Last week, Shawntae Spencer shared his perspective with 49ers Fitness Corner about the physical characteristics a defensive back must possess to maximize performance on the playing field. This week's column focuses on the 6 critical areas of movement which should be integrated into any defensive backs' training regimen in order to meet the demands of the position at any level.
- Top End Speed- When a DB is defending a "go route," it is important that he possess the ability to run with a receiver down the field no matter how fast the receiver may be. Top End Speed is developed by improving running mechanics and enhancing stride frequency and stride length. A simple but effective workout is executing a speed ladder. I.e. 10 yard dash, 20 yard dash, 30 yard dash, 40 yard dash each at full effort with full recovery (2-4 minutes) between each sprint.
- Acceleration- A DB who possesses the ability to generate quick leg turnover within a 10 yard area poses a challenge to a receiver as they try and get in and out of their breaks. One of my favorite drills for improving starting and acceleration ability is learning how to execute a Two Point start. Start in athletic stance, maintaining a positive shin angle while keeping the abs tight. Load the gastrocsloeus complex by pressing the heel toward the ground, while simultaneously extending the hips forward and projecting the center of mass. Explosively punch one knee forward, keeping the toe cocked toward the shin and the opposite side arm backward. Concentrate on pushing the foot back into the ground while maintaining a power line position.
- Deceleration is the ability to suddenly stop or slow down while being in control. A defensive back has to be able to stop on a dime as a receiver is getting into and out of their breaks while attempting to gain separation. Did you know most lower extremity injuries occur when suddenly stopping? The key to decelerating is learning how to absorb force by sinking the hips while keeping the body in an athletic position.
- Reacceleration occurs after a DB suddenly stops. Once a DB stops, their ability to explosively accelerate forward again can be the difference of making a play or not. Most players have a tendency to take a long initial step when attempting to reaccelerate forward. An effective approach for eliminating a lunging first-step is to reduce a player's first step by six inches which will ensure that the foot strike is on the ball of the foot at ground contact thereby producing a more explosive first-step.
- Change of Direction- It is essential that a DB possess the ability to change direction in a smooth and fluid manner with minimal loss of speed, balance, and power. There are many ways to improve a DB's ability to change direction; the most effective is mastering the technique of playing the position itself.
- Short Area Quickness is often measured by having a DB perform the 3 Cone Drill and the 5-10-5 shuttle drill. They are two tests which require a DB to change direction quickly in a small area. Ladder Drills in combination with position specific drills is an effective approach for developing foot quickness in tight areas.
- Back Pedal- Shawntae Spencer referred to the back pedal as a "lost art." Needless to say, he was very adamant about the need for a DB to be able to effectively back pedal. The foundation of a solid back pedal is the stance. Some characteristics of a proper stance include: setting the feet hip width apart, the butt should be positioned back and down, the back should be angled with the chin level and eyes focused straight ahead. The player's weight distribution should be on the back of the ball of the foot.
Next week, we'll interview Dr. Suzanne Nelson, our Team Nutritionist, and gain more insight about how to maximize performance through establishing healthy eating habits.
This week's featured Fitness Q&A with Coach Parker…
Question: I am very interested in physical therapy and sports training. I've read many articles about athletes who have a variety of different training habits. One that I have always wondered about is bench press. Some things I've read say that some football players don't even use the bench, and that they get their chest workout from some other exercise. So I guess my question is this: out of all the chest exercises (bench press, push-ups, 'Escalade pushing,' etc.) what, in your opinion is the best overall chest workout combining strength, endurance, and definition?
Coach Parker's Answer: Thank you for your interest… In our conditioning program for our players we don't think of body parts. We think of movements. We don't think of doing chest exercises per se, but by the same token, we want to make sure that all muscles are developed. We don't do any exercises to isolate any muscle groups except for neck and abdominals. In answer to your question, body builders think of developing specific body parts. Football players are concerned with developing overall body strength. We want maximum explosive strength which is the ability of a muscle to fire time and time again with maximum force at maximum speed. For muscle endurance, we think of more sets rather than more reps per set. We are concerned with definition only as it relates to our never ending goal of adding more muscle while reducing fat! I hope that helps.