Home Blog Kelly Baggett: Lose Tension to Get Quick

Kelly Baggett: Lose Tension to Get Quick

Written on August 24, 2011 at 4:53 am, by Eric Cressey

Kelly Baggett has done some outstanding guest posts here in the past, and I figured it was time for another one, so I reached out to him and got this insightful piece back a day later.


As I’ve stated many times in the past, based on my experience and observations, real world displays of athleticism and quickness are often more similar to dancing than they are something like measurable speed and power. Unfortunately, most training methods target tension application, but they don’t really target the release of tension.

Watch high level athletes performing high level moves at extreme speed and you’ll usually find the moves are trademarked by total and complete phases of relaxation. Dwayne Wade is an excellent example – he literally looks like he’s gliding along the court, toying and dancing with his opponent.

The ability to RELAX physically in the face of stress is often the key variable that separates the men from the boys.  In fact, the best sprinters in the world are more physiologically identifiable not by how much force they can produce with a sprint stride, but how quickly and completely they can relax their muscles between strides!

This is even more obvious if you pay attention to a sport like boxing.  As powerful and fast as a guy like Mike Tyson was in his prime, the key variable that allowed him to dominate was his ability to completely relax and outmaneuver his opponent and setup his mind-boggling punching power.  Think of a cat: powerful, explosive, extremely quick, and RELAXED between bursts of attack to the point of almost apathy.  Check out The Truth About Quickness highlight video below and pay attention huge relaxation component to the split-squat landing at the 8-10s mark; in order to stabilize those eccentric forces at the snap of a finger, you have to be relaxed, as it’s just not possible to stick that landing with the lower-body all locked up:

You’ll notice similar relaxation in the paused drop into sprint (12s mark), and around the 36s mark when Alex performs lateral hops onto the bench with pauses at the top and bottom.

If you want to be quick and are not naturally rhythmic, you must work on being relaxed. A relaxed and open mind is ultra-important.  Think of what Bruce Lee said: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”  And, “notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

One mark of athletic quickness is the ability to move like water. Apply this to your sport:  whatever sport you play, whatever moves you want to perfect, whatever it is you want to focus on – whether it’s basketball, tennis, infielding, football – work on your moves in the mirror and/or video and watch yourself.  Imagine your body a cat and grade yourself similar to how you’d grade a dance: not by speed of movement but by efficiency of movement.

What you will find as you work on this a bit is that your movement doesn’t just become more efficient, but it also becomes much quicker and faster – all the things you DO want.  However, you don’t get there initially by trying to go faster; you get there by eliminating resistance, which is tension in your antagonistic muscles.

Here’s a simple little drill you can try that illustrates this perfectly.  Take your index finger and simply tap it on the desk as quickly as you can. What you’ll probably find is that the faster you try to go, the more tense you get and the slower you actually go. The more you concentrate on relaxation, the faster you can go. Now, try to apply that same principle to anything else you do requiring quickness/speed throughout your entire body.  It’s simple but effective and drives home an important concept that many people neglect completely!

Kelly Baggett is the co-creator (alongside Alex Maroko) of the “Reloaded” Truth About Quickness 2.0 System.  Note from EC: I’m a big fan of Kelly’s work and have endorsed this resource previously; Kelly and Alex did a great job with it.  I’d encourage you to check out The Truth About Quickness, if you haven’t already.

15 Responses to “Kelly Baggett: Lose Tension to Get Quick”

  1. Susan@Paleo Recipe Says:

    Interesting concept…..the fact that you can be quicker while you are relaxed is actually a bit counterintuitive, isn’t it? I have a client who is training to run faster, so I will be sure to incorprate this concept into her training!

  2. Rick Says:


    Do you have any thoughts on how to incorporate TAQ with Show and Go. It seems like you can piece both of these programs together for a nice off-season program, but I am not sure how to do it without over training.


  3. Ted Ryce Says:

    As a competitive athlete, I totally agree with this. In my sport (Brazilian jiujitsu and submission wrestling), being stiff makes u vulnerable while being able to flow with an opponent’s force gives you an advantage. Love those quotes. Bruce said it best. Be like water.

  4. Peter Guare Says:

    This has been a given in track and field for decades. Watch any elite sprinter and you’ll see how relaxed their jaws are, for example. You don’t run (or do any sports that I’m aware of) by using all your muscles simultaneously – the fact that muscles are paired as agonists/antagonists makes this pretty straightforward. Relaxation allows the target muscles to perform at top speed with minimal resistance and reciprocal inhibition from the antagonists.

  5. Matt Carlin Says:

    This is so true. I worked this out long ago with my own movements in sport. When I played squash people couldn’t work out how I was so quick around the court. By staying relaxed & I always held the racquet loose until the shot was required. When surfing, if you remain all stiff and fight the wave when you get dumped, more times than not, you’ll get hurt by hitting the bottom. Stay loose and go with the water and you pretty much never get hurt.
    Same when I was Asst S&C coach with a Rugby League team in a Qld state comp in Australia. When they did boxing for conditioning, so many guys were so stiff (especially the bigger forwards). Sure they could prob throw one good knockout punch but that was about it. Give them a speed set of 50-100 punches and they were busted. Most could knock out about 20 and the rest were piss weak.
    Bruce Lee was well ahead of his time! Be like water!!
    Great post Kelly & Eric.

  6. Cooper Says:

    Eric,Kelly, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how this relates to squatting. Specifically high bar, A2G, olympic squats. Understandably PL type squats require constant tension throughout the movement. Olympic squats on the other hand, where a bounce out of the bottom position is utilised, are usually a lot faster than PL squats. I have been experimenting with differing levels of tension througout the movement. Initially I was tensing everything (jaw, back, little finger) and then I moved to keeping things loose as possible, obviously more on the eccentric portion than the concentric phase. As is usually the case, I am now leaning towards a halfway house between relaxed and tense. I need to tense my upper and lower back to maintain correct posture throughout the lift but I try to relax my other body parts and try to let the movement ‘flow’ as much as possible.

    I think that the more fluid a movement looks the more efficient it usually is, and that perhaps, my squats will evolve to where I only need that instantaneous tension in the bottom position as the forces are maximised.



  7. Noah Says:

    Kelly is the truth, been saying it for a while 🙂

  8. Ray McCarthy Says:


    I just wanted to second the recommendation. I have been following Kelly’s work for years. I picked this product up when it first came out.
    It well work the $$$. What I like about Kelly’s work and thought process is it reminds me of the answer to “What is the shortest distance between two points” ITS A STRAIGHT LINE. Kelly takes a straight line with all his work. Eliminates the Bull and gets right down to what works.

    Great Product from a Great Coach,

    Just my thoughts,
    Ray McCarthy CSCS

  9. Sam Leahey Says:

    Rate of Force Decline in sporting movements is not consciously controlled, it’s reflexive. More importantly it’s subcortically controlled, meaning involuntary, and you cannot train for RFDecline in the way being suggested nowadays. This is a topic coming up more and more now and I feel we may have jumped the gun too soon. I’ll write a blog post on the only way to enhance RFDecline involuntarily.

    All the best,

  10. Eric Cressey Says:


    Works great. You could just plug it in where the movement training days are (option 1).

  11. R Smith Says:

    Cool video.
    Kelly, I really enjoy your writings/teachings.

    The techniques you describe reminds me of handgun training for defense, where they say “Go fast slow.”


  12. chad ellis Says:

    Hes right on here.I tell my fighters to relax.Remember boys “Smooth is Fast”Another few things ive also found to be true is.If you can dance,you can fight and perform well in night maneuvers…Chad E Team Sudden Impact

  13. Laurie Says:

    It’s just like in life, when you try to hurry to get things done you start to drop things and forget things. When I’m trying to rush and this happens, I repeat to myself; “Take the time to take less time!” It must relax and calm me down, because it works. I get into a better flow. Relax.

  14. Rob Gascoyne Says:

    Relaxation requires the mind to let go. For the mind to let go, it needs to be confident you are in control of what is coming next. That requires a rhythm grooved by practice.

    “To float in totality, to have no technique is to have all technique.” That man Bruce Lee again.

    Nobody else discusses this side of speed training. Great stuff Kelly.


  15. frank Says:

    i don’t understand how you can be relaxed when vertical jumping.

    don t you have to activate everything and explode?

    you ahve to tighten up your core. you can’t let your core be soft and floppy right?

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