Ask almost any coach or athlete and they will probably agree that quickness is a key attribute to successful performance in sports (this does not necessarily apply to low intensity endurance events). Quickness is defined as rapid reaction and movement time in relation to a given stimulus.
Training for quickness is not the same as training for absolute speed. Quickness relies heavily on immediate movement reactions. Think of quickness as the first phase of speed.
Training the nervous system is important in the development of quickness. Proper neural training offers the following:
- Instantaneous recruitment of a maximal number of motor units.
- Increasing the firing rates of motor units.
- Increase in intermuscular coordination (ability to synergistically use multiple muscle groups in performing movements).
Multiple rehearsal of movements result in stored memories in the brain called engrams. Development of engrams are one of the reasons it is so important to practice movements perfectly. If you practice with flawed technique your technique will be flawed when competing. Training quickness in short intervals results in utilization of the Phosphagen energy system (Refer to my article called muscular energetic).
Quickness is genetically determined to a degree, but proper training can greatly increase quickness. Drills geared for pure quickness development should last 6-8 seconds. Training for quickness endurance could be longer in duration. The placement of quickness drills in training varies. Athletes are faced with a multitude of different situations when performing; therefore placement of quickness drills varies accordingly.
Most of the time I incorporate quickness drills in warm-ups preceding weight training. When training to improve quickness endurance this type of training is often placed at the end of a workout. When under competitive situation, that quick cut, pass or punch in the closing moment of an event (i.e. boxing) can determine the winner. By placing quickness movements at the end of a workout the preceding competition conditions can be emulated to a small degree.
Before developing a quickness program, athlete evaluation is helpful. There is an abundant amount of testing procedures are used to measure quickness. Tests include reaction drills, start and stop and quick feet drills. Different circumstances require different tests. To get an idea of an athlete's quickness levels I like to observe them participating in their sporting event. I also use reaction drills such as dodgeball, ball drops and shadowing drills.
Once I establish the trainee's level of quickness, I use the priority principle in training. The principle implies that weaknesses receive priority over well-developed motor qualities. Minimal time is spent on quickness development if high levels of quickness already exist. If the athlete is weak in this area we would usually train this quality 2-3 times per week.
Shock method training (plyometrics) can be helpful in improving quickness. Keep in mind proper shock method training can be useful, but improper use of this training method can result in decrease in performance and injury ( Refer to shock method training at maxcondition.com for info concerning plyometrics). A good strength and fitness base is necessary before performing this type of training.
In summary, quickness can be enhanced with proper training. Training the nervous system is the main emphasis in quickness training. Drills should last 6-8 seconds to improve quickness. This motor quality is important in most sports. It is time we learn to maximize athlete's ability to react and move quickly.
- Brown,L,E,. Ferrigno,V,A,. Santana,J,C. (2000) Training for speed agility and quickness. Human Kinetics.
- Foran,B. (2001) High Performance Sports Conditioning. Twist,P. Ch.6 Lightning Quickness. Human Kinetics.
- Hale,J (2001) www.maxcondition.com. Real Stength Training for Boxers 1and 2. Jamie Hale