Speed Pull Cycle for Athletes

TAGS: pulling cycle, speed pulls, Nate Harvey, deadlift


Want to implement a movement that will build your athletes from head to toe, possibly more so than the squat? Start doing speed pulls with your athletes. You can reap all the benefits of the deadlift with hardly any of the negatives that we're told about.  If you put these in your programming correctly, you can make a huge impact on overall physical development, explosiveness and overall badassery without beating the shit out of your athletes! In my ten plus years of coaching college and high school athletes, the groups doing speed pulls showed great progress.

What athletes can I use this with?

Speed pulls won't work with every group, but it will work with most. The group has to be somewhat motivated to train, get better, and listen to coaching. That being said, we've had success implementing these with most populations. What's great about them is they are not terribly technically hard to do, and submaximal weights can yield great results as long as the right intent is applied by the athlete. Your athletes have to understand pulling on the bar as hard as possible. If you need some help with coaching, read this article.

How do I know how much weight to use?

While it's not quite as simple as, "Get set up and pull fast," it's close.  The point is, don't get too caught up in exact percentages because 90 percent of the kids you can implement these with probably don't have a deadlift max (nor should they). That's what's great about these: minimal risk and many benefits. I'm guessing at least 90 percent of you know your athletes 1RM squat, so let's use that. Once you get your athletes coached up on the basics, start them out at 50-60 percent of their 1RM squat max plus accommodating resistance. Proper band setup can be found here based on their strength levels.  After the first couple of weeks of an intro, most of the athletes should be ready for accommodating resistance as long as it's scaled according to their strength levels.

Sets and Reps

Speed pulls are new at this point, so introduce it slowly in the beginning, and you'll yield greater results on the back end.

These should be the next movement after their speed squats. Do your best to keep the rest periods to 30-60 seconds—this is not always possible with large groups, but do the best you can to keep your athletes pushing the pace during these. Make sure each rep is paused at the beginning as this will help build first step strength-speed, something all coaches wish their athletes had more of.

Below is a typical out-of-competition cycle from your intro week:

  • Week 1: 6x2 @ 50% squat max plus accommodating resistance (This might seem easy, that's OK. They're learning positioning and intent. We will load them up later.)
  • Week 2: 8x2 @55% squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • Week 3: 10x2 @60% squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • Week 4: 10x2 @60% squat max plus accommodating resistance (This could be a rough week, just a heads up.)
  • Week 5: 8x2 @ 60% squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • Week 6: 6x2 @ 60% squat max plus accommodating resistance

From here, creep the weights up weekly and decrease the volume. You'll run three-week cycles until you want to peak for an event. These percents are GUIDELINES. If the athletes look like garbage doing these percents or are not moving the weights with some speed, drop the weight a little. The bar speed is your main priority for this day.

  • Week 1: 10x2 @60% squat max plus accommodating resistance (This could be a rough week, just a heads up.)
  • Week 2: 8x2 @ 65% squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • Week 3: 6x2 @ 70% squat max plus accommodating resistance

How do I peak for an event or playoffs?

If you have a group who has been running speed pulls the majority of the year, it's a good idea to keep them in during their peaking cycle. Decreasing an athlete's workload or stimulus too much during a peaking phase can have just as many negative effects as doing too much. Take a look at my 'Circa Max Phase for Throwers' article to see how we typically peaked our squats and jumps to get our athletes ready. The pulling cycle below was typically run with what we laid out in that article.

  • 3 Weeks out from Competition: 8x2 @ 50% of squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • 2 Weeks out from Competition: 6x2@ 45% of squat max plus accommodating resistance
  • Early competition week: (if schedule allows) 3-4 x2 @40% of squat max plus accommodating resistance

This setup will gradually decrease the workload on your athletes and shift the neurological demands of their training from strength to speed.  If you follow this protocol along with the one laid out in the 'Circa Max for Throwers, ' they should be ready to run through a wall mentally and physically.

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