CSCS Chapter 19: Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training
CSCS Study Guide Chapter 19

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Discuss underlying biomechanical constructs of sprints, changing directions, and agility performance.
    • Use proven movement principles for the coaching of locomotion modes and techniques.
    • Learn the abilities and skills required for specific movement tasks.
    • Properly monitor the development of the ability to sprint, change direction, and agility.
    • Use proven means and methods to develop strength, change of direction, and agility.
    • Make and implement programs to maximize athletic performance.

    Important Terms

    Speed is the skill and ability required for achieving high movement velocity.

    Change of direction ability is the skill and ability required to change direction of movement, velocity of movement, and mode of movement.

    Agility is the skill and ability used to change direction, velocity, or mode in the response to a stimulus.

    Speed and Agility Mechanics

    For movement techniques, athletes apply force. Force is the product of both mass and acceleration.

    Rate of force development is the development of max force in minimum time. It can be an index of explosive strength.

    Impulse is the product of a generated force and time needed for production. It is measured as an area under the force-time curve.

    Rate of Force Development

    Mass movement changes velocity and causes acceleration in the process.

    Velocity and speed are typically used interchangeably in strength and conditioning.

    Force vs Time

    Speed is the rate that an object covers some distance.

    Velocity is both how fast and the direction of travel.

    Acceleration is how fast a velocity is changing.

    Deceleration is negative acceleration, or how fast you lose speed.


    The amount of time in this stance is called the ground contact time.

    The product of time of the applied force put on the ground and the amount of force all together is known as the impulse.

    Impulse changes result in changes in momentum and the ability to both decelerate and accelerate.

    Momentum is the relationship between mass and velocity.

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    With humans, the magnitude of force and the length of time of force production during a step is the paramount to succeeding. 

    Practical Implications for Speed

    Force production rate is important for sprint success.

    This is because sprinting is dependent on force production in a short time. 

    Practical Implications for Change of Direction and Agility

    Braking impulse needs to be a factor in change of direction and agility.

    This is the amount of impulse that is needed to stop and change direction.

    Neurophysiological Basis for Speed

    Nervous System

    Strength training enhances our neural drive. This is the amplitude and rate that impulses are sent to the target muscles from the nervous system.

    Neural drive increase indicates increases in the rate of action potentiation and relates to the increases of muscular force production and the rate of the force production.

    Neural drive increases may load to more RFD and generation of impulses.

    Stretch Shortening Cycle

    The eccentric-concentric phenomenon where the muscle-tendon complexes forcibly and rapidly lengthen, or stretch load, and then shorten immediately in a reactive or elastic way.

    Training for SSC requires two criteria.

    • They need to have skillful, multijoint exercises to transmit forces through the kinetic chain and exploit the elastic reflective mechanisms.
    • To take care of fatigue and emphasize quality of work and technique, the training should involve short bouts of work with frequent rest periods.

    Spring Mass Model

    This math model shows sprinting as a human locomotion where body mass is the aftereffect f energy produced and it is delivered through coiling and extension of spring like actions inside the muscle architecture.

    Additional Neurophysiological Considerations for Change of Direction and Agility Development

    Braking effectively is a part of agility performance, so, neuromuscular development in respect to high velocity and high force eccentric contractions need to be considered.

    Agility performance requirements go past physical requirements into perceptual cognitive requirements that are specific to the tactical situation.

    Running Speed

    Sprint Speed happens form interaction between the frequency and length of strides.

    Rapid force production is needed to maximize stride length and frequency.

    Elite and novice sprinters are differentiated by this component.

    Vertical force to the ground in the stance phase might be the most important part of improving speed.

    Greater forces need to be applied in shorter times.

    The elite male sprinters in the world typically have a 2.7 meter stride length, whereas novice sprinters have a stride length of about 2.56 at max velocity.

    Elite male sprinters have a 4.63 average step per second rate, and the Novices have a 4.43 step per second rate.

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    Stride length and stride rate equals the sprinter’s speed.

    Sprinting Technique Guidelines

    Sprinting linearly involves subtasks. The start, the acceleration, and the top speed.

    • The stance phase is broken down into eccentric braking period and then a concentric propulsive period.
    • The flight phase is made of the recovery and ground prep parts of the swing leg.

    Technical Errors and Coaching

    Errors are typically the misapplication of force from bad coaching cues, insufficient mobility, or disruption of the usual gait cycle.

    Training Goals

    Reaching optimal stride length and frequency is the overarching goal of sprinting.

    Agility Performance and Change of Direction Ability

    Development of physical factors and technical skills can improve change of direction ability.

    Factors that affect Change of Direction Ability and Perceptual Cognitive Ability

    The ground contact time and reaction force in the planting phase gives good insight to physical factors that can impact change of direction performance.

    The assessment of agility performance test has an impact on perceived ability for agility in athletes.

    Change Of Direction Ability

    This is the ability to decelerate, change the bodies direction of travel, and the reaccelerate.

    More muscle mass and less body fat is a good predictor for change of direction ability.

    Center of mass height also relates to improvement of lateral change of direction ability.

    Change of direction ability has improved with:

    • More hip extension velocity
    • Less center of mass height
    • More braking impulse
    • More knee flexion when going into changes of direction
    • Less trunk angular displacement when entering the change of direction
    • More tilt of the lateral trunk

    Perceptual Cognitive Ability

    • Visual scanning
    • Anticipation
    • Pattern recognition
    • Knowledge of the situation
    • Decision making time and accuracy
    • Reaction time

    Technical Guidelines and Coaching

    Visual Focus

    Body Position During Braking and Reacceleration

    Leg Action

    Arm Action

    Training Goals

    Improved perceptual cognitive ability within different situations and scenarios.

    Effective and quick braking of a person’s momentum.

    Quick reacceleration in the direction of travel.

    To do these things, try to emphasize the following:

    • Put visual focus on the opponents shoulders, trunk, and hips for better perceptual ability and anticipation of movements of defensive or offensive opponents.
    • Put the body in a position of most effective force application with the ground so braking capacity is maximized, and speed one can stop from is increased.
    • Abilities to keep good positions following braking, reorientation of the body in a position facing the new direction, and effective acceleration and reacceleration mechanics.

    Method of Developing Speed


    Max velocity sprinting gives the best running velocity improvements.

    RFD and impulse at different loads are developed by weightlifting and jump training.


    Sprinting speed is affected by the ability to produce large force quickly.


    The manipulation of soft tissue is increasingly practiced in the development of speed athletes.

    Methods of Developing Agility


    Relative strength and many speed strength qualities on the force-velocity spectrum are emphasis of strength development for agility.

    Change of Direction Ability

    These are identical to the plyometric activity progression based upon intensity and difficulty of the drills.

    Perceptual Cognitive Ability

    Drills for the improvement of agility focus mainly on anticipation, accuracy, and decision making time.

    Program Design

    Speed Development Strategies

    Tactics of planning need to be periodized in a way that will address physical and psychological parts of sprinting through the emphasis and de-emphasis of certain components in a phasic manner.

    Monitoring Sprint Ability

    Max effort sprinting is the best method of assessing speed.

    Many times, max effort sprint are done over a set distance, like 40 yards.

    High speed cameras give us more insight into the abilities of athletes.

    Variables to monitor:

    • Ground Contact Time
    • Step Length
    • Stride Length
    • Flight time
    • Stride Angle
    • Speed
    • Acceleration

    Agility Development Strategies

    Best done with periodized programming

    Developing agility should begin with change of direction drills and move to harder more physically demanding work. 

    Monitoring Agility and Change of Direction Ability

    Key variables to monitor

    • Change of direction deficit
    • Ground contact time
    • Exit velocity
    • Entry Velocity
    • Decision making time

    Sprint Drills

    • A Skip
    • Fast Feet
    • Sprint Resistance: Incline for Acceleration

    Agility Drills

    • Deceleration Drill
    • Z Drill
    • Agility Drill (Y Shaped Agility)

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