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Speed Assistance and Resistance - Good or Bad for Football?

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Since speed and movement and movement control are the most sought-after athletic qualities, coaches and trainers are always looking for ways to help athletes improve in these areas. Letís look at the topic of loading and assisting and try to sort out the good from the not so good.

Coaches constantly ask me about load speed work and assisted speed work. For football, itís a controversial subject. First, coaches place too much value on it and, in most cases, use it improperly. Often, coaches will overload the athlete beyond effectiveness and pay little attention to the mechanical effectiveness in the process.

In this way, more harm than good is accomplished. The reason is clear why this occurs. Coaches must understand that certain skill functions must be applied before this becomes an important issue. The emphasis for resistance is to not make the training modality about a heavy overload workout. This diminishes the potential purpose of its effectiveness. If athletes canít sprint at 90% to 95% of maximum sprint capability during resistance work, then it provides little gain for true development. However, thatís not the only area of concern when evaluating its potential for your program.
Pros and Cons of Assisted and Resisted Training
The concept for resisted and assisted training originated from track and field. Assisted and resisted training is a type of running function that demands a certain cyclic activity to occur. Assistance aids the velocity of movement, making it faster than one can move by their own individual capability. The nervous system activity is firing at a greater level than without inducement. The contraction properties are operating at a higher frequency rate. In essence, the nervous system is literally being trained to operate more dynamically than without this assistance.

Resisted training has been used in other sports besides football and track and field. Weightlifting is pure force against resistance. Using resistance methods for speed training has a place, if used properly. The methods vary and you should be careful with resistance. Overloading is the most common mistake made with cyclic resistance when applied.

The larger the load, the greater demand for more force. The term overload indicates that thereís weight resistance provided at each step taken. Your normal body weight is all you have to move without resistance. Adding resistance requires that you have to apply more force each step to the surface. Greater force is required to overcome your weight and the added resistance.

Although sprint-assisted and resisted training has been around for many years, thereís very little scientific research that has been conducted in this area. However, the research that has been documented indicates that only small changes in assistance or resistance can make significant changes for running production. Once again, this points to our concerns for mechanics being a greater focus for acceleration speed characteristics and movement speed in general. Anecdotal comments from coaches and professional athletic trainers range from high praise for assisted and resisted training to claims that these methods arenít worth the time and effort to include in a normal practice.
Football and Specific Resisted and Assisted Training
Coaches should be specific in their speed and movement training. Football requires unique movement skills, taps exclusive energy mechanisms and should necessitate training methods that will enhance multi-direction proficiency, one of the keys to football speed.

Team training for resisted and assisted work can be difficult to apply to large numbers in a small period of time. If you choose to use these methods, be aware that resistance must be minimal in relation to the velocity required for speed work.

Most coaches will overload the amount of resistance needed and the velocity and frequency is reduced dramatically. Resistance then destroys mechanical application and this negates positive results. For example, use a hill that is 2-3 degrees in a very slight upward angle. The slight angle will provide plenty of resistance to the stride cycle while maintaining mechanical efficiency. You can use rhythmic strides at a set percentage, say 70-75%, over a 30-50 yard distance. You can also do sprint work at shorter distances such as 15 to 35 yards at full sprint levels.

Assisted training can also be applied with a very slight angle downward. You can actually work numbers on each run through using this type of application. Research indicates that if youíre going to use decline, incline work that using them together, going up and then down, offers better results than working them individually.
The Bottom Line  
Once youíve sorted through the many ways to accomplish resist and assist methods, evaluate them. Is it worth the time spent for football speed training? My recommendation is that over-speed training is not worth the time because it can only be used for a small portion of your training plan. It canít be used for a long a period of time because you will hurt your athletes physically. It will bring you to a peak physically but can be a gamble for structure stability breakdowns, as well as high potential for soft tissue injuries.

Speed training needs to be a system periodization design for proper effectiveness. No one or two things like assisted or resisted training is a program. Theyíre merely a part of the journey to get to the beginning of the season.
The following represents methods that are not recommended for football speed development:
1. Stadium Stairs
Too steep, same as a bad angle for resistance on a hill. Mechanical function is disturbed due to the continuous elevation demand the further you run.
2. Towing for Resistance
The speed for each athlete cannot be monitored effectively. However, a slight hill angle should work for all.
3. Treadmills
It is virtuously impossible to perform acceleration work on a treadmill. Multi-direction drills are a bit of problem as well.
4. Chutes
Cross winds are a problem and resistance canít be regulated. Chutes usually collapse with direction changes.
5. Sand and Water Running for Resistance
Some coaches swear by it; others swear at it. There are no scientific studies available concerning the pros or cons of sand as a tool for acceleration, maximum velocity or change of direction running. Donít use it if you want to develop speed. A hard surface gives back immediately to move the athlete at the point of force contact to the surface. The harder the surface, the faster force and impulse generates velocity on each step. Sand displaces and delays the force production return. Weíre trying to enhance this impulse return to run faster, not lose it.
6. Natural Element - Wind
Wind can be used to assist or resist running but sometimes itís difficultto schedule. 

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 35 years heís consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at and 858-568-3751. Website:


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