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Speed Report: Cyclic Rhythm - The Transparent Component of Speed

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Speed training is such a vast subject. A relatively new area in the field is rhythm and speed development. The simple truth is that its values are off the chart for positive transformation of motor transition and nervous system adaptation.
Proper balance is a subject that pops up often in the sports training world when discussing running and movement. Balance can surely be enhanced; however rhythm is far more critical when velocity and limb frequency are engaged collectively.

The Significance of Rhythm

When you plug in a speed program, you usually consider the major elements such as power, force, frequency, mechanical efficiency, etc. Seldom do you hear about the rhythm component that must share the stage with the other elements I mentioned. The truth is that it should be considered as important as any other aspect of speed development.
At short ballistic movements between zero and ten yards and longer acceleration distances, rhythm is the central cortex for gauging limb speed results. The limbs rotate at varying frequency ratios. Slow to fast, fast to slow (yes, even decelerating must contain rhythm control) and constantly fast at a sustained tempo. Variable speed changes occur often on the field. The upper and lower limbs need to be synchronized mechanically. Rhythm is only effective when led by efficient mechanical execution. They always go together.

Maximize Acceleration and Velocity - Not Without Rhythm

We now understand that rhythm is important. As we accelerate step-by-step, the length of our stride automatically lengthens. As this takes place, we are going to experience angle changes and repositioning of the center of mass in relation to footstrike contact. Its important to consider this because we will find ourselves out of rhythm if the synchronization of limbs does not groove.
The greater the velocity of movement, the more opportunity for mechanical breakdown. This directly affects the synchronization of frequency. Therefore, rhythm must be drilled to allow the athlete to learn a sense of harmony of his moving parts. The only way one can maximize acceleration and velocity is with a dedicated routine of rhythm training of which the benefits are immeasurable. An engine is only smooth when the moving parts harmonize collectively. The same is the case for human moving parts; that is, rhythmic motion is sustained.

How Do We Develop Rhythm?

Rhythm comes in two forms, low-impact and high-intensity. Cyclic rhythm is a rotational activity that addresses arms and legs. They are divided into two parts, an upper and lower rotation of limbs. The upper and lower limbs must be synchronized cyclically. When we refer to the term cyclic in the running world we must recognize two axis points: the shoulder and the hip joints. These are the true central points of limb rotation as they rotate front to back. The frequency at which these axis points revolve dictates the resultant movement of the limb speed. I like to refer to this term as rotational frequency.
The focus should be centered around joint speed. Cyclic rhythm during intense joint speed is paramount to successful performance and consistency. You must build the rhythm skills into your speed and movement work each week. Ive provided some rhythm drills for you to use to enhance positive rhythm characteristics (See Diagrams 1-4).
Remember that rhythm sustains rotational frequency creating an even cyclic acceleration pattern at high-speed movements. The development takes place in two forms, mental motor processing and kinesthetic adaptation. Your mind records the feeling that is induced by the rhythm activity presented.
The consecutive repeat action of cyclic rotational rhythm will have a positive response for each athlete. The procedure best utilized for this training is to set up certain distances with cones and have the athletes maintain the desired rhythm patterns established. Vary the distances as the skill enhances. As mentioned earlier, rhythm is useful at low intensity, mid-range intensity and high intensity. Low impact intensity trains the control aspect of limb movement. Higher intensity is developed to a point for spontaneity movement cyclically. The rotational process is happening so fast that control is difficult. Go relatively slow first, then week-to-week increase speed progressively with distance increases as well. Remember, the faster we go the more potential chances for a mechanical breakdown. Be patient and steady with the frequency application.
If you have been helped by these articles over the past three years, please e-mail me and indicate your experiences. Your comments are always welcome and if you should have some ideas on subjects not yet covered, please tell me. I certainly welcome all of your thoughts, comments, and ideas.

Drill 1 Diagram 1

Quick Cycle Rhythm Run
Set your torso tall from ground to the top of your head in a standing position. Eyes should be forward and remain forward throughout the 25-yard zone. Activate arms and legs rotationally at a very quick and short frequency from the first step. After the first four steps, lock the rhythm that is established and maintain it throughout the zone. Its critical that you sustain arm-leg rhythm at the same rate of turnover for the entire zone.

Drill 2 Diagram 2 Quick Cycle (Pace Change) Rhythm Run

This is the same as diagram # 1 for the quick cycle. The difference is that your athletes will rapidly decel to a walk for five yards. Adjust the zone longer if you sense that its not long enough to breakdown properly. Begin with a quick cycle rotation again on the second quick cycle zone. Begin the action from a walk position while not stopping and then go.

Drill 3 Diagram 3 Quick Cycle to Stride Increase

Repeat the quick cycle run again for 20 yards. At the end of the zone, activate the limb rotation at 60 percent intensity and increase speed for 5 yards. Lock the stride rhythm and velocity at this point and maintain the set rhythm cycle for the remainder of the distance. Watch carefully the second zone for momentum increase and/or frequency dissipation. Neither one is acceptable if the drill is to develop rhythm.

Drill 4 Diagram 4 Rhythm Stride Drill

This drill seems too simple. However, its a hard drill to control at first. Athletes release easy on the first step and every stride that follows is rotated faster, step-by-step. At the seven-yard mark, you should be at approximately 70 percent of maximum speed. Lock the rhythm established and maintain it throughout the entire remaining zone. Coaches should watch carefully for the speed gained. Also, watch for the rhythm to breakdown through the second half of the zone. Athletes must maintain exact rhythm with no breaks nor changes. Thats what makes this drill difficult at first. Be strict on your athletes to discipline the rhythm or the drill is useless. u


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