There are some subtle differences when athletes are training for performance vs. when they are preparing for testing.
I have been working with one of our athletes privately for the last three years in this exact fashion.
Each summer he participates in a bunch of camps/combines where he gets tested. His school also puts a lot of stock into testing numbers.
He wants to do well on those tests but also wants to perform well come the season.
Speed and agility work really comes down to a few things to be fast and quick.
1. Force Production
Athletes have to be able to produce force to be fast and quick. Power is the ability to produce force quickly and sprinting/changing direction are two of the most powerful things we can do.
Improving force production is essential for speed and agility. Without the engine, it is hard to perform at a high level.
A good balance of strength training and power production will help athletes improve their speed and quickness. Think of strength being the source for power, which is the reinforcement of it.
Technique is important for good speed and agility. There are certain things that can rob athletes of performing at a high level. I know not every athlete is the same and there will be individual differences, but there are some things that cannot be ignored.
- Knee Drive
Driving the knees is important to lengthening the stride and improving frequency. Speed is stride length x frequency so a a good knee drive will improve speed.
- Trail Leg Extension
I like to think of trail leg extension as the motor of sprinting. A lot of athletes lack the ability to push themselves down the field when they sprint. The goal should be to fully extend the hip in the knee when sprinting.
- Loading the Hips
This is essential for decelerating. Quickness is all about how long it takes to slow down and get going the other way. An efficient decel will help quickness dramatically.
Athletes should stay balanced, push the hips back, and keep the chest up. This body control helps make decelerating as easy as possible.
- Striking the High Arch of the Foot
Fast athletes don’t sprint on their heels. You should be hitting the ground with the front half of the foot. Not the toes, not the heels.
3. Beating the Test
Now we start to separate training from test prep. There is a difference when it comes to beating the test vs. training for performance.
Take the Pro Agility for example. Some things that we like to do when camp/combine/test prepping that are using a crossover run to start, opening up the beginning stance, and choosing a dominant side.
When we use the pro agility for performance training. It does not matter if we start with a crossover, the beginning stance can be an athletic position, and we can do a lot of reaction work within it.
There is an element of routine and pre planning when used to test well.
When trying to maximize performance we need to reinforce our speed and agility work. Three ways to do that are reaction, decision making, and competition.
This will remove routine and pre programmed parts of agility drills.
Athletes that perform at a high level are capable of reacting quickly. I like to use hand signals, left/right calls, different color cones, or partners to increase the demand for reaction.
Partner drills are also good for decision making. Allowing athletes free reign to switch up how a drill is run forces them to think. They can lead a partner through these drills.
Competition is one of the best ways to get the most out of athletes. If one of my groups seems to still be asleep or sluggish one day, a competition will get them going pretty quickly. This can be done with team activities, racing the clock, or chasing drills.
There is a difference between test prep and speed/agility training. Some athletes need a balance of both. Those that really don’t get tested on these measurables should spend a lot of time on technique and reinforcement to best help their performance.