Archive for the 'Speed Exercises' Category
Speed and Agility Training is fast becoming a focus for more and more athletes as they find that strength training is just not enough anymore — not that it ever was, but as times get more competitive you are going to need all the edge you can get.
The purpose of this article is to function as an introduction into the relation between speed and agility training and a practice known as Plyometric training. You will learn what plyometrics are, what role they play in your speed and agility training. You will also learn and what are some of the benefits you can expect when corectly introducing plyometric drills into your speed and agility training.
So what are plyometrics anyway?
Plyometrics are simply a type of exercises whose purpose it is to link strength with speed of movement in order to create a lot of power. The objective is to be able to use more of your strength — faster — thus producing more power. An example of application of plyometrics in a sport that requires a lot of speed and agility is doing a vertical jump for height in basketball.
Plyometric execises are simple in purpose, they are meant to:
– increase your bodies ability to absorb and store force;
– teach you how to release that force — creating a movement which has a lot of power behind it.
Traditional sports endeavors who have benefited a lot from these types of exercises are those that involve throwing, kicking, jumping and lifting.
Purpose of plyometrics as part of a speed and agility training program
Plyometric drills are meant to train your muscles and tendons to absorb high amounts of force and teach your nervous system how to control and stabilize that force. Speed and agility can be developed very quickly with such practices – the best gains come if you have already strengthened your muscles and tendons.
The short term gains in speed and agility that result from incorporating plyometric exercises come from the education of your nervous system. This is why it is critical to perform plyometric exercises following these guidelines:
- only perform when rested
- perform with maximum concentration and focus for each rep
- keep the rep number low (no more than 20 regardless of the exercise used)
- keep the set number low (no more than 3 sets regarding the exercise)
Gains in the long term will rely on body composition — this is why a focus on nutrition and avoidance of injury are critical with regards to plyometrics. Plyometric training will change the structure of your muscles and tendons. You should be aware that practiced over a longer period of time, the result of plyometric training will make your muscles and tendons and make them have more spring.
Plyometric movement works like this:
- first the body absorbs and stabilizes the force from a negative (eccentric) contraction
- as it does this, it loads up your muscles and tendons with force (think of it like a compressing a spring)
- your body releases this energy in the opposite direction
- the spring unloads and the body (for legs) or an object (for arms) is propelled with astounding speed
Here’s an example,when you cock back your arm to throw a rock the natural thing you do is to first cock your arm backwards. The effect of this is that the muscles of your arm and shoulder muscles lock, forcing your tendons to stretch thus storing a lot of force in those tendons and essentially turning them into loaded springs. When you throw, the stored force is released, allowing the rock to be accelerated at a rate which is higher than your normal rate of force development.
The reason plyometric training was so big when it came out in the 70 ‘s is that it allowed athletes to specifically train their muscles and tendons to be more spring-like. You naturally use plyometric movements but before plyometric training came out there was no clear cut way to train for this. That is why it was thought for so long that jumping for height for example was an innate ability.
As I said before, the more you use this type of training the more you will also develop an inherent springiness in your muscles and tendons. Coupled with an increased nervous system learning on how to corectly perform the movement at higher speeds, you can expect to see massive improvements in your speed and agility. The question is: how do I adapt the principles of plyometric training to my speed and agility training? The answer is, and you aren’t going to like it, by tailoring your plyometric training to the specific speed and agility requirements of the sport that you are practicing. This is a long discussion and goes way beyond the scope of this article.
In this article you have learned:
- what plyometrics are
- how plyometrics work
- the role of plyometrics as part of your speed and agility training
- the benefits you can expect when introducing plyometric drills into yours speed and agility training
I also recommend you check out this article on exercise for speed and agility training and preventing injuries.
All the best,
Aerobic endurance and how to increase your aerobic performance is a pretty big topic. There is an endless amount of data and advice on the subject and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of that information. To make it simple, let’s look at the basics of increasing aerobic endurance that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your speed and agility training and overall performance.
What is Aerobic Endurance?
To put it simply, aerobic endurance is the body’s capacity for processing oxygen and circulating it through the body within a set period of time. The higher the capacity your body has to circulate oxygen and convert it to energy – the higher your aerobic endurance. Think of the aerobic system (also known as oxidative system) as the energy system that uses oxygen. Aerobic capacity applies to all athletes, regardless of the sport they are involved in. The more aerobic capacity you have, the more oxygen your system is able to circulate through the circulatory system and the better you will be able to perform.
I should also mention at this point the anaerobic system (also know as glycolytic system) is the the short burst system that doesn’t use oxygen. This comes into play when your body is working so hard that it begins to experience an oxygen deficit. Anaerobic endurance is needed by sprinters and other athletes that must perform at an all out level for a short period of time, usually less than one minute.
The aerobic system is the one that processes oxygen and circulates it through the system and the anaerobic is the system that operates without the use of oxygen — by creating an oxygen debt. Depending on the level you are exercising at, both these system come into play for speed and agility training.
Increasing Aerobic Capacity
Increasing aerobic endurance is achieved in the same way you would increase muscle endurance, through exercise. Speed exercises and endurance exercises make your heart stronger and your muscles more efficient. You gain the ability to acquire and process oxygen in greater volume and more efficiently, making all of your metabolic functions operate more efficiently. In speed exercises and agility training your oxygen cycling capacity is critical.
Cardiovascular exercise builds aerobic endurance. Things like running or swimming for longer periods build up endurance and the capacity to process oxygen. When you work at a pace that gets your heart rate up to 80% or 90% of it’s maximum, you are working at a level that is building more aerobic endurance. Beginners may want to work at 70-80% of their heart rate and build up from there.
Running at a moderate pace for 30-45 minutes at a time is as good an aerobic exercise as you can do. Do it three times a week and build up speed and heart rate as you progress. You want to get to the 80-90% level of your heart rate as you build up endurance to get the greatest benefit over time.
The basic premise of building aerobic endurance is to work at a moderately high level over a longer period of time. This builds endurance and increases the body’s capacity to take in oxygen and deliver it to your body systems more efficiently.
PS: Click here for an anaerobic exercise for speed and agility training — it’s a really nice one.
One Legged Squat: Part 1
In this two part article I am going to discuss a particular exercise that comes in very handy in your speed and agility training: the 1-legged squat.
The purpose of this article is to explain:
- Benefits of the 1-legged squat for your speed and agility training program;
- How to perform the 1-legged squat;
- Tailoring the 1-legged squat specifically for your speed and agility training;
- How to modify different parameters in order to keep advancing and avoid plateauing;
The areas that the 1-legged squat can develop are the following:
- Maximal strength (it will make your legs very strong AND it will do something that 2 legged weight training won’t — increase your stabilizing muscles strength — critical as far as speed and agility training goes)
- Strong Joints (the particular nature of this exercise means your supportive muscles, joints and tendons are subjected to higher than normal tensions this decreases chance of injury by building strong resilient joints well capable of sustaining the forces that speed and agility training inflicts)
- Develop Fast Reflexes (performing this exercise correctly will require you to generate strong nervous impulses, this will translate into increased rate of force development, improved speed, quick reflexes and a round butt — I couldn’t resist mentioning this as girls seem to like this particular anatomical part in a guy);
Let me comment a bit on how highly I think of this exercise. You see, last year, I broke my ankle. It required surgery, a titanium plate, six screws and 2 months walking in crutches. I’ll post that x-ray up one of these days just to show you how my ankle looks on the inside. This happened in March 2009. At that time I had 28 inch vertical jump (from standstill) and I didn’t know anyone who could outrun me on the 50 yard dash. I lived speed and agility training. The accident changed all that, but I knew I could get back up to where I was competitively. The problem was that at the end of 2010 I was still very weak. Even though I started to run pretty fast again, I felt it in my bones that my strength was not the same. At the beginning of this year I remembered the 1-legged squat, an exercise I had used previously to increase my vertical jump. Even though I am a big fan of jumping for height (due to my love of basketball) and as such I am familiar with many verticals jump programs, I never did see one that addressed this particular exercise. To make a long story short, 6 months on classic exercises aimed at rebuilding the strength in my left leg left me completely unsatisfied and fearful of permanent damage. I was wrong. After two months of using the 1-legged squat on and off I saw results, so I got serious and started applying the solid training principles that I knew in order to maximize the results I was getting with this exercise. I also scrapped every other leg training exercise I had been using and focused exclusively on this one. My left leg is still not 100% strengthwise, but I have accomplished something I hadn’t before, I can now leap stairs four at a time.
This is a short description of the 1-legged squat as it should be done in your speed and agility training:
- Slowly lower yourself down to the floor while standing in 1 leg. Your main foot must stay flat on the floor, your heel must be planted.
- Descend with perfect tension throughout your body until your hamstring almost touches your calf. Your free foot must be held as straight as possible in front of you. Remember to pause at the end of the movement.
- Lift yourself up without any bounce
In summary, this article has explained the benefits of the 1-legged squat, how they can benefit your speed and agility training and a demonstration of the 1-legged squat.
In my next article I will expand on the specifics of performing the 1-legged squat. I will explain how to perform this exercise specifically for speed and agility training and how you can modify the parameters of the exercise in order to avoid plateauing and keep improving.
All the best,
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