many athletes fail to reach their full potential due to various reasons and focus their efforts performing footwork drills and running through speed and agility ladders in an attempt to improve their speed and agility. In our youth, high school, Academy, and college sports performance programs, we prioritize speed and agility training and athletic speed and movement for athletes to bridge the gap between an athlete’s current abilities and their desired goals. By focusing on teaching and drilling proper execution of acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction mechanics, we aim to unlock the untapped speed capacities within each athlete. However, there are several factors that can hinder speed expression, such as limited joint access, lack of strength, and a poor understanding of force application. Our speed and agility instruction within our training programs addresses these limitations by implementing a systematic approach to:

  1. Understanding and Applying Force Effectively in Acceleration (this post)
  2. Proper Deceleration Mechanics 
  3. Agility: Understanding the mechanics of change of direction and learning what movement solution is the most effective and efficient for their given sport/s 
  4. Power Development 

The focus of proper acceleration mechanics is force production and appropriate angles to deliver said force in the most efficient and effective manner. A primary physical quality that is necessary to demonstrate the ability to accelerate well is relative strength (strong for your bodyweight). If your athlete has efficient movement when accelerating but cannot overcome the weight of their body to produce sufficient force that expresses itself as speed then the greatest opportunity to increase speed is to increase strength. That is an oversimplification as there are a multitude of other qualities that are required for optimal performance in acceleration such as but not limited to: sufficient mobility in lower extremity joints, stiffness in lower limb, rate of force development (proper nervous system training), muscle mass and body composition. 

The ability to accelerate well is an enormous competitive advantage in nearly all sport and a much more predominant quality than top end speed. You must have the ability to push, accelerate, and separate from your competition. As imperative as this quality is, you must also be able to decelerate just as efficiently if you have any requirement to change direction in your sport, which deserves its own conversation. 

10 Teaching Concepts and Rules of Acceleration

  1. Every Action Has an Equal and Opposite Reaction: This means that when you push off the ground, you are also creating an equal and opposite force that propels you forward.
  2. Jump Out and Violent Arm Action: When you start to accelerate, you should jump out of your stance and use your arms to generate power.
  3. Torso Angle: Your torso should be angled slightly forward as you accelerate. This will help you maintain your balance and generate more power.
  4. Shin Arrows: As you accelerate, your shins should be like arrows pointing in the direction you are moving. This will help you maintain your forward momentum.
  5. Raised Foot, High Hip, Stiff Ankle: Your toes should be pointed up in dorsiflexion, your hips should be high, and your ankles should be stiff as you accelerate. This will help you generate more power and prevent you from wasting energy.
  6. Attack the Ground: As you accelerate, you should attack the ground with your feet. This will help you generate more power and prevent you from slipping.
  7. Contact Point (relative to the hip): Your contact point with the ground should be directly below your hip as you accelerate. This will help you maintain your balance and generate more power.
  8. Piston, not Cycle. Your legs should move like pistons as you accelerate. This means that they should be moving in a smooth, continuous motion.
  9. Don’t Have to Feel Fast, Have to BE Fast: You don’t need to feel like you’re going fast in order to be fast. In fact, trying to force yourself to feel fast can actually slow you down. Just focus on executing the proper mechanics and the speed will come naturally.
  10. Less Steps, Cover Distance: As you accelerate, you should take shorter steps but cover more distance with each step. This will help you maintain your balance and generate more power.

In conclusion, our speed and agility training and  instruction plays a vital role in helping athletes maximize their speed potential. By focusing on acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction mechanics, we provide athletes with the tools they need to excel in their respective sports. Whether it’s improving force production, refining movement mechanics, or developing power, our programs are designed to enhance overall speed and agility. We believe that speed is not just about raw velocity but also about the ability to accelerate, separate from opponents, and make quick and efficient changes in direction. By incorporating the teaching concepts and rules of acceleration discussed in this blog post, athletes can take a significant step towards unlocking their true speed potential.

Are you ready to take your speed and agility to the next level? Join our sports performance programs and experience the transformative impact of proper acceleration mechanics. Whether you’re a youth athlete looking to gain a competitive edge, a high school student aiming for college scholarships, or an aspiring college player, our training will help you close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Don’t let untapped speed hold you back from reaching your athletic goals. Contact us today to embark on your journey towards enhanced speed, agility, and overall athletic performance.

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