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Building Back Athleticism Part 2

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

In a previous post I started to share ways I believe can help bring back some athleticism into your training. Here is a continuation of that list. Just because we may not be playing the same sports we did in high school or college, doesn’t mean we have to stop training to be athletic. In this article, I will share some simple but effective ways to work on acceleration, change of direction, and sprinting. This is a great starting point for those looking to feel athletic again, or for the first time.


Acceleration


When it comes to acceleration, there are 3 key components to always remember in my mind.

  1. Force application

  2. Force production

  3. Projection

Those that accelerate really well and create that break away speed on the field, courts, or exceptional at doing these 3 things. Lucky for you, I am going to share with you my favorite acceleration drill to hit all 3 of these, the 1/2 kneeling linear start.


This is my go to for a lot of people, but especially for those that are looking to tap into some athleticism. This is such a simple but effective drill because it gives you the opportunity touch on all three of the elements of acceleration listed above.

When performing this one, think about the following.

  1. Push down and back into the ground with your legs. This is the force application element.

  2. Be forceful and strong as you push into the ground. This is you force production element.

  3. Project yourself forward, like cannon ball being shot out of a cannon, so that you can cover as much ground as possible; and in order to create the appropriate angles and shapes. This is your projection element.

With each rep or set, you can emphasis a each element of acceleration without changing the exercise completely. For those that are looking to get into more athletic development, this is a very easy and effective way to develop some of the break away speed. Starting with 1-2 sets of 2-3 reps can ensure high quality outputs.


Change of Direction


When it comes to change of direction, we want to be able to train our body to decelerate by changing levels via lowering our center of mass and then to quickly re-accelerate into the new direction.

There is some debate on the importance of training deceleration by itself. However, I believe in graded exposure and showing the body many stimuli related to a skill. Thus, I think having a period to work directly on deceleration skills can be helpful. Especially, if you are reading this article and are looking to get back into change of direction or athletic style of training. By doing this, you can slowly build up your tolerance to the high eccentric forces that occur in deceleration.

In my first part to this series, I mentioned the use of snap downs to working on landing mechanics of a jump.


However, in order to take it a step further, we have to decelerate with the intent to re-accelerate in a different direction. If we only train the ability to slow down and stop, we won’t have the best chances of transferring that skill to high more reactive and dynamic change of direction work that should follow.


One simple way is to simply way is to jog or run about 10 yards and hit the breaks. The same can be applied to a lateral shuffle as well. Shuffle 10 yards and stop and be like a statue. However, to progress this, we can work up to the classic 5-10-5 drill. This drill is commonly used in many field and court sport performance testing, and is a great starting point for reintroducing change of direction.

Some key points.

  1. Change levels as you slow down

  2. Keep you outside foot outside your base of support

  3. Project forcefully out of each cut

Try 2-3 sets of 2-4 reps to start out. Consider doin the first reps at a casual speed to get a feel for it, and you can speed it up as you get used to the movement.


Sprinting

If there is anything that I would suggest to take your time with getting back into it would be sprinting. Sprinting at max speed is one of, if not the most intense thing we can put our bodies through. That being said, if we simply dust off our track shoes and hit the track for a couple 100 meter dashes, we may be increasing our chances of injuries, especially our hamstrings which are commonly strained and injured in sprinting. However, sprinting should be a integral part in any athletic focused program, regardless of training level. The key is to know how to slowly get back into it.


My first recommendation is to start off with a few weeks of preparing to sprint. This can include extensive plyometrics like dribbles, hoping, skipping, and bounding progressions. A lot of which can be found through Altis and their resources. This way you can start to build the tissue qualities needed to return to sprinting.


Next, always start with short distances and slowly increase the distance and intensity as you work your way up to longer ones. For example, start at 15 to 20 yard sprints at an intensity of about 70% of whatever you 100% is. Then, you can go ahead and work on increasing the distance while maintaining that intensity. I like this approach because it will allow you to work on maintaining running technique over a specified distance. Consider adding 5-10 yards each week. This can work to build up your tolerance to the stress the body receives during sprinting.


Then you should in a better position to increase the intensity, by following the same short to long concept. This is how you apply the concept of progressive overload to sprinting so that you are continuously challenging yourself. There a plenty of other sprinting drills and workouts out there, but it will behoove you to be slow when learning or re-learning how to sprint.

A few pointers on sprinting. Try to keep your hips staying neutral and not tilting forward or leaning back, our feet should be landing slightly ahead of our center of mass, and finally, try and stay relaxed and fluid through the sprint. Because sprinting is so demanding on the whole body, I recommend only a few sets (1-2) and a few reps (2-3) to start out. With sprinting, quality is more important than quantity, especially as you re-introduce the skill of sprinting. So please remember to be patient and consistent to maximize progress.


Adding more athletic elements to your training can help you tap back into your athletic abilities or help you become even more athletic. Above all else, these can be great and easy ways to make training a little more fun by trying out some new stuff!


My hope with any article is to give you something that you can implement immediately into your training to help make you feel athletic either again or for the first time!

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