The 40-yard dash, probably the most infamous statistic associated with running today. Nowadays the "40" has become the defining factor for so many athletes in today's game of football. So much so that "what's your 40?" now goes hand in hand with the proverbial age-old question of "whatcha bench?" I can't tell you how many times I hear those two questions when I say I am a strength coach. I usually reply, "I have no idea. I haven't tested my self in years."
The truth is personally I don't care what it is. But it is something my guys are always asking, not only about me but about themselves. I always say, "Which would you rather have, a big bench and a great 40 time or a RING on your finger?" Ha, give that one to them and they'll shut right up. The fact is that this increased emphasis on dropping your "40 time" has affected athletes and coaches so much that they forget to train for the speed which is the most important, GAME SPEED.
What is happening in today's athletic programs is that coaches are trying to find ways to improve their teams' 40 time as opposed to developing speed, agility and reactive ability. Why? Because it is a way to keep track of their athletes' and their own success. It is not easy to test how fast your players run to the ball or how fast they pick up their foot and pull down the line.
While you may be able to measure it, few strength coaches understand the intricacies and have the experience to time such movements like the split-second action of how fast a lineman picks up his foot and pulls. These movements, though extremely important in the game of football, are often overlooked when it comes to off-season training. You have coaches who use form running as an excuse for an off-season training program and ignore sport-specific needs.
They choose this method of training overworking on the proper strength training in the weight room, which will give their players the ability to move more explosively and with greater agility on the field. They never realize that in order to run properly the athlete must first take care of business in the gym before he tries to transfer his ability to the field. What good is an athlete that can't even move?
PICK IT UP
If an athlete can't pick up his foot and put it back down he is as good as gone. If you cannot move you have absolutely no business being on the football field. Now you can look at me and say we have guys who squat 700 pounds and can hang clean 350 pounds - great, can he move on the football field? No! But he "looks like an athlete and it makes me feel good about my program." Well great, that sounds good if you're a power lifter. But what I think we are training for is an athletic contest between groups of grown men trying to beat the crap out of each other.
In this battle not only must you be big and strong, but FAST. Therefore, our intention is to develop the athlete so that he not only attains better testing scores but satisfies the goal of all Renegade training. We must ensure that he plays at a faster rate on the field and is thus able to dictate the ebb and flow of the game and influence victory.
Once a coach considers the role of improving upon sports performance as opposed to testing, exercise selection and protocols can often be revised. Consider the role of the hamstring and how it influences turnover rate. You cannot easily prepare athletes for running with hamstring curls , and the quads with
leg extensions and every other machine in the gym that so many coaches love.
"This is SPORT not Personal Training 101."
There needs to be a focus on hip dominant lifts. Which is the backbone of every running, jumping, pushing, explosive movement done on the field. So exactly why are these athletes around the nation being trained as bodybuilders or power lifters? Beats the heck out of me! I am just pointing out this fact, not trying to make sense of it.
The main focus that we use when it comes to speed, agility and reactive improvement is to strengthen my athletes' "running" muscles, the glutes and hams as hip extensors. When it comes time for the running we focus on the firing patterns of the athletes' muscle fibers. This is done so that what happens in the weight room carries over to the field. By focusing on strengthening the primary movers it allows my guys to have the proper equipment when it comes time to move.
TAKE THIS AND RUN WITH IT!
Having the proper musculature allows room for the body to naturally create its own proper form when running. Granted, some need more assistance in the area of form running but usually the body will take care of itself. Creating the proper muscles required to run will force the body to stay in line with itself and propel the body at a faster rate than that of traditional strength training.
Take for instance my big lineman from one of my big lineman. When he began running, he looked kind of like a Jesus lizard. You know the one I am talking about. They hop up on their hind legs, flare out their necks and run in the funniest, goofiest fashion. Well, he kind of ran similar to that. Now fast forward to today. His form isn't perfect but he has improved a great deal. His legs are moving forward and his arms aren't flapping like chicken wings. He has some build to him, and is getting stronger in his legs, but most importantly his hamstrings and butt - the real determinants of speed - are growing and getting stronger.
Check Back Soon For Part Two!