In looking at specific performance qualities, speed rules as king in sport. It's also the holy grail of training for the modern performance coach. Thankfully, training for speed has come a long way in our industry. We have progressed from initially only "running" kids until they puke to finding the usefulness of speed ladders and gadgets and formulating plans to enhance bio motor abilities. Now, we have arrived at a time where science and movement qualities reign. However, I am bored to death as a coach, athlete, and avid learner from everyone beating the dead horse in regards to using maximal strength work to improve one's capacity to apply force and one's ability to accelerate and move fast. I do agree that the athlete needs maximal and general strength to enhance speed, and we do have to train these qualities and spend time to reap those rewards. If we refer to the adage that "speed is a skill that can be enhanced," then we should understand that the art is not as easy as dead-lifting off a podium, box jumping, or doing a pushup start to get faster.
How do we separate ourselves and our athletes?
Have we overlooked areas that can take our athletes to the next level? The answer is, "yes." The "NX Level Speed" warm-up will unlock an athlete's speed potential simply by improving his structural alignment, mobility, and stability. The fastest athletes in sport make things look easy, and some even say they "glide." This is due to great joint ranges of motion, great core stability, and great mass-specific power. To dummy it down: first teach proper posture, arm action, and leg action. Then, work on the direction of force application. The athlete's readiness and performance potential will be improved through maximizing soft tissue quality and mobility, and by activating the correct musculature to enhance force production and core stability.
These three specific exercises enhance sprinting posture and will ensure that positional force application is maximized. Use the following as a thorough warmup:
Warm-up Check List
- Self Myofascial Release: 5-10 minutes. (Spend time on any focal adhesions, and pay specific attention to sprinting musculature: ankle/gastroc, hip/glute/quad/adduc/IT Band, Pec, Lat)
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: 2 minutes (Focus on exhalation and use PRI concepts if necessary)
- General Skip Series: 5 minutes (Perform tempo strides at 80%, backwards strides at 80%, side shuffling, carioca run, crossover skips, forward/backward/diagonal shuffling, hopping, skipping rope, and ladder drills)
- Mobility Series Dynamic or Ground Based: 5 minutes (Perform quadruped hip circles, rolls, cat/camels, thread the kneedle, alternating knee ups, groin rockers, and windshield wipers)
- Flexibility: 3-5 minutes, 20-40 seconds (Perform calve/soleus stretch, ankle rockers, bretzel stretch, lat line stretch, pec stretch, etc. The perform the Mobility Wod series)
NX Level Speed Training Movement Prep
*All exercises must be preceded with a posterior tilt of the pelvis
A1 Starret Band Split Squat with Iso Hold (8 reps per leg)
- Distraction of the hip capsule which will lead to an anterior hip stretch. The thoracic reach will help drive internal hip rotation of the back leg. This, in turn, will produce a greater range of motion and allow the athlete to produce greater force over the foot's ground contact.
A2 Banded Single-Leg Hip Lift with Iso Hold (8 reps per leg)
- Now that the hip is opened up, coaches can reciprocally hit the back side glute/hamstring to ensure improved neutral pelvic position. Greater posterior chain contribution yields greater hip extension and improved power.
A3 Stability Ball Acceleration March with mini band (8 reps per leg)
- This is an acceleration-specific drill in which the athlete is aligned in perfect neutral position with full body extension at a forty-five degree angle. The stability ball allows the athlete to fully engage the anterior chain and the upper back. The use of the mini band allows the athlete to flex the hip and engage the external obliques. This is Coach Giff's "Guaranteed" speed enhancer because it puts the athlete in the Prime 1 step position and allows him to feel what great start extension feels like from head to toe.
- NX Level Speed Primers
- B1 Speed Primers
- C1 Sprinting Positional Strength Primers
- D1 Speed Drill
Coach Gifford joined NX Level’s staff in September of 2009. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an Exercise Science degree and a minor in Coaching. Matt played four years of college football and started at wide receiver for the 2007 National Championship Warhawk football team. In 2004, he was also a member of the State Championship football team at Waukesha West High. Matt is C.S.C.S certified by the NSCA and has worked with youth, high school, collegiate and professional athletes. In 2013, he started the “NX Level Fight Crew” a team of MMA athletes including the UFC Lightweight Champion of the World, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis.