The Death of Quickness: Powerful Speed Training

Today I wanted to bring to you a guest post from my friend CJ Easter.  CJ is an awesome young coach out in California, who is just blowing things up by training athletes to get faster and more powerful. Before coaching CJ had the distinction of wearing #12 for the Stanford football team before this year’s number 1 draft pick in the NFL, Andrew Luck, wore it for the Cardinal.

CJ and I share the same viewpoints on how to truly train athletes to get faster and it doesn’t have a lot to do with “quickness”.

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Quickness” has been abused and misused…

And today, I am mercifully allowing it to rest in peace…
In the dictionary, quickness is defined as moving or functioning rapidly. Sounds like a desirable trait for our athletes, right?
And you are right… Quickness does have its place in our sports (especially mental quickness), but think about when we see an athlete move and say, “Wow, he’s quick!” we are most often referring to an athlete’s ability to change direction.

This type of “quickness” is not about how rapidly the arms and legs move. It is a powerful movement that consists of a number of other athletic qualities that we must understand to be able to train our athletes to change direction efficiently.
So let’s break down the athletic qualities that go into changing direction:

Power Clean 2.0

*(NOTE: In an effort to provide the highest quality information, this post was updated on May 13th, 2013. I have learned a lot in the last 11 months and found it necessary to update this post to reflect my current understanding of how to power clean correctly. 

On some points my thinking changed just slightly, but enough that it should be noted, and in other cases I was dead wrong. The good thing is that in my application of some of these new concepts and ideas my lifts have never been better.)

Training for power is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of becoming a better athlete. Athletes that want to get faster, get stronger, and get bigger need to train to improve their power. Fortunately many programs include the power clean for just that purpose.  Unfortunately though, a lot of people do it incorrectly, get injured, or don’t get any good at the lift and don’t get to reap the benefits.

So whether you are an athlete or a coach of an athlete this post is for you. I have taken everything that I know about the power clean and put it to paper (or cyberspace) for your enjoyment and education.

This is a step by step guide to help your athletes get better, stop missing lifts, and see all the benefits of one of my favorite lifts.  Before I get to all the technical stuff, why should athletes do the power clean in the first place?

Muscle Snatch: Revisiting an Old Nemesis

For longer than I can remember the muscle snatch was a movement that I did within the context of a warm-up and in complexes.  Exclusively.

To be honest I didn’t have a good relationship with the muscle snatch.  We were not friends. It was a tool that I used to warm-up, before I felt that my neuromuscular system was ready to pull some big weights fast.  Once I felt primed and ready, regular snatching would commence and life would be good again.

Recently however thanks to my good friend Coach Dos,  the muscle snatch has become a friend that shares the same goals as me, and my athletes. I have found that the muscle snatch is a great tool to develop technique, strength, and power.

Coaching Speed Training: Get Faster with Resisted Sprinting

I am coming out and saying it right now. Speed training is not as complex as most people make it out to be.  There isn’t a need for $10,000 pieces of equipment (more power to you if you can afford them), there is a need however to coach the right things, and train the right ways. The right ways of training come down to two things.

When breaking down speed training we break down the training into the two categories we can have the maximal impact: Power and Technique.

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Two Lifts You Could be Doing Right Now to Help Your Olympic Lifts

One of the biggest debates regarding the Olympic lifts in training for athletes is the skill involved in Olympic lifting.  There is definitely skill involved but the carryover to the playing field/court is so immense that improving this skill is a must.

Sometimes just repeating the clean and jerk and snatch over and over is just not going to be enough, you must include some accessory lifts that can truly improve the skill required to complete the actual movements.

The two following movements are excellent at improving skill but also at building strength and explosiveness. These are not time wasters, they will immediately improve skill and power, and if you ask me that is a winning combination.

I like these two movements because they tell you where you have weaknesses right away. They require execution, strength and power to complete.

The Top 10 Movements to Build Explosive Power for Athletes

At the intersection strength and speed lies explosive power. In terms of athletics it is an absolute game changer.  For this reason I have chosen to prioritize making my athletes more explosive over anything else.  To do that, I use a number of tools. Here are my top 10.

 

1. Hang Snatch

The snatch wins my contest for the number 1 explosive movement because it is a pure hip hinge pattern and a long impulse of power is needed to make the movement complete. I chose the hang snatch because the position on the ground in a power snatch can limit some athletes ability to perform the exercise.

Snatching in any form is a great indicator of coming performance.  Athletes that are prepared for an upcoming contest will see their snatch hit all time highs before competition. A particularly useful hang snatch is the hip snatch. This movement is all about finishing the 2nd pull aggressively and punching under the bar.

Where to Start? Starting Positions in Hang Olympic Lifts

Recently I posted a link on my facebook page to this video from a Mike Boyle staff training in which he is discussing the starting position for the hang clean.

This is a valuable video because coach Boyle makes points about the quality of the lift being easily assessed through the aesthetics of the lift.  This is something that is very important to learn. The Olympic lifts no matter the weight should always look good, if the looks of the lift are wrong then there is likely too much weight on the bar.

 

Coach Boyle’s discussion of the position themselves led  to several posts on my facebook wall regarding what is the best place to start the lifts when in the hang position.  We all know how it should “Look” when you finish an Olympic lift pull, but  there are a ton of variations to the start position so, I thought it might be valuable to talk about those variations.

Nice Extension

30 Lessons for 30 Years: What I have learned so far.

 

I am turning 30 today, well if you are reading this  I am already 30 years old, anyway that is beside the point. This is a pretty substantial birthday and in light of this I thought I might take a second to talk about the 30 things I have learned in training and from training in these first 30 years.

 

I started training seriously at age 15, for football, then for Olympic weightlifting, and finally for track and field.  I competed at the national level for 11 years (weighlifting and track) and have coached for 10 years in some form (track, strength and conditioning).  The following list is from my own training and my coaching.