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4 Drills to Enhance Your Sprints

Now that the weather is finally more favorable, it's time to get outside and run around. Whether you're playing in a summer league for high school sports or you're an adult in the real-world and you join up with a grown-up league. Most field and court sports require quick bursts of speed to reach a ball or an opponent with the ball. Today I have some drills you can implement to work on that explosion and subsequent acceleration. 

All of the drills would be best performed for 5-8 yds each for 2-3 sets of 2-4 reps. You'll want to keep the volume low to minimize fatigue. Each rep should be explosive and quick and you can't do that if you're tired.

In each drill you want to focus on a few things:

1. Apply as much force as possible on the first few steps-- think about exploding out of your shoes.

2. Maintain a tight core-- this will minimize any lateral movement thus streamlining your body as much as possible. Plus, you can transfer force from the ground through your legs more effectively through a stiff core than you can through a loosey-goosey one. 

3. Maintain strong knee and elbow drive-- don't run like a limp noodle man

Without further ado... 

Falling Start

If you have a hard time with acceleration, this is a useful drill as it forces you to lean forward (the acceleration phase requires a forward lean of the torso). 

Side Start

Side starts are perfect for working on acceleration in the frontal plane, sideways, as most of the time in a game scenario, you won't start running in the saggital plane (straight forward).

PUPP to Start

It's also not guaranteed that you will always start sprinting after an opponent standing up. This drill teaches you how to drive forward from the ground and pop up quickly.

Barrel Roll to Sprint

Let's say you made a spectacular dive in a game, but you need to get back up on your feet. By practicing rolling, you will teach your vestibular (balance) system how to re-orient so you won't be caught unawares during the heat of the moment. At least two of my athletes reported rolling in a game and I personally witnessed another doing so during his game. I was so proud. 

There you have it! Try those out the next time you find yourself on a field!   

3 Cues for Cleaning Up The Deadlift

The deadlift is one of those lifts that you can do over and over and still continue to refine your technique. I console frustrated athletes with the fact that I, even after nearly 10 years of deadlifting, am still tweaking my technique and learning to to most efficiently hoist iron.

That said, here are three cues I use on myself and with my athletes that should speed up the refinement process. 

Cue: Hold pieces of paper under your arms. OR Squeeze oranges under your armpits. (Courtesy of Tony Gentilcore.) 

Fixes: loose upper back

As tight as a wet noodle.

As tight as a wet noodle.

Why do we want a tight upper back? A) by creating tension in the upper back and lats, which in conjunction with the anterior core, it creates a nice "belt" around the spine and protects the lower back; b) tension throughout the back transfers force from the hips to the arms and thus the bar moves. Without it, there's a much higher risk of injury- particularly to the lower back- and the movement deteriorates rapidly.

 "Squeezing oranges," which is a great external cue, cleans it right up! It's especially useful with newbie deadlifters as they may not have the body awareness to know what a tight upper back feels like yet. 

It's like magic!

It's like magic!

Cue: Pull your chest (or sternum) to the back wall.

Fixes: Hips rising faster than the shoulders

If you or an athlete struggles with popping the hips up to soon- like the immortalized "Bend and Snap"

then this cue can help. By thinking about pulling the chest to the wall behind you, it shifts your focus from yanking your hips up to pulling your chest up, thus slowing down the hips ascent and, for most athletes I've seen, will synchronize the rise of the shoulder and chest so they move at the same rate. 

Hips popping up at the start.

Hips popping up at the start.

Hips, above, are rising faster than the shoulders and it will quickly turn into an RDL. Below, the hips stay lower than the shoulders and the two move together.

 

Cue: Grab the floor with your toes

Fixs: flat feet, wiggly feet, loose feet

All of the above are unhelpful for deadlifting. Considering that the feet are the only body part in contact with the ground, wouldn't you want that contact to be stable? You can't produce maximal force while standing on an Airex Pad so why create one with your wobbly feet? Gripping the floor tightens up the foot and lower leg musculature which in turn, produces a rock solid foundation to push against. 

Another boon to the cue: it breaks the habit of "toes up." (Note: I'm not 100% oppposed to the "toes up" cue, particularly when I'm teaching someone how to posteriorly weight shift for the first time. But as an athlete progresses, we pull the toes back down and teach gripping. Jarrett did a fantastic job explaining why we do that in his article. If you want to increase your lifts by 1000%, read his article linked above. Seriously, you won't regret it.)

Give those a shot and I guarantee you'll feel fantastic!