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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'agility'

In many of my recent posts, I have focused on injuries and recovery.  I am going to start a new series today on improving speed and agility.  You see, even though I consult with hundreds of clients every year on injuries, I also train many athletes for peak performance who are well athletes seeking to maximize performance and stay injury free.

While I will be the first to admit I may not be the most innovavtive coach out there when it comes to unique drills, I do get great results and have very few of my athletes get hurt.  I believe this stems from a sound understanding of biomechanics/kinesiology as well as understanding how force application affects the body.  It is the application of exercise that makes a great coach “great.”

Getting it “just right” takes an exact formula and this is not a universal formula for athletes, even if they play the same sport.  With that said, they are fundamantal issues I see athletes tend to struggle with or need improvement on such as:

  • Poor running form
  • Inefficient planting and cutting
  • Inability to decelerate quickly and efficiently
  • Difficulty maintaining a low center of gravity
  • Difficulty changing direction quickly

To address these issues, we use certain drills in our speed camps, clinics and athlete performance training.  I thought I would spend the next few blog posts showing you some of the very drills we use to improve performance, reduce or eliminate the weaknesses mentioned above and of course dramatically reduce injury risk.

Repetition is key as we want to fine tune the motor patterns and give the athletes the proper patterns to feed forward in practices and games.  This can only really be accomplished through proper instruction, proper selection of drills and reinforcement of proper form with lots of repetition.

In today’s video, I included a 2 cone figure 8 drill that we used in a 2 hour lacrosse clinic.  It is a realtively simple drill, yet so many athletes struggle to decelerate efficiently, round the cone tightly and then move toward the next cone.  Making large turns reduces speed and often decides who wins on the field.  Learning to stay low and turn properly improves quickness and reduces knee injury risk.

This drill is usually done for 15-30 seconds (2-3 sets) to work on conditioning but allow for enough time to get the repetitions desired.  Start with the cones no more than 10 yards apart and as the skill level and form dictates, move the cones closer to increase the difficulty of the drill.  Be aware that the demand is higher with a shorter distance and you should judge distance based on the athlete’s ability to do the drill properly.

Stay tuned as I will share more videos of drills I use in the coming days and weeks to make you or the athletes you train more effectively.

One of the most common things I see when training athletes is the inability to control their body in space as they transition from deceleration to acceleration and move in a different direction.  They often stand too upright, add extra steps, use bad angles and fail to apply force to the ground efficiently to propel them forward.

Early on, I implement a 2 cone shuffle drill to teach proper body awareness, how to plant correctly and most importantly how to move as fast as possible.  It is best to follow a set predictable sequance at first to ensure proper motor learning.  Here is an example:

  1. Slow speed with verbal cues throughout (to maintain athletic posture, foot position, body angle, etc)
  2. Half speed with no verbal cues (correct with demonstration and verbal feedback afterward)
  3. Full speed with no verbal cues and shorter cones (still correct after the drill as needed)

These sequences are all predicatble in nature.  Once the athlete masters form and body control, you can begin to ask them to react to both auditory and visual cues in a more random nature.  This will force them to improve reaction time and more colsely mimic sport situations.  In the video clip, I shuffle with quick steps at first and then increase my stride toward the end.  You will need to decide whether you want to work on precise footwork (for small space work) or more powerful strides for open space explosion.  I think both are relevant and worthy to be trained.

Next week, I will turn my attention to ACL injury prevention as Spring soccer is upon us and share some tips and strategies to prevent these injuries.

Many parents call me and inquire about training their son or daughter with the primary goal of improved speed.  Most of the time, I turn the conversation to body control (acceleration & deceleration) as well as agility.  Most sports are not won or lost with pure linear speed.

Most sports I watch are won by superior athletic movement skill.  In other words, superior footwork and body control.  Over the years, I have been both awed and left wanting while watching some of my clients move for the first time.  The truly great ones make movement seem so fluid and effortless.

Those who struggle most on the court or field simply need to work to improve their footwork.  In particular, I like to focus on lateral quickness (agility).   Today’s short video clip reveals one of my favorite drills to heighten the ability to move side to side quickly and effortlessly. 

If your athlete has difficulty maintaining the proper form and rhythm initially, slow the drill down.  Emphasize that both feet touch down (minimal pressure on inside foot) but that the power comes from the outside foot pushing off.  I typically have my athletes work for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.  Once they master the form, you may elect to use a higher hurdle to increase the emphasis on power as well.