Home Posts tagged "quickness drills"

7 Thoughts on Speed, Agility, and Quickness Training

A huge majority of sporting outcomes are heavily dependent on speed, agility, and quickness. The fact that these athletic qualities are such "game changers" also makes them a fun topic to cover in lectures and writing. To that end, I thought I'd pay specific attention to speed, agility, and quickness in today's post. It's especially timely, given the great introductory sale on Complete Speed Training that's going on this week.

1. Footwear matters.

To me, all speed, agility, and quickness training discussions need to begin with footwear, as it directly impacts how you produce and reduce force with respect to the ground.

If you're in heavier sneakers, good luck trying to "feel" fast.

If you're in shoes with huge heel lifts, just try recruiting your posterior chain effectively during your movement training.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you're in sneakers without the right amount of lateral support, have fun trying to change directions. This has been a huge issue with some of the minimalist sneakers on the market; athletes will actually roll out of the shoes during changes of direction in spite of the fact that they have sufficient neuromuscular control to execute the exercise perfectly. It's one reason why I was so glad to contribute to the discussion when New Balance was designing the newest versions of the Minimus.

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Before you worry about cutting-edge training programs and meticulous coaching cues, make sure you've got the right stuff on your feet.

2. Don't overlook individual differences.

It's incorrect to assume that all athletes need to be coached the same with respect to movement training drills. Different athletes have different builds, and there will be subtle deviations from "the ideal" positions we envision in our minds. Obviously, limb and torso lengths play into this, but joint structure may impact things as well. As an example, someone who lacks hip internal rotation - whether it's because of a bony block, capsular changes, or hip retroversion - might need to work from a more "open" (toes slightly out) athletic stance.

Understanding what "normal" looks like is important, but don't think "abnormal" is necessarily always inappropriate.

3. It's easier to make a fast guy strong than it is to make a strong guy fast.

I heard this line so long ago that I honestly don't even remember where it originated. Still, I wish I'd really appreciated just how true it really was back then!

Many athletes are blessed with natural reactive ability. They're really proficient at using the stretch-shortening cycle to create awesome athletic movement - even in the absence of what one might consider "good strength." These athletes thrive when you simply get them stronger.

At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find athletes who are very strong but completely unable to display that force quickly. They need to spend more time training speed than they do working on continuing to build (or maintain strength).

If you compare these two scenarios, though, the former (fast guy getting stronger) takes place much quicker than the latter (strong guy getting fast). There are a lot of different reasons this is the case, but at the end of the day, I think the biggest one is that it's difficult to teach an athlete to relax.

Guys who are naturally fast seem to "accidentally" know how to turn off unwanted muscular tension. Guys who are naturally strong usually resort to brute force to try to solve every problem. If you need further proof, just watch me (or any other powerlifter) play golf!

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4. Movement quality falls off with a growth spurt - but good training can help attenuate that drop-off.

When kids hit puberty and their adolescent growth spurt, it's not uncommon to see some seriously uncoordinated athletes on the field, ice, or court. Beyond just the range of motion limitations that may have emerged overnight as bone growth has outpaced that of muscles and tendons, we also have to appreciate that the center of mass has moved further up away from the base of support - and that creates a more unstable environment.

This dramatic shift in the 12-15 age range explains why kids who dominated the youth ranks often don't pan out as high-level high school or collegiate ranks. Just being a Little League all-star doesn't really predict being a Major League Baseball all-star very well at all.

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The good news is that we can attenuate - or minimize - the drop-off in athleticism that takes place with the adolescent growth spurt by incorporating effective training principles. As always, playing multiple sports and engaging in activities that provide a wide range of movements is essential. Moreover, we can integrate mobility drills and coach athletes on proper movement quality. And, finally, not to be overlooked is the role of strength training. Put 10-15 pounds of muscle mass on a young athlete's lower body, and his center of mass will definitely be much closer to the base of support, creating a more stable environment. Of course, the strength that also emerges from that training will also go a long way in improving movement quality. This is why I think ages 11-12 are some of the best times to get involved in entry-level strength training programs, even if it's just 1-2 times per week.

5. Moving well is as much about "reads" as it is about speed.

If you talk to most up-and-coming baseball players, they're generally concerned with their "60 times." If a player runs below a 6.5, he'd be considered elite caliber speed. Running between 6.6 and 6.7 would be excellent speed, 6.8-6.9 average speed, and 7.0 and below would be sub-par. These numbers are testing pretty regularly at various events in the high school ranks, but not much thereafter.

As a result, we don't really have a true frame of reference for how "fast" guys are in the big leagues. Well, I'm here to tell you that you'd be sorely disappointed if you tested 60s of all MLB players. There would be a lot of 6.8-7.1 speed among position players, and you might only find 2-3 sub-6.7 guys on each roster. Game-changing speed really isn't as common as you might think, and for every Billy Hamilton or Jacoby Ellsbury, there are a lot of guys who have become good baserunners more because they have learned how to run the bases, get good jumps, and understand situational baseball.

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Baserunning is very much an art as much as it is an athletic endeavor, so you can do all the speed, agility, and quickness drills you want, but they won't have nearly the effect you desire if guys simply don't understand how to read and react to the game around them. This is surely the case in every other sport you'll encounter short of track and field, too.

6. Good movement training programs need a mix of coaching and competition.

If you want to get faster, I think it's crucial to have both coaching and competition elements in your training. With respect to coaching, you obviously have to cue athletes into higher quality movements; otherwise, you're just further ingraining faulty patterns. This is analogous to driving an out-of-alignment car as fast as you can.

Conversely, I think there is something to be said about shutting up and just letting athletes run fast and compete with each other. Most elite sprinters train as part of groups, not individually. The same can be said of the best NFL combine preparation set-ups; guys push each other to get better. Timing and mirror drills are great ways to cultivate this competitive spirit in the training environment.

Ideally, you get a little bit of both competition and coaching in every movement training session. As I look at our typical week with our pro guys, our heaviest speed, agility, and quickness days are Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesdays tend to be less coaching intensive and more competition as the athletes sprint together. On Saturdays, things are more coaching intensive as we work indoors with everything 30 yards or less in distance. I'll do more video work, and rarely have more than one guy sprinting at a time. As the season approaches, we'll integrate more of the coaching intensive work prior to strength training on Mondays as well.

7. Video has changed the game.

Video - and more specifically, slow-motion video - has changed how we coach movement training dramatically. We spend a lot of time coaching proper angles - whether it's torso lean or shin positioning - and being able to freeze-frame videos and show athletes where they are at various points in time can help an athlete to acquire or hone new skills much quicker than in previous years. If you're not videoing speed, agility, and quickness work, start!

One word of caution, though: don't let video interrupt the "flow" of the session. If you're not careful, you can wind up watching and discussing video for 5-10 minutes between each set. It's important to use the video as a resource, but not rely on it so heavily that it interrupts quality work. 

Wrap-up

Speed, agility, and quickness training are incredible broad topics, so I'm really just scratching the surface with these seven observations. If you're looking for a more exhaustive resource from one of the best coaches and teachers in the strength and conditioning field, I highly recommend Complete Speed Training from Lee Taft. This excellent product is on sale for $100 through this Friday at midnight.

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The 5 Biggest Speed and Agility Coaching Mistakes

Today's guest post comes from speed and agility expert, Lee Taft, who is the creator of the awesome new resource, Complete Speed Training.

One of the benefits of being in a profession for over two decades is that I’ve made all sorts of mistakes and continue to learn from them. I want to share what I see as the top five mistakes coaches make when coaching speed and agility.

Mistake #1: Training Conditioning Instead of Speed!

It still amazes me how often coaches say they are going to work on speed, quickness, and agility, but fail to recognize the importance of recovery and duration. If an athlete is going to increase overall speed and quickness, at some point, they need to train at high speeds. In order to this repeatedly to achieve sufficient volume for a training effect, the energy system demands need to be appreciated. I typically stay in the 3-7 second range so I can get massive speed and quickness while the ATP-CP system can still pump lots of energy. Plus, I know most athletic plays only takes a few seconds to occur before lower intense movement or a stoppage takes over. My goal is to master movement efficiency with as much speed, agility, and quickness as possible.

The other issue of which I have to be cognizant is recovery between bouts. My goal in a typical training session is to not to get 100% recovery, although that would be nice! Unfortunately, full recovery on every single rep or set just isn’t practical in most settings (when it is practical, then I go for it!). My goal is to allow the athletes be in roughly an 8:1 to 12:1 rest to work ratio. I know I am getting enough ATP recovery so my athletes can go hard the next rep or set.

Coaches need to realize that when their athletes are performing the next bout and are still breathing heavy, they are not recovered enough to achieve maximum speeds. This simply becomes a conditioning session and not a speed session.

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Mistake #2: Just Doing Drills Instead of Developing Skills!

Far too often, coaches make the mistake of designing their program around various drills. These drills frequently come from a quick search on YouTube for drills for speed and agility. The problem is the drill may have very little to do with what the athlete actually needs. I like to call it “Drill Surfing.” Coaches’ Google drills and when they find cool and exciting ones, they think their athletes might like they implement them.

Coaching is about executing a plan. The plan for coaching a speed and agility session needs to revolve around the skills the athlete needs developed. Once these skills are identified, then the coach can search for drills that will help improve the skills.

Always remember that drills are a conduit to skills and only serve the purpose of fulfilling a need.

Another way coaches like to use drills instead of skills is to use tools like speed ladders, dot drills, agility rings, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these tools, but what often occurs is that the coach gets more concerned with making sure the athlete flies through the drill and misses the opportunity to teach or reinforce proper mechanics of athletic movement.

Mistake #3: Not Getting Strong!

You won’t find many coaches in the world of sports performance who find it more essential to teach multi-directional speed skills to athletes more than me. If athletes are not schooled in proper mechanics, they may never reach their true movement potential. Having said that, I know where the true gold can be found for speed and quickness. It is in the weight room!

Fortunately for me, I was exposed to many forms of strength training as a kid. My dad was big into fitness and taught me how to lift when I was young. I started working out with a guy who was a bodybuilder and power athlete and he taught me the bare-knuckles approach to hard lifting when I was 18 years old. I also learned over the years from studying strength training methods from around the world. I gained strength by training hard and the result was an improvement in my speed.

If you really want to increase speed potential, the weight room is a must. Get your athletes’ horsepower up and you will see the benefits in their speed.

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Mistake #4: Not Paying Attention To What The Athletes Are Telling You!

I don’t really mean what the athletes are saying verbally; I mean what they are saying with their bodies when they move. Far to often, we coach based solely on what we were taught by our coach. We never question if it is right or wrong; rather, we just do it. The problem is many of the techniques and coaching strategies we were taught years ago don’t actually match up with pure human reactive movement.

The truest of multi-directional speed and quickness can be seen when athletes play their sport and react to the situation. They don’t think about how to move; they just react and do it. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in its “fight or flight” response, and athletes act based on perceived threats. When this occurs, the athlete tends to quickly position the body in an acceleration posture to escape or chase the opponent. Stored energy is released in the muscles via the stretch-shortening-cycle during the quick force production applied by the push-off leg going into the ground.

None of this is coachable, but it can be cleaned up with proper mechanics. I encourage coaches to realize the body has protective, effective, and efficient innate actions that should not be messed with just because your former coach said something like; “That’s a false step.” Educate yourself on pure human reactive movement and you will be surprised what the athletes are telling you…

Mistake #5: Thinking Short is Better Than Long!

I still remember my high school football coach yelling at us to take short choppy steps when we take off during sprints at the end of practice. I also remember many of my teammates stumbling in the first few steps due to the cleats getting caught in the grass because of these short choppy steps. This still rings true today. I hear youth coaches all the time encouraging the kids to take short steps when accelerating.

Remember in Mistake #4 when I talked about how the body has innate abilities? Well this is one of them. When an athlete goes through acceleration, the ability to push hard into the ground so the body can move forward quickly is vital. Well, when the push-off leg drives down and back hard, the front leg has to match the intensity (this is called “action-reaction”). The front leg will drive forward powerfully to allow the back leg to stay grounded longer; this helps to push the mass of the body forward further.

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The other area we need to focus on is the arm action. The arm swing during acceleration is very long, especially in the back swing. This is, again, due to the fact we want longer foot contact so more force can be applied. The arm swing must match the leg action so coordination can exist. The process of accelerating is based on long powerful leg actions that never become over-strides, but more piston-like leg actions. The piston-like action always allows a down-and-back shin angle, so pushing is in order and pulling is not.

Closing Thoughts

We all have to remember that, as coaches, we took a silent oath to help our athletes become the best they can be. In order to do this, we must understand performance qualities like speed, agility, and quickness – and how the body needs to harness those abilities. By understanding these athletic traits better, we can avoid common mistakes that might be slowing your athletes down.

If you’re looking to take your knowledge of speed, agility, and quickness training to the next level, I’d highly recommend Lee’s new product, Complete Speed Training. In addition to being an extremely bright guy, he’s also an excellent teacher and coach. To sweeten the deal, this resource is on sale for $100 off through this Friday, February 13. Check it out HERE.

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Kelly Baggett: Lose Tension to Get Quick

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.

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Dean Somerset Interviews Me – Part 2

This is the second half of an interview I did for Dean Somerset's website.  In case you missed part 1, you can check it out HERE. DS: What are the best supplements for the money, in your opinion? EC: For most folks, fish oil, vitamin D, a decent low-carb protein powder, creatine, and a greens supplement (I prefer Athletic Greens) will get the job done.  I’d add in probiotics for many people as well.  The longer I’m in this field, the more of a minimalist I become. DS: There are a lot of misconceptions and misinterpretations on core strength and core training out there. Some say you have to lay perfectly still and think happy thoughts while flexing your belly button, while other say you need to use stability balls to get anything, and other say heavy stuff on your shoulders does the trick. Also, the definition of where the core is and what it does seems to be either incomplete, or somewhat lacking in common sense, as most of the anatomical diagrams will show the core as a hollow vessel, and eliminate the internal organs from the picture. What do you consider to be important in the anatomy of the core, and what would be your go-to core training exercises? EC: I tend to fall in the camp that it encompasses just about the entire body.  We can all agree that the hamstrings probably deserve a place in the role of the core, since they attach to the pelvis via the ischial tuberosity and sacrotuberous ligament, right?

Well, those same hamstrings attach below the knee on both the tibia and fibula.  They share a function (knee flexion) with the gastrocnemius, clearly are in close “fascial proximity,” and have neural innervations from the same origin at the lumbar spine (sciatic nerve).  The gastrocnemious attaches on the calcaneus – so we’ve established “hip to foot” relationships of the “core.” Add latissimus dorsi to the picture.  It attaches to the iliac crest, thoracolumbar fascia, thoracic spine, ribs, scapula, and humerus.  That would be a “hip to arm” connection, right?

Add in the trapezius, which runs from as far down as T12 to the base of the skull, and you can argue that you’ve got a “hip to head” relationship, too.

We’ll just train it with crunches, though, right??? I don’t think it’s as simple as just memorizing the anatomy of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine; it’s about understanding the complex, functional relationship among all the muscles and their tendons, the ligaments, the fascia, the nerves, and the bony structures to which they attach.  Things are more complex than we try to make them – which is probably why a lot of people have chronic back pain that goes misdiagnosed and mistreated. While much of the industry has gone to the “don’t move the lumbar spine” end of the continuum, it’s really not that black and white.  It – like any other body segment – should have some movement.  The problem just becomes when we add load to that movement.  And, more specifically, things get dangerous when we add load to the end range of that movement.  Going into full lumbar flexion with an 800-pound deadlift isn’t going to make your intervertebral discs very happy, and not controlling violent extension and rotation during an athletic movement like swinging or throwing could very well leave you with a stress fracture, oblique strain, or spondylolisthesis at some point. That said, there should be movement during daily activities; otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to tie our shoes, and my puppy wouldn’t be able to lick his unmentionables for twenty minutes every night before he falls asleep.  When we start adding resistance, crazy velocity, and high volumes to the equation, though, we change the game.

To that end, I’ll continue to train anti-rotation and anti-extension exercises in the gym because the favorable outcomes we’ve seen with this approach have been tremendous.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. DS: Chewing tobacco: help or hindrance?? EC: I’m probably not the best one to ask.  I dipped once when I was about 18 and booted a few minutes later – and then felt miserably for about four hours afterward.  It wasn’t one of my finer moments. DS: I had a client who I was training for hockey a few years ago, and he forgot to go to the washroom for what I like to call a "pre-game." During the middle of his heavy squats, while I was spotting him, he, well for a lack of better term, he "released," and had to go change his shorts. Any training blooper highlight moments from CP? EC: Honestly, there are too many to list!  Most of them take place when our pro baseball guys are just shooting the breeze in the office.  Throw in a British golfer, pro boxer, or Ironman competitor, and you get enough people from different walks of life to make any conversation memorable and absolutely hilarious.  To that end, we actually have a quote book in the office; it’s got dozens of pages of stupid things that have been said over the past three years or so. DS: Who is the bigger prankster, you or Tony? EC: I’m not sure that I’d say that either of us are huge pranksters, but Tony is definitely the brunt of a lot more jokes at CP.  We always joke that every 2-3 months, we have a “Tony Moment” where he learns about something and is absolutely blown away to find out that we had already known about it for months. That said, the CP jester is definitely our pitching coordinator, Matt Blake, as some of these videos show:

DS: You have a lot of people looking up to you and aspiring to hit the level of professional success that you've been able to attain in a relatively short period of time. Who do you look up to so that you're continuously motivated to push and achieve more? EC:  That is a tough question to answer because my goal has never been to “be” someone else.  If I was to blindly follow someone else’s steps, it wouldn’t be the career I had in mind.  So, I feel like if you are going to be successful in what you do, there has to be some degree of innate motivation in you. That said, I look to a lot of people for inspiration. My father owns his own business and that had a more profound impact on me than you could possibly imagine as I opened my own facility.  Without even knowing it, he taught me that your business problems are your own and that you never make them anyone else’s problems.  And, give your employees autonomy, and as long as you’ve picked the right people, they won’t let you down. My mother is a high school teacher and administrator – and is pretty much the Mother Teresa of my hometown.  Over the years, I’ve watched on numerous occasions as she has fed some of her students who couldn’t afford to eat.  I’ve gone to the grocery store with her countless times – and it always takes an extra hour or so because she runs into so many grateful parents and students she’s dealt with over the years.  She established the first International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum in the state of Maine at her school.  She didn’t have to do any of this; it wasn’t mandated by her salary, and it certainly isn’t something a lot of other teachers do.  She taught me that your job has to fulfill you in some way far more significant than money, and that good will never runs out. My grandparents were married for over 60 years before my grandfather passed away this fall.  They taught me that family comes first – and my wife and I have had many talks about how they educated us on how a marriage should work. In the industry, there are quite a few people I look to for advice.  Alwyn Cosgrove has taught me a ton about how to run a business.  Mike Robertson has been a guy with whom I’ve collaborated a lot – and we’ve both gotten better in the process.  I look to guys like Bill Hartman and Charlie Weingroff as very bright individuals who simply enjoy learning for the sake of learning – and that’s something I enjoy. Pat Rigsby is a guy who has shown me more about how to balance all of life’s demands – from family time to various business endeavors. I could go on and on, but the point is that I draw inspiration from a lot of sources – both intrinsic and extrinsic. DS: You've stated that for baseball player, olympic lifting and vertical jumping aren't really necessary as the sport doesn't require it. Most trainers gave you hell, but you stood your ground and proved them all wrong. What other concepts have you brought to the table that have helped re-form many common misconceptions about training and sports development? EC:  It’s funny; right after I published that piece at T-nation about how power is “plane-specific,” I got an email from a researcher who was studying the exact same thing – and finding preliminary data that completely verified what I’d said.  Sometimes, research is out there to validate what we’re already doing. Whether I’ve made people changed their thought processes or not, a few things I’ve tried to bring to the forefront are: 1. The Difference Between Inefficiency and Pathology – We’ve always been taught that if an x-ray or MRI tells us that we’re structurally out of whack, then we’re screwed.  The truth is that all of us – even when we’re asymptomatic – have structural issues on diagnostic imaging.  The people who are in pain are the ones who don’t move efficiently on top of these structural flaws.  I see this every day with the pitching shoulders that come through my door; I assume that they’re all “broken” and that we are just managing them to avoid them hitting a painful threshold.

2. The Concept of Long-Term Athletic Development Beginning with Strength – This is an area where I’ve tried to lead by example with our training model at Cressey Performance.  I’m not interested in running a group of 20 14-year-olds through a bunch of agility ladders.  If we want the best long term results and safety, our #1 job in a youth population is to improve strength.  Sure, they run faster, jump higher, and throw harder – but they also decelerate better and change directions more efficiently.  You can run all the "quickness drills" that you want with a young population, but the truth is that you’ll never improve speed or agility unless you teach them to put more force in to the ground.  It’s like polishing the hub cabs on a car with no horsepower; you’re studying for the wrong test. Unfortunately, there are a lot of facilities out there that are just about finding a training model that allows one to run a ton of kids through the same program without much concern for the actual benefits to be gained (or lack thereof).  I’m not interested in babysitting. 3. The Differences Between Flexibility and Mobility – This was a key portion of my contribution to the recently released IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification. Mobility refers to the ability to reach certain positions, whereas flexibility refers to just one factor (joint range of motion) that affects that ability.  Mobility is also dependent on stability, the foundation for which is neuromuscular recruitment.  When we test flexibility, we’re talking about isolated testing of relaxed muscles/tendons.  To be blunt, we’re ignoring the nervous system.

Mobility encompasses multiple joints and therefore likely involves fascial contributions to movement, whereas flexibility may only involve 1-2 joints and may therefore minimize the impact of fascia on an assessment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can easily assess mobility in a general sense – but determining the cause of limitations is more challenging.  Flexibility, too, is a quick assessment – but correcting the limitation discovered doesn’t guarantee that movement quality will improve. 4. The belief that there is always something you can do to get better, regardless of injury – I’ve never been a fan of doctors and physical therapists telling injured patients to “just rest.”  First off, rest alone is rarely the answer.  Just as importantly, though, this recommendation ignores the fact that there are endocrine, immune, functional, psychological, and social benefits that are still to be derived from exercising.  When I’m working with clients who are injured, I feel that it’s my job to show them what they can do and not just what they can’t do.  And, there is always something you can do to maintain a training effect. 5. Weighted baseballs might actually be safer than traditional 5oz baseballs – and at the very least, they can be a beneficial training addition. This article sums it up quite well, so I won’t reinvent the wheel.  A lot of people can’t believe it when I saw that we used weighted balls, but the results have been nothing short of fantastic. These are just the few things that came to mind right off the top of my head.  I’d like to think that there are more! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Baggett of Tricks Part II: An Interview with “The Truth About Quickness” Author Kelly Baggett

In Part I, The Truth About Quickness Author Kelly Baggett and I discussed his unique background, the importance of perspective, and common mistakes performance enhancement specialists (not to be confused with "strength and conditioning specialists") make. We began to touch on the topic of testing athletes, so let's pick up where we left off.

EC: With optimal testing frequency down, let's cover the tests themselves. Which tests are good? Which ones are outdated? KB: Any test that gets an athlete injured is obviously no good. For this reason there are times (e.g. inexperienced athlete) when it can be counterproductive to perform certain tests like low-rep squats, bench presses, etc. Any test can be improved with practice and I really like tests that don't require much if any practice. Now, for specific tests I really don't like the 225 max reps test for obvious reasons. There is also too much emphasis on a 40-yard dash. I like the test itself but don't like how coaches give so many points based on a player's "40." Agility tests are useful but they can also be improved dramatically with practice and are pre-rehearsed, so they aren't always accurate. Statistical data shows the only test the NFL uses that has much reliable correlation to playing ability is the vertical jump test. Interestingly, it would also seem to be the least "football specific" of all these tests. I'm also all for certain postural tests, length-tension assessments, and the like because these will go a long way in eliminating injuries, optimizing movement efficiency, and helping everything run smoother from the ground up.

EC: New tests that you have to introduce? I know you and I are both are big proponents of the vertical jump vs. counter movement jump comparison. Any others? KB: When it comes to using tests to determine training focus, the vertical jump with and without counter movement is useful to determine strength functions. As an extension of the one you mentioned, try this: sit back on a chair in a ¼ squat and jump up and then compare this to your regular down-and-up jump. If the difference is less than 10%, it indicates that you rely on more pure muscular explosive strength and need plyometric/reactive work. If the difference is greater than 30%, it indicates you need more muscular/explosive strength because you rely largely on the reflexive/plyometric effect. This test is okay, but I still prefer a reactive jump test. The chair version will often give false results because people simply aren't used to jumping from a pure standstill. If I was only able to use one test to indicate ones optimal training focus, strengths, and weaknesses, I'd use the reactive jump test because it tells so much. Not only are the results important in terms of jumping, but they can also be carried over to sprinting, agility, and multiple sports movements. I ran across it in some writings by Schmidbleicher and am surprised that it hasn?t been used more. I've been using it for a year and a half now, and it is very effective; DB Hammer is a true master of testing and finding athletes' weaknesses and he also uses a version of this test but with a specialized reactive jump pad that measures the amortization phase. It's a nice addition, but most aren't going to have access to it and it's not really necessary anyway. The test enables you to gradually increase plyometric contribution and see how the body responds. EC: For our readers who aren't familiar with the VJ vs. CMJ test, how about tossing out a brief outline? KB: No problem. Generally, when reactive ability is good, the amount of energy that you put out in a movement will be directly proportional to the energy you take in. So, if you absorb more force, you develop more force. What you do on the reactive jump test is measure how much force you take in and compare this to how much power you put out. First, measure a regular down-and-up jump. Then, you use boxes and starting from around 12-inches perform a depth jump. Step off the box, jump as high as possible when you hit the ground and measure the height you jump. If it's less than your regular VJ, you can stop there because it's obvious you are lacking in reactive ability. Your ability to absorb negative force and transfer it into positive power is lacking. You'll want to start using reactive and power training immediately; altitude landings would also be good for training your system to better absorb force. Once you become proficient, you then just follow the altitude landings up with reactive jumps.

Now, if your 12-inch reactive jump was better than your VJ, you keep increasing the height of the box in 6-inch increments until you find where your reactive jump drops below your vertical jump. The greater the height of the box when you reach that point, the greater the reactive ability. For some, there will be a gradual increase with each increase in box height. They may find their best jump comes off a 30 -inch box or better. These people are very plyometrically efficient so they need to emphasize muscular strength and hypertrophy to create more resources they can draw from in a plyometric movement - and nearly all sports movements are plyometric dominant. The test also will establish the optimal height of the box one should use for depth jumps; simply use the box that gives you the best reactive jump height. EC: This test also underscores the importance of postural assessments and seeking connections between different tests. If someone has dysfunction at the subtalar joint, it won't matter if they have potential for excellent plyometric abilities at the plantarflexors, knee extensors, and hip extensors. If they're excessively pronating, they'll cushion the shock too well, spending a lot of time on the ground because they can't switch over to supination, which provides a firm base for propulsion. They'll probably wind up with plantar fasciitis, an ACL tear, patellofemoral dysfunction, hip or lower back pain, or sacroiliac dysfunction. You can do power and explosive training until you're blue in the face, but unless you correct the underlying problem with orthotics or specific stretching and strengthening interventions, the exercises to make an athlete proficient will really only make them deficient: injured. Likewise, if someone has excessive supination, they'll be fine with the propulsion aspect, but won't be able to cushion landings well at all. These individuals will wind up with lots of lateral ankle sprains, iliotibial band friction syndrome, pain deep to the kneecap, or problems in the lower back and hip. They're easily spotted, as they don't get immediate knee flexion when upon landing. Again, corrective exercise initiatives have to precede corrective initiatives! Just my little aside; I couldn't keep my mouth shut for this entire interview! Where were we? Oh yeah - any more tests? KB: Let's see...another test that I like to use is the speed rep test; this can easily be implemented for the squat and bench press. You want to be able to explosively and quickly move a load that is fairly close to your limit strength so that you stay to the left on the force/time curve. Instead of basing your explosive training off of percentages you base it on the time it takes you to complete your reps. You simply try to get one rep for every second. You can go two reps in two seconds, three reps in three seconds, or five reps in five seconds. The percentages will vary among athletes, but I like to see bench press numbers up around 65-70%, achieving five reps in five seconds. The squat should be up around 55-60%.

The higher the percentage weight you use relative to your 1RM, the faster you are and the more of your max strength you'll be able to use in a short sports movement.

The converse is also true; the lower the percentage relative to your 1RM, the slower you are. You want to gradually push up your max numbers while maintaining or improving the % of your maximum you can move quickly. If you're up around 70% for bench press, it's time to focus more on pure strength. If you're down around 50%, you need more speed. I should also note that it's not absolutely necessary to know your 1RMs for these tests. Very simply, the more you increase the weight you can use for this one rep per second explosive training protocol, the more explosive you will be in your sport. EC: Good stuff. I know you've got some excellent points on 1RMs; care to enlighten our readers? KB: Sure. For 1RMs, one thing I've picked up from Buchenholz is to look at the time it takes to complete the lift instead of just analyzing the weight lifted. There is a reason why so many people are divided on whether a maximal squat will transfer to added speed or power. It's because the time it takes you to complete a maximal squat is much more relevant to sport transfer; those who achieve their 1RMs with great speed tend to have greater carryover of pure strength into sport than those who lift slower. Watch the guys who naturally lift a max load fast and compare their athletic abilities to those who lift slowly and you'll see what I mean.

To give you an idea, Fred Hatfield completed his former world record 1014 lb. squat from start to finish in under 3 seconds! That's what you call being explosive with a high percentage of your limit strength. I'm not saying that the squat is the best activity to directly transfer to a jump, but it's no wonder that he (at one time) had a vertical jump around 40 inches without any specific training for it! A guy who can complete a true 1RM bench or squat in around four seconds or less from start to finish will often be able to train with more heavy strength training and hypertrophy work and get a good sport carryover. A guy who takes seven seconds or more to complete a 1RM attempt is too slow when applying his maximal strength to get much carryover. Even though he may be very strong, it doesn't matter - nearly all sports movements are quick. He'll need to back off on the heavy stuff and work on rate of force development (RFD) and reactive ability so that he can use a given percentage of his absolute force capabilities quicker. The test to which I just alluded is also useful because it will automatically encourage athletes psychologically to explode more in any of their lifts because they'll realize how important rep speed is. You just have to be careful people aren't going to try to go too fast, increasing the likelihood of injury. EC: Any norms for these tests? What do you typically find? KB: What is interesting about this is that the majority of genetically gifted professional and upper level collegiate athletes are going to fit into the first - naturally more explosive - group. In other words, basic heavy training will work for them - which is what most programs are focused on. What about the guys who are in the other group, though? What if they have to be thrown in on the same program with all the other guys? Unfortunately, they probably won't make optimal progress on the same plan. They need something designed to optimize their attributes and overcome their deficiencies. This is what I meant when I said that we'll see better athletes in all sports as the body of knowledge on training increases. Instead of arguing about basic heavy weights vs. Olympic lifts etc., more strength and conditioning coaches will understand what the best plan is for any given individual or group and train them accordingly. Toss preconceived notions and prejudices out the window and let the athlete be your guide. EC: Optimize attributes and overcome deficiencies? Ubiquitous intelligent strength coaches? You're a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, aren't you Kelly? I mean, honestly, no arguments in the field of strength and conditioning? I can't decide if it would be a good thing because it'll quiet down all the HIT Jedis, or a bad thing because it means we won't be able to torture on them any more. While I search for answers, feel free to tell our audience about any other tests you use. KB: When it comes to speed and finding the right training focus, it's useful is to look at split times. During the start of a sprint - especially for the first 20-30 yards - relative body strength is key. After the initial acceleration period, reactivity becomes dominant, so it's important to find where in the race the athlete is weak. Someone who has a strong start but weak finish is likely strong, but is trying to muscle his sprinting stride. His hips may drop and he'll be unable to run smoothly, allowing his hips and hamstrings to contract reflexively. It could be that his heavy training is getting in the way of relaxation and messing up his reflexive ability. For example, if someone has a 1.4 second 10 yard-dash, but only a 4.9 40, it's pretty obvious that he's explosive and strong. However, when reactive ability takes over, he suffers. He needs more speed work - either through flying runs, longer sprints, or quick action plyometric drills - where relaxation and reflexive action is key. If a guy is fast over the second half of a timed split but has a slow start and acceleration, he just needs to emphasize basic relative strength and explosiveness. EC: As a kinesiology and biomechanics dork, I have to ask: how about actual movement analysis? KB: Instead of evaluating posterior chain strength in the weight room and flexibility with static stretches, just watch how an athlete runs and moves. Is he getting triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips with each stride, or is he chopping his stride short? This can indicate weak hamstrings or a flexibility or postural issue. Often, there is also a poor correlation between posterior chain strength demonstrated in the weight room and function of the posterior chain during a sprint, so you have to look at function instead of just numbers. If the function isn't there but the strength is, you?ll need to cut back on the weight work and focus more on things closely related to the specific activity. EC: Let's talk about the future of sports training. What do you think are the biggest issues on this front, and what can we expect to see in the years to come? KB: I think that the controversy over manufacturing athletes vs. letting nature do all the work will become even more of an issue than it already is. It's obvious that the U.S. is falling behind and it's readily evident by the number of what one could call naturally physically inferior European NBA players in the NBA now. It's getting to a point where the athletes born with the ability aren't the only ones who succeed, although that's pretty much the way it's always been.

EC: You gotta' love the Larry Birds of the world; they do a great job of throwing wrenches in the model for the perfect athlete on paper. That's not to say that we can't make every athlete better with proper training, though. KB: I agree; with improved training methods, you'll see a lot more athletes with inferior physiques and skills (at least initially) make it to the top. The level of training will rise up so that someone who is born without any great physical abilities will be able to improve his abilities above and beyond someone who is born with them but doesn't work at it. Now, we have all these sports performance centers popping up across the US. I feel that's a good thing but they, of course, require money. The people who are able to take advantage of places like these will be well ahead of the guys who just have a school program. This will become even more apparent in the coming years, especially as the people running these places get even better at their jobs. I think Shaq said it best a few years ago; he may have been joking, but I don't know. When asked how he saw the NBA in ten years, he responded, "They'll be a bunch of white guys who can run and dunk as well as shoot!" We'll just have to wait and see? EC: Definitely. Okay, time for a little change of pace. We've focused on performance-based training exclusively thus far, but I know you have some insights regarding how to effecting positive changes in body composition and even bodybuilding-oriented training and nutrition tactics. The floor is yours... KB: Bodybuilders and those interested in physique enhancement need to learn how to better work from the inside out rather than the outside in. Hormones are always going to be at least, if not more important than external initiatives with exercise and diet when it comes to determining what happens with our body composition (muscle gain and fat loss). Any male will put on a good 40 lbs of muscle without doing anything when he goes through puberty. The reverse will also gradually occur with age; that's just how powerful the hormonal effect is. True, we can influence our hormonal state and internal chemistry by what we do, but people interested in the best gains of their life need to learn exactly what is going on inside them and how to best influence everything through diet and exercise to mimic as close as possible that natural hormonal growth surge. In other words, they must learn to optimize their internal chemistry so that fat will melt off or muscle will go on in slabs. Contributors from science and real world-based information sources are really advancing what we know about physical change related internal chemistry: how hormones affect us, what we can do to change certain signals, etc. Up until now, the only approach was to do a few things right and hope everything fell into place. Simply stated: eat like a horse and train heavy, or starve and eat a low calorie diet to lose fat - or load yourself up on steroids and a host of other drugs. Those approaches definitely work and will always work, but I feel they're getting outdated. For example, when it comes to fat loss and stress, leptin has been touted as the major controller of all things related to bodyfat and bodyfat setpoint over the past few years. I believe that the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the stress response is as important, if not more important than leptin. The HPA axis and related central controls will largely dictate partitioning of nutrients, thyroid levels, androgen levels, and overall anabolism/catabolism. We know about too much stress and its effects on cortisol, but it's important to remember that having a lowered response to stress can be just as problematic as having too much. There's no doubt in my mind that methods to more optimally manipulate all these central controls will become very popular in the next couple of years EC: It speaks volumes for knowing something about everything. It's not enough to be a strength coach that only understands training; you have to be up-to-date on nutrition, endocrinology, anatomy, biomechanics, rehabilitation, supplementation, motivation, equipment, and how they all are interrelated. There aren't many coaches out there that are that good, but you're definitely one of them, Kelly. Thanks for your time. KB: No problem; thanks for having me! EC: For more information on Kelly, check out the outstanding product he and Alex Maroko created, The Truth About Quickness.

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Baggett of Tricks, Part I: An Interview with “The Truth About Quickness” Author Kelly Baggett

Today, we have an interview with Kelly Baggett, co-author of The Truth About Quickness.  Kelly's one of the brightest guys in the field of strength and conditioning - but I don't need to tell you that, as you'll get the picture very clearly just by reading the interview below.  Check it out!

EC: Thanks for taking the time to talk shop with me, Kelly. Tell me a little bit about yourself; I don't want our readers to think that I just pulled some lunatic off the street for an interview in order to get an article in on time.

KB: I'm 30 years old and work as a performance enhancement specialist with individuals and coaches of all levels, setting up training, nutrition, and supplementation programs to optimize their progress. I've been fortunate to work in many aspects of the fitness, health, and sports training industry since the age of 18. My passion for these fields isn't limited to team sports; rather, it also includes bodybuilding, which, because of the emphasis on body composition management, has enabled me to pick up many things related to nutrition and apply them to the sports training world. I've pretty much always been into one sport or another; at one time or another over the last 20 years, I've been involved in motocross, baseball, football, basketball, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, martial arts, boxing, and gymnastics. Now that I think about it - pretty much every sport except for golf!

EC: Yeah, I usually get bored after about five holes, too; there needs to be more violence, cheerleaders, and swearing...but I digress. What were the roots of your passions? KB: I've always been partial to the speed and power dominant sports, but in spite of my yearning to be a great athlete, I really struggled as a youngster. Not only was I very small, but I was also really slow: these two qualities don't add up to much! I grew up with a lot of desire for developing the attributes of superior athleticism and plenty of curiosity and dedication to figure out how best to get the job done. These attributes, of course, include qualities like strength, size, speed, power, agility, quick feet, and, of course, "the look." With consistent training, my own athletic attributes really took off and I knew I was onto something. Fortunately, because of the environments in which I've worked, I've been able to apply the knowledge and experience I've gained toward helping others reach their goals. Nonetheless, I realize this is still the very beginning; right now, we're really just getting started with what can be done. When we look at strength and conditioning fifteen years from now, we'll be amazed at just how far we've come; I just want to do my part and contribute to this advancement as much as I can. EC: One of the things that I've always admired about you is your willingness to think outside the box. Where did this unique perspective originate? KB: It's funny that you'd use the phrase "think outside the box," as I hear that quite a bit; a lot of people comment that I seem to dig up answers from all over the place. When it comes to figuring things out, I probably do tend to stray from the more chosen paths. I guess you could say my overall approach of thinking was solidified by some things I've experienced personally. I developed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 25 and was basically told that I would be fortunate if I could walk in a few years. The commonly accepted treatment options for RA are drugs with harsh side effects like medications used during chemotherapy treatment and prednisone: drugs that I would have had to take for the rest of my life to help slow the progression of the disease. Based on what I observed and heard from others, the drugs didn't work consistently and the side effects were harsh. So, I decided to take my own path, which led me to explore alternative treatment options and develop an understanding of the disease in order to treat it holistically. To make a long story short (I have definitely had my fair share of struggles), I've never touched any common prescription medications for RA and am stronger now then I was 25. I pretty much carry that mindset into everything I learn and do; I feel that you can learn from anyone or any situation if you just keep an open mind. When you learn something, you have to immerse yourself in it fully. However, to really take advantage of the information and advance, you must back out and look at things from the outside-in, asking yourself, "How can I best use this and is this really the best way to accomplish my objective?" I'm all for science, but I prefer to start backwards; in other words, how can real world observations be explained by science? EC: That's a perspective that I'd like to see a lot of people in the strength and conditioning industry adopt. All too often, strength and conditioning coaches are afraid to try something new and, as a result, wind up making the same mistakes year after year with different athletes. For instance, I'm amazed at how many people still think that boatloads of boring, steady-state aerobic exercise and a low-fat diet are the best ways to lose fat. All these athletes do is become weak, tired, sick, and apathetic with compromised endocrine status. KB: I agree; conditioning for athletes is a very common area of ignorance in today's coaches. Too many coaches and athletes try to make up for poor diet by running their guy into the ground with conditioning. Not enough attention is paid to diet, and I feel not enough coaches are well versed in dietary approaches. Physically, someone like David Boston, although probably too extreme, is a good example of what can be accomplished with excellent combinations of each - training and diet. EC: While we're on the topic, what do you think are the most prominent errors that strength and conditioning coaches make? KB: Before I get to the errors themselves, we ought to reconsider the use of the term "strength and conditioning," coach, which I feel would be better renamed "performance enhancement" coach. The term "strength and conditioning specialist" conveys that as a coach you must either be busting your athletes' asses in the weight room or running them to death on the field. Too many coaches get caught up on the strength aspect when their time would be better spent focusing on means of improving performance. They should be asking themselves how they can best increase the short- and long-term performance of an athlete, and they should be able to tell you exactly why they're training a certain way at a particular time and know exactly how and why what they're doing is going to improve performance. Often, performance can be improved by doing nothing at all: simply allowing recovery to take place. Or, in some cases, focusing on things unrelated to strength and conditioning like basic sports movement patterns can be of tremendous value.

EC: Excellent observation; recovery is unquestionably one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated facets of not only making people bigger, stronger, and faster, but also improving demeanor. Some athletes just need more time off than others, so you have to know when to back off on volume, do some pool work, or just send them home to eat and go to bed. KB: I agree. That statement also underscores the important of recognizing that one athlete's trash is another athlete's treasure; it's important to assess each athlete's needs individually. I can't tell you how many times I've seen football players with near-zero agility, dynamic flexibility, and reactive movement ability spend their entire summer in the weight room doing nothing but pounding the weights in an effort to get stronger with very little return in playing ability. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many basketball players, runners, and cheerleaders I've seen who have struggled for months and years on end trying to develop their skills when their woes could easily be cured by a solid month in the weight room making friends with the iron. So, it's definitely not a one-way street; the coach needs to understand which direction the athlete should go. EC: Any other common errors? KB: Another thing I see a lot that I don't always agree with is coaches and specialists looking a bit too much to the rehab setting for answers when they should be looking to the real world for answers. Now this is totally different for the general population, but when it comes to athletes, I think you have to draw the line and ask a simple question: "What qualities do the best athletes have and how can one gain those qualities?" To sum it up, list the twenty greatest athletes you can think of in the NFL, NBA, soccer, hockey etc. Out of those twenty, how many of them do you think spent significant time being coached in stability training, core activation, functionally correct linear and lateral movement training, etc. in their youth? Now, if your answer is anything like mine, it's going to be "Not very many!" What is it, then, that separates these athletes from the rest? What are the things that we commonly do now - the best methods to develop these attributes? That's what you need to be doing! Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for almost everything, but I feel if something isn't working right, then you can go back step-by-step and correct it. You usually can use drills or exercises that are very close to what you would normally do; there's rarely a need to go back all the way and have this athlete performing a workout that would be more fitting for someone coming out of multiple joint replacement surgery. If your car drives pretty good and you want it to go faster, you'd want to put a bigger engine in it before you waste time trying to make it drive absolutely perfect. Moreover, before you go and start modifying an engine with all sorts of fancy gadgets, you better be able to use the engine you do have in the first place.  This is a theme that resounds in our product, The Truth About Quickness.

To illustrate this concept, let me give a couple of examples from some "Rocky" movies. I'm just going to assume everyone reading this has seen "Rocky." Remember how Micky trained Rocky for speed and agility by having him catch chickens? Sometimes you just have to "turn the chicken loose." If you can catch the chicken, you're most likely able to move functionally well enough! However, if you can't catch the chicken, maybe you should initially spend more time focusing on the things that will more DIRECTLY improve your speed and quickness and see where that takes you instead of worrying about all the often excessively complex functional training techniques. EC: It kind of brings to mind how the term "functional movement training" has been bastardized over the past few years. There were some really smart people on the right track with their definitions and explanations initially; now, commercially-driven goons have redefined it to convince housewives that standing on a stability ball while performing some silly-looking unilateral inverted wiggling motion with a two-pound medicine ball is the optimal way to be "functional and fit." Last time I checked, if a movement got you from point A to point B, it was functional. So, I suppose these people aim to look moronic, then what they're doing is somewhat functional? KB: Sometimes you just have to take that more straightforward approach. Here's another "Rocky example." Recall that in "Rocky IV," Rocky trained in a harsh Siberian environment with nothing but logs, farm equipment, hills, axes, snow, and a pair of sneakers?in short, nothing that even remotely resembled sophistication. Then, you have his Russian opponent training in a pristine scientific environment with every little aspect of his training measured and accounted for. Sure, it's a movie, but I there's still a lesson to be learned. It's fine to use all that science has, but don't forget there are times when it's better just to roll up the sleeves because that's what sporting environments are like anyway; you can't get too far from that mentality. I try to combine optimal amounts of both sophistication and crude toughness.

EC: Another important lesson that I'd like to highlight from that example is that "Rocky IV" is the greatest movie of all time; I'm still upset that it isn't required viewing in high school history classes when the Cold War is the topic of discussion. By the way, you've already covered my favorite movie, but if you can somehow relate "Happy Gilmore" to deadlifting and "Braveheart" to insulin-independent glucose uptake, you'll be on my Christmas card list forever. You mentioned the optimal amounts of different contributing factors; I'm a firm believer that one can't just understand training or nutrition/supplementation. Rather, coaches and athletes need to understand both individually and, more importantly, the synergistic effect of the two. The old adage that success is "90% diet," while admirable in verse, really does send a bad message. Coaches and athletes need to treat training and nutrition/supplementation like they're both 100%. In fact, we ought to also include factors like restoration, motivation, and education in this equation. KB: Well said, in short, coaches need to put their prejudices and preconceived notions aside and look to the end goal: taking an athlete from A to Z even if that means stepping away from tradition. Let performance and needs determine the optimal focus. Learn how to initiate individualized training prescriptions. Learn how to analyze strengths and weaknesses. Learn what training methods are best for a given goal. Optimize the training economy and don't get cute just for the sake of being different. EC: Okay, let's delve into strength training programs for athletes. I'd like to start by getting your perspective on testing athletes. First off, how often? I think that some coaches waste way too much time with testing-only weeks because they test too many different things and get hung up on testing improvements rather than performance improvements in the sport in consideration. KB: Yes, you're exactly right about this. Too many schools spend an entire week or more getting everybody tested and a large part of that time is spent messing around. I don't see any real need for a testing-only week unless part of that week is also going to be used as a regeneration week. It shouldn't take longer than 2-3 days to test everything, anyway. What I have always liked is to incorporate testing into part of the workout or program. This is very similar to what Westside guys do. Those guys are really "testing" every week on their max effort days. All you'd have to do is cut down on volume in the days prior to the testing workouts and do everything nearly the same - that way the testing doesn't become a distraction to the main goal: improving performance. Also, as a coach, I feel the athletes are constantly being tested and evaluated. When I work one-on-one with someone, there is rarely any definite need for testing because during every session I'm observing and usually always know what's going on. Likewise, I can learn a lot and reduce the need for testing just by analyzing someone's training log. If I see a guy improves six inches in two weeks on his depth jump or reduce his times in a sprint drill, I don't need him to run a week of testing to tell me that his sprint times have improved and his vertical jump has improved. If a guy increases by 20 lbs in a strength exercise working in a lower rep range, I don't need to take time off and have him test his 1RM to show he's improved. However, I should note that the one time that can be an advantage is when it used to show an athlete how much he's improved and to boost his confidence, or when a player absolutely needs to be evaluated in the test. For example, if you're preparing for an NFL combine, you have to get used to the testing procedures and learn how to peak at the right time. Times like that are when it's necessary to run a complete battery of tests and train for the tests because they'll be the main focus. I feel as a coach you should be able to tell where your athletes stand just by observing them and their performance in training and what they do on the field. Look for improved function rather than just numbers. EC: I couldn't agree more. In Part II, we'll pick up where we left off with strength testing, and move on to discuss the future of sports training and how to tie all this together for performance and physique enhancement. Thanks for dropping some knowledge bombs on us, Kelly. KB: My pleasure. I look forward to Part II.

In the meantime, for more information on Kelly's methods, check out the product he created along with Alex Maroko, The Truth About Quickness. It's a fantastic product that I highly endorse.

Update: Be sure to read Part 2: Baggett of Tricks, Part 2: An Interview with "The Truth About Quickness" Author Kelly Baggett. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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