How to Get Quick…Quickly – Talking with Kelly Baggett
Written on October 7, 2010 at 11:32 am, by Eric Cressey
Today, I’m psyched to have my old friend Kelly Baggett on-board for an EricCressey.com exclusive interview. Kelly and I go back about ten years, and to this day, he stands out in my mind as one of the brightest guys in the business of making people more athletic – and he’s also a heck of an athlete himself.
EC: Thanks for taking the time to jump in with us on this interview today. Let’s talk first about where the “need” for this product came about; what made you and Alex decide to create it?
KB: Several years ago I had started using a particular style of movement work with my athletes designed to boost what I like to call “movement efficiency.” The premise was to rapidly and economically get people moving faster, quicker, and more efficiently on their feet without spending a lot of time doing so. Each workout would start off with this movement work, which was a short ~10 minute section of the workout.
Alex was actually a client of mine back when he was just out of high school. He went through some these workouts and really seemed to benefit from them. Well, a few years later he’s coaching people himself and is nearly out of college. He had taken the workouts I’d given him several years before and continued doing parts of them and expounded upon them with an emphasis on really boosting his first step in basketball. I had always believed that quickness and explosiveness weren’t necessarily the same thing. A person can be “quick” without being explosive and vice versa. Alex was a perfect example of that. He has some videos somewhere out there of him with a basketball: I don’t know if he’ll ever be all that fast and explosive, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone quicker with the ball in his hand on the basketball court.
Several years after he was a client of mine, Alex is now a coach himself and has a pretty good training business going. A little while back, he calls me and tells me how he’d been using these movement progressions with athletes and how well they’ve been working – and, in the process – comes up with the idea of putting the concept into a product based on “The Truth About Quickness.”
The first thing was to address some of the common myths surrounding quickness training and talk about the difference between quickness and explosiveness. The next was to introduce simple progressive quickness promoting exercises that don’t take a lot of time that can be incorporated into any existing program. The foundation for that were the progressions I had started using several years prior.
EC: Let’s talk about your “evolution” as a coach. What were you doing a decade ago that you thought was high performance training that you realize now just wasn’t cutting the mustard when it came to making people more athletic?
KB: When it comes to actual sprint, agility, and plyometric work, nowadays, I’m sort of known as a low volume guy. It’s all about quality over quantity. However, believe it or not, I used to be one of those coaches who would run guys to death. I spent too much time focusing on sport-specific movements and not enough on foundational training and recovery. I was one of those coaches who believed that if you wanted to get faster, you needed to do a ton of running. If you wanted to be more agile, you needed to do a ton of agility and SAQ (speed-agility-quickness) work. If you wanted to jump higher, you needed to do a lot of plyometrics. The result was that my programming wasn’t near as efficient as it could be.
I guess sometime around the late 1990s, I started discovering by accident that most people could substantially improve sports specific movements without much focus on them. I’d get these athletes that would come to me and say something like, “Hey I’m not going to play football or basketball anymore, but I still want to look good. I want you to train me to get me big, lean, and strong”. So, I would. Then, two months later, the guy goes out and hits a personal best vertical jump and 40 time.
I had experienced that myself in my own progress as an athlete but I always thought I was sort of an anomaly because I wasn’t doing what was considered “traditional” explosive power and speed training. But then I experienced it many, many times with other athletes. From there things sort of evolved into a challenge of finding the right volumes of movement and strength work, discovering why certain approaches work for some athletes and not for others, and tailoring the approach to the athlete.
EC: It doesn’t sound altogether unfamiliar with the approach I took in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, a program that a lot of people worried was too low in “SAQ” volume. Without getting off topic too much, it’s my humble opinion that the “need” for more and more SAQ work was a provider-induced demand initiated by training facilities that realizes that they could get more young athletes through and make more money by running them ragged and messing around with agility ladders than they could with actually individually assessing kids, addressing imbalances, and getting them stronger. They traded development for babysitting.
But anyway, along those same lines, what are you thinking is a better bet instead for nowadays?
KB: Establish proper movement patterns (which include optimizing recruitment/compensation patterns and optimizing coordination), then simply increase the horsepower behind the movement pattern. You’re obviously one of the masters at establishing proper recruitment patterns and I have a ton of respect for your contributions to the field in those areas. The recruitment aspects would include anything done with the focus of getting the body to operate more efficiently – stuff like corrective exercise, activation drills and stretches.
You then have to engage in enough sport-specific movement training (sprints, agility, jumps etc.) to optimize intra- and inter-muscular coordination in those tasks – and honestly, since those are gross movement patterns, it really doesn’t take a ton of volume. Then, it’s just a matter of maintaining those things while progressively increasing the power of the relevant contributing muscles – which is easily done through strength training. Put all that together into a plan that properly addresses recovery between all the elements and you can’t help but get better as an athlete.
EC: Just because this is fun, let’s talk about a few things you see in everyday programming from some strength and conditioning coaches that isn’t blatantly terrible (e.g., squatting on stability balls), but rather only marginally effective – and far from optimal?
KB: I guess one of the biggest things is all the complex training I see. Don’t get me wrong; I like complexes for some purposes (like fat burning and time-efficient training), but I don’t think they should make up the entire workout for athletes looking to build a foundation. For example, yesterday I saw some people doing step-ups with a curl and press. The step-up is good, the curl is good, and press is good but when you combine them altogether the effect is rather limited. My motto is if you’re going to load an exercise with the purpose of building strength in that exercise (and in the relevant muscles), then put your body in a mechanically advantageous position to do so.
EC: How do your recommendations change from a relatively inexperienced 15-18 year-old athlete versus an athlete who is older and has more experience?
KB: The goals don’t change but the focus on the elements does. For the older athlete, I REALLY focus more on corrective exercise, stretches, and recovery. Older guys tend to have so many recruitment impairments, flexibility issues, and pre-existing injuries that they can be a disaster waiting to happen unless those issues are addressed. They not only tend to have more recruitment and compensation impairments than younger athletes, but their tissues also don’t tolerate these issues as well. While a young athlete can often overcompensate for years and get away with it, older athletes will toast themselves the first trip around the bases at their first weekend softball game. With movement work, I work them into it gradually and also limit the effort. A young kid can go out and run max sprints or max jumps no problem. But with older weekend warriors, I like to work them in gradually as far as their rate of perceived exertion goes.
EC: This question is more for me than my readers, but I’ll ask it anyway. Say you’ve got a 14-year-old kid who has never lifted a weight in his life – and he comes to you on his first day of training. Do you do any sort of sprinting, agility/change of direction, or jump training with him? Or do you stick purely with resistance training?
KB: The movement work would be VERY limited and would be incorporated into part of his warm-up. It’s the basic concept behind The Truth About Quickness. The movement part of the workout likely wouldn’t be more than 10 minutes – tops. It’s enough to warm him up and give him a bit of movement stimulation, but not enough to fatigue him for the rest of the workout. Short, sweet, and effective.