In today's competitive athletic world coaches and athletes alike are frequently seeking out new and innovative ways to develop their game to its highest level. Yet when it comes time to conditioning the athlete an "old school" (it worked then, it will work now) approach is often taken.
Dr. Donald Chu states, when looking at two types of training (traditional and specific), the specifically trained athlete will show a distinct advantage over the traditionally trained athlete. Traditional being a basic strength program combined with a conditioning program, all too often this includes a conditioning program which sends the athlete "out on a run" for 30 -60 minutes. The thought is this will develop stamina and strength for the athlete. While in some regards this is true, it will develop strength which is not directly related to their particular sport. How often do you see a soccer, field hockey, lacrosse or basketball player just continuously run at a slow pace for a long time? If one looks more closely at a game they will see many repetitive short fast bursts. They are quick and explosive, with a brief pause in play followed by another high intensity bout of activity. A long slow run will produce just that, someone who can run for a long period of time SLOWLY! Therefore to get fast one must train fast.
This is seen in a "specifically trained" athlete. When the athlete focuses on mimicking sport movements and activities there will be a higher translation of the effort put into training seen on the playing field in an actual game. This type of training can be done with specific strength training, speed drills (to be discussed in my next column) and conditioning programs. They will assist in developing the athlete's neuromuscular system. This basically means the athlete will develop "muscle memory" and is done with specific drills aimed at teaching the athlete how to run, and training them the way they compete.
When conditioning a soccer, lacrosse or field hockey player for example one must again look at the actual game. There is an average lapse in play that lasts about five to fifteen seconds. A more appropriate conditioning program to mimic the conditions seen in an actual game would be to complete ten 40 yard dashes with a 15 second recovery period between each sprint. After the ten sprints the athlete is given 2-3 minutes to recover, and then should repeat ten more 40 yard sprints with a 15 second recovery between each repetition. Many variations of this can be done. For example, sprint ten lengths of a football, soccer, or field hockey field with a 30 second recovery between each sprint. After the ten sprints, the athlete gets a five minute recovery and will then repeat the 10 sprints with 30 seconds recovery.
If however you feel your athlete needs to complete a long run, make sure they complete numerous sprints immediately following the run. For example, the athlete goes on a 45 minute run, then sprints five to ten 50 yard sprints with a walk back recovery. Conditioning programs like these can even foster a competitive environment within your practice sessions. Have all the athletes run 60 yards within a predetermined time. Once an athlete drops below this set time, they must sit out one sprint. If the athlete misses the set time a second time they are out. See who can stay in the longest!
This type of conditioning program enables the athlete to keep good turnover (speed) while training their bodies the way they are taxed in an actual competition setting. No matter what sport, if you go through practice every day reviewing game situations and plays to best utilize the talent and skill you or your team posses, why not train your body the same way - the way it's taxed in a game setting, and get optimal results. Remember, you get what you train for.
*Assistant strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle joined the 49ers this off-season from the Philadelphia Eagles. He is in charge of directing all of the speed, agility, and conditioning programs for all positions on the team. He has spent the last 13 years pushing athletes to perform to their maximum potential. Carlisle has also developed workout videos which can be viewed, *by clicking here!
Featured Question for Coach Parker: I am a high school coach in South Carolina. Our season just ended and I would like to begin our speed training for next year. What are the 3 best activities you would recommend for high school players looking to improve their speed?
Coach's Answer: #1 Develop strength and power in the weight room, and also incorporate plyometrics, jumping exercises which train develop force against the ground quickly.
2 Develop movement efficiency (running mechanics)
Start with their mechanics in a state of non fatigue until they become ingrained, and then work on them in a state of fatigue because the players have to move correctly when they are tired. You should work on them with how to move straight ahead, sprint technique, and also how to change direction in any number of directions
3 Third is to build a base of a stamina. Use a longer distance running for high school players, distances of 100-300 meters with timed rest intervals.
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