Kelly Baggett: The 5 MOST Common Speed, Quickness and Explosiveness Problems in Athletes: Part 1
Written on October 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm, by Eric Cressey
As promised, today, we’ve got a guest blog from Kelly Baggett, one of the brightest minds in the field of high performance training for athletes.
Today I’d like to talk a little about some of the common problems I see in athletes that prevent them from being as fast, quick, and explosive as they could be.
You need a good combination of optimal movement patterns and force. Movement patterns are affected by things like your posture, muscle balance, mobility, and coordination. Force is affected by your strength and power.
You can be strong with the ability to exert lots of force, but if your movement patterns are off you won’t transfer that force efficiently, and thus won’t move very fast and explosively.
You can have great movement patterns, but if you don’t have force behind those movement patterns, you wont move very fast and explosively either – so the key is creating the balance. Now that I’ve talked about the type of problems, let’s get to the problems themselves.
Problem #1: Bad Feet
For years, coaches in a multitude of sports have belabored the key, “Stay on your toes!” Although literally being on your toes is a bit of an exaggeration and is likely to lead to a trucked toe, staying on your toes really means you drive off the balls of your feet and less on your heels.
Watch many great athletes when they accelerate or sprint and their heels barely seem to hit the ground. This is without any conscious input on their part. Most people are rearfoot dominant, which means they carry too much weight on their heels when they walk, run, or move in general.
Moving more towards the mid and forefoot favors quicker, more efficient, less stressful movement, and also makes it easier to activate the powerful hip extensors, which have the capacity to really make you fly. If you want to be a good athlete, you need to get off your rearfoot and onto your mid and forefoot.
How do you do that? Well, unfortunately you’re unlikely to find much in the way of relevant scientific or laymen’s information specifically delving a great deal into this topic. That doesn’t change the fact that there are no shortage of gimmicks out there that promise this. There are even products like jumpsoles out there designed to make you move on the balls of your feet.
The problem is the verbal cues and training aids are relatively worthless because most people don’t have the inherent muscular recruitment patterns and strength to move in this posture naturally. If you have to think about it or force yourself to move a certain way it’s generally not gonna be very effective.
The key is optimizing your muscle development and movement patterns so your body inherently takes an “on the balls of the feet” posture without you having to voluntarily force yourself to get in that position. When that happens it’ll feel natural and efficient. I’ll talk about how to do that in the next installment. Now let’s get on to some of the other problems.
Problem #2: Lack of Glute Dominance
When the hip extensors are strong, they tend to “want” to drive your movements a bit more than someone who’s glute deficient. Generally speaking, walking, running, jumping, and most other athletic movements can be driven primarily either from the muscles acting on the hip or the muscles acting on the knee.
When referring to muscles that act primarily at the hip, I’m referring mainly to the glutes and psoas. Muscles that act more at the knee include the quads, rectus femoris, and tensor fascia lata. When movement is primarily generated from muscles acting higher on the hip, it promotes a more efficient and less stressful movement pattern.
When movement is primarily generated by the muscles acting on the knee, it tends to promote more rearfoot dominant movement as well as knee pain, hip pain, and a ton of other common problems. Guess which pattern fast and slow athletes favor, respectfully?
Have you ever noticed that really fast athletes often hardly even look like they’re trying? They’re quiet and effortless when they move. Slower athletes often sound like a bull when they move. Their feet SLAP the ground like a pancake and you can hear their tension a mile away.
A large reason for that discrepancy is one group is using their hips to drive their movements while the other group is using their knees. Knee dominant movement is typically inefficient, loud, and it often hurts. Hip dominant (glute driven) is quiet, fast, and smooth.
Problem #3: Lack of End-Range Strength in the Psoas
The psoas works in concert with the glutes to control the femur from the hip. A strong psoas promotes optimum hip and foot mechanics. Everyone has heard coaches yell, “High knees, high knees!!”
Some athletes inherently run with high knees while others barely lift their feet an inch off the ground. Those who don’t do it naturally aren’t really helped much by the cue. The psoas is the muscle responsible for raising your knee up to 90 degrees and above from a standing position.
When the psoas is weaker than the rectus femoris and tensor fascia latae you will have a more difficult time getting proper knee lift when you run, and also, due to the influence on the posture of your hips, also be succeptible to overuse injuries like IT band issues, knee pain, and plantar fasciitis.
Problem #4: Lack of Mobility in Key Muscle Groups
The quads, rectus femoris, ankles, and hip flexors often tend to be tight. This favors improper/faulty movement and prevents the optimum transfer of power through the lower kinetic chain. It also favors common injuries like patellar tendonitis or plantar fasciitis.
If you’ve had knee or foot pain, chances are you have at least one of these mobility impairments. Anyone that has considerably increased the muscular development of their thighs will have a tendency to lean towards having tight quads.
That’s not to say that muscular development of the thighs is a bad thing by any means, but one must pay attention to mobility.
Problem #5: Lack of Strength/Power in Relevant Contributing Muscles
This is the simplest problem of all – and also the one that will arguably have the biggest impact of all. It encompasses the “force” part of the speed and quickness equation. The more force you exert against an object, the faster you can move that object. In the case of speed and quickness, the moveable object is your body and the object you’re applying force to is the ground.
The problem is most people are too weak to be explosive and quick. I’ll give you all the information on how to address and fix that and the other problems in Part II of this article series – which will run tomorrow.
Tomorrow (Monday) at midnight, Kelly and Alex Maroko will be releasing The Truth About Quickness at a huge introductory discount. I’ve reviewed the product and can say without wavering that the information it contains is outstanding; this resource will make for an excellent addition to any coach or athlete’s library. For more information, head over to their early-bird discount page HERE.