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 to achieve high movement velocity.

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

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

Speed and Agility Mechanics

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

The 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 changes.

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

Impulse

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

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

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

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Momentum is the relationship between mass and velocity.

With humans, the magnitude of the force and the length of time of force production during a step are 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 must be a factor in a 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 at 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 force production.

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

Stretch Shortening Cycle

In the eccentric-concentric phenomenon, the muscle-tendon complexes forcibly and rapidly lengthen or stretch load and then shorten immediately reactively or elastically.

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.
  • Training should involve short bouts of work with frequent rest periods to care for fatigue and emphasize the quality of work and technique.

Spring Mass Model

This math model shows sprinting as a human locomotion where body mass is the aftereffect f energy produced. 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 concerning high velocity and high force eccentric contractions needs 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 forms the interaction between the frequency and length of strides.

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

This component differentiates elite and novice sprinters.

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.

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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.

Stride length and stride rate equal 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 and concentric propulsion periods.
  • The flight phase comprises the swing leg’s recovery and ground prep parts.

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 into physical factors that can impact a change of direction performance.

The assessment of agility performance tests impacts athletes’ perceived ability for agility.

Change Of Direction Ability

This is the ability to decelerate, change the body’s direction of travel, and reaccelerate.

More muscle mass and less body fat are good predictors 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 and 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 the visual focus on the opponent’s 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 the speed one can stop from is increased.
  • Ability 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

Sprinting

Max velocity sprinting gives the best running velocity improvements.

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

Strength

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

Mobility

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

Methods of Developing Agility

Strength

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

Change of Direction Ability

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

Perceptual Cognitive Ability

Drills for improving agility focus mainly on anticipation, accuracy, and decision making time.

Program Design

Speed Development Strategies

Tactics of planning need to be periodized to 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 sprints 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 a 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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CSCS Chapter 19: Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training 1
CSCS Chapter 19: Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training 2
CSCS Chapter 19: Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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