The Problems with “Speed School”

Everyone now has their angle.  The performance industy is loaded with “speed camps” and “speed schools” most of which base their training on poor methodology.  Most of them are based on randomly placing fancy drills or applying the latest fitness toy without a real knowledge as to how to use them (or even if they work for that matter).  There was even a facility that I once saw advertise with a line “See improvements in 3 days!”  We’ll talk about that statement in a bit.

Many times these facilities promote their services particularly in the areas of speed and agility.  Unfortunately what most people don’t realize is that they tend to neglect utilizing means to actually promote these areas of performance.  Here are some particulat points that are issues at these facilities:

1.  The use of inappropriate (or ineffective drills)

This is a problem at most of these facilities and camps.  What basically happens is that a group or individual takes a bunch of gadgets that are suppose to make people better, when in most cases they don’t.  The individuals using them are basically just throwing drills together to make it seem like they are actually accomplishing something.  Take the following two examples:

Good for jumping out of a plane with, but not for speed training.

 

Parachutes are a popular item to be utilized for speed purposes, however, they are certainly not the best choice.  First of all the wind resistance has a tendency to mess with the mechanics of running (especially for athletes who are lacking strength).  Second, they have a tendency to pull individuals upright faster in the run, which neglects good acceleration mechanics and also effects body posture at top speed.

The second option, the agility ladder, is another popular tool.  Individuals who have athletes do these drills ome up with fancy foot patterns to make this seem like and intense and effective drill.  First of all there are a few things wrong with using the agility ladder to increase agility.  Looking at the picture you can see one of the problems; most people look at their feet.  I don’t know about you, but if you are on the football field and don’t have your head up, you are going to have problems.   Another thing is you are basically tapping your feet in predetermined patterns.  Agility requires you not only to control your center of gravity, but in competition you need to respond to unpredicable situations.  There may be a few situations where an agility ladder can be used with athletes; mainly with really young athletes for general coordination purposes, or for individuals during injury rehab (note: even for these situations, there are still much better things to do).  I have even used this as a means of warming up athletes prior to sessions.  But for the most part, tapping your feet through a ladder will make you really good at one thing: tapping your feet through a ladder.

2.  Ridiculous claims.

“See improvements in as little as 3 days”

A training facility once advertised for this in a newspaper I was reading.  This is one of the most bogus things I have ever read promised by one of these places.  Now I don’t doubt that they can have an athlete come in and, while the parent is there, run them through one of their “tests” and then 3 days later do it again and have the person do it faster.  Does this mean the athlete got faster?  No.  It means that they got better at a drill that they probably never did prior to coming to the facility.  I’ll share a story of mine to relate to this.

One summer I was training a water polo player.  Prior to coming to me his best bench press was 135.  Like many of the local athletes, he was never really taught how to bench press.  After working on him with his form, he ended up doing 135 X 7.  So I guess based on the logic above I made this athlete stronger in 15 minutes (now there’s a great marketing line).  Actually all I did was just teach him to use his body right when he benched.  Now over time, this athlete would get stronger since he can now handle more weight with the exercise.  But to claim that I made him stronger in the short amount of time is ridiculous.

3. Lack of emphasis on strength training.

Many of these facilites for one reason or another focus on all of these drills and neglect making individuals stronger.  One of the fastest ways to make someone faster in most circumstances is to improve their strength levels.  Both force production and body control (important elements in speed and agility) can both be improved upon significantly by incorporating a well though out strength training program in the athletes training plan.  But then again, agility ladders and parachutes are much cooler than squatting.

That is not to say that there are not some very good drills out there that can be done for these purposes.  In another post, I will discuss some of the drills that actually work (and why they work).  The interesting thing is that many of them don’t require any special pieces of equipment in order to work these qualities.  Just remember, there is more to training speed and agility then just using a bunch or gadgets and gizmos that don’t promote the specific qualities needed to achieve these physical traits.

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