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Speed Report: Mining for Nuggets – Understanding the Gems That Maximize Football Speed

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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For the last nine years I have had the opportunity to write an article a month for AFM and I must say I’m still stimulated to impart knowledge that’s useful to the football world. The driving force for me each month is having the privilege to present solid changes that work because they are fact-based and scientifically sound.
    When choosing a topic each month I usually try to share information that will impact football programs with material that will help your speed training objectives. My greatest desire is to provide methods that are not wasteful. That requires placing emphasis on true football speed material that provides the greatest result for the time spent. I say true football speed due to the experiences I’ve had with coaches in the industry.
    The simple fact is that football coaches are typically not speed guru’s. That’s been my consensus for over four and a half decades of personal encounters with coaches at all levels. My first 11 years in the business I coached football and sprints in track, then continued for 36 more years as a speed specialist. It’s taught me a great deal about the specificity that’s required for true football speed applications. My objective is to assist you with a composite of what I term “nuggets.” You’ll want to consider inserting these ideas as you work through the in-season and off-season time frames each year.

Nuggets That Can Produce Value

    The most important element for true football speed is derived by centering your program on specific and sound technical applications. The following listings will provide you with some basic principles:
1. Power and force have a common relationship when any object moves rapidly. Power is merely fast force. Force moves objects and the greater the force means more movement. Strength is force that is applied without a time measurement. Power by its mechanical definition is Force times Distance /over Time meaning that Force is applied through a given Distance of movement in a measured amount of Time.

2. Strength is different than power by the fact that the force being applied to an object isn’t measured by how fast the distance is covered. It just accomplishes moving an object through the objective distance involved. With power, the time measurement of movement matters. For example, the speed of the leg cycle when running fast rotates rapidly. The force application to the ground by the foot strike makes contact on and off rapidly altering the forces. The faster the legs’ cycle, the time allowed for applying force becomes limited. So power is how much force can be applied while you’re on the surface with each stride.

3. There’s good news and bad news when running fast according to the power versus strength factor. The good news is that the faster muscles contract the faster limbs will move. The bad news is that the faster muscles contract the less force they’re able to generate. Slower contraction allows for more opportunity to potentially produce greater force.
    Similarly, more force and leverage can be applied if body alignment is vertically positioned over the top of the down leg force properly. But unfortunately, most programs don’t understand that this vertical body alignment must be relative to foot strike placement and accurately placed when each stride is taken directly downward to the surface.

4. Loss of power and leverage will potentially occur if the following items are improperly applied:

•  If the arms and legs are not synchronized together rhythmically.

•  If the athlete doesn’t direct the leg downward upon returning to the front.

•  If the hips are low during the stride phase of each leg cycle. If this happens, the heel strike will occur.

•  If the athlete bends at the waist during the sprint.

•  If arm alignment is not tracking straight from front to back during cycle rotation.

•  If the eyes are not continuously placed forward during all movement 

•  If rhythm of the stride cycle doesn’t remain constant during acceleration.

•  If the focus for speed is on the feet being fast rather than the sequence of arm and leg cycle fast.

•  If one tries to muscle and force limb movement, contraction will be slower.

•  If the athletes over rotates the arms during acceleration.

5. Speed is dependent upon running technically well. Power from the weight room will not transfer directly to the athlete in terms of running faster just because the numbers in the weight room are going up significantly. Power is relative to speed development. However, many strong athletes are not automatically fast.
6. Working on staying vertical and over foot strike placement while keeping the eyes level during all transition movements performed will help deliver maximize control of the velocity.
7. Body control will be dynamic if the center of the horizontal line remains in place on all movement applications.

In Summary

    The applications we’ve encountered will pay valuable dividends if you will be consistent with year-to-year applications. Remember, attention to specific detail rather than just working hard can and will produce great value that you will realize over time. These specific nuggets are only as good as the effort you make to put them into action. The little things make it happen in the long run. Speed has many components when it comes to tweaking specifics of importance. One last nugget – a minor change will have a major effect on velocity and body control when running fast.p


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