Jun 2, 2017Focus on Speed
Andre Bernardi, CSCS, USAW, PES, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at North Greenville University. He is also a certified specialist in speed and explosion through the National Association of Speed and Explosion and holds a sports conditioning specialty certification through the American Council of Exercise. Below, he provides his advice on training speed and agility.
What’s your overall philosophy regarding speed and agility?
Bernardi: We want our athletes to be able to put their feet on the ground and get from point A to point B faster than their opponents. Skill sets aside, if they do that enough times over the course of a game, they are likely to come out on top.
How do you improve speed and agility?
Bernardi: We focus on the basics. We’ll warm up, and then we’ll do something I call “rapid response,” which is a quick-feet drill where players try to pick up and put down their feet as fast as possible. After that, I may do something like a mirror drill.
With agility, I’m pretty simple. I’m a big ladder and footwork guy. I stick to pro-agility drills, zigzag drills, and a lot of activities where athletes react off a partner. This really represents the demands of most sports because athletes constantly have to react quickly during competitions.
What role does technique have in speed and agility training?
Bernardi: Teach technique work — foot placement, knee drive, and arm swing — before you do anything else. Once that’s accomplished, you can instruct athletes to put their feet into the ground and increase stride length or stride rate to maximize speed development.
To instill these movements, we’ll do a lot of quick shuffles where athletes claw the ground with their feet. From there, we may progress to a bound and then to a sprint, all the while emphasizing foot contact.
One of my favorite drills to stress technique is a march progression with a sled. Players start off like they’re doing a wall drill and switch to a slow march to emphasize their knee coming up and the ball of their foot driving to the ground. They do that a couple of times, and then it goes into a fast march. The drill ends with athletes pushing a sled, which really highlights the knee drive.
What role does strength training play in your speed and agility work?
Bernardi: Any opportunity I get in the weightroom to have athletes drive their knees and cycle their feet is going to make them faster. So I like doing speed squats and different lunge variations where athletes are focusing on their knee drive. We also do a lot of step-ups to develop speed.