Feb 24, 2017Speed Wins
Sean Edinger, MS, SCCC, USAW, is Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance at Syracuse University, working specifically with the football team. He is responsible for conditioning players for new Head Football Coach Dino Babers’ up-tempo style of play. Prior to Syracuse, Edinger served as the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Bowling Green State University for two seasons. In the following, we asked him about training athletes for speed and agility.
What’s your overall philosophy regarding speed and agility?
Edinger: First, there’s pure genetics — some kids are just fast. Then, there’s the ability to move efficiently and quickly stop, start, and change direction, which can level the playing field and raise up players who might not have as much God-given talent.
How do you improve speed and agility?
Edinger: Athletes, particularly when they first get on campus, need to get stronger in terms of horsepower. A lot of them have a limited amount of force they can produce, and I help them develop it in training.
The real trick when you’re talking about speed is getting athletes to engage their fast-twitch muscles: How quickly can they display force? To work on this, we do bounds, skips, box jumps, lateral jumps, and lateral movements and take-offs. We only do a few per set because I want maximum effort on each rep.
Spending too much time on plyometrics for speed work can be counterproductive, though. If you do plyometrics and athletes get tired, they’ll start spending a lot of time in contact with the ground, and you won’t get the benefits you want. A huge part of this is a lack of conditioning. If players are out of shape or think they’ll struggle to get through a workout, they’ll hold back.
As far as agility training, I don’t place a lot of stock in ladders, dot mats, and things of that nature because football players don’t use any of that footwork on the field. For example, remember when swing dancing was a big thing a few years ago? People looked like they could dance, but they just memorized the steps. It’s the same thing with ladder and dot drills. Athletes might look like they’re getting more agile, but they’re simply memorizing the footwork and executing it at a high rate of speed. There’s no momentum buildup, and they don’t have to stop and change direction.
What role does technique have in speed and agility training?
Edinger: It’s important to remember that less is more. If you can only get 10 technically perfect reps out of a player, then 10 is what you’re looking for. Don’t make him try to do 15 or 20. When you’re talking about movement and speed in particular, never train a player after his form starts to falter. As soon as there’s a breakdown in technical proficiency, you need to stop — cut the drill, change the drill, or stop the session.
How do you make speed and agility training sport specific?
Edinger: I don’t subscribe to a sport-specific training mindset. Rather, I slant things to be like the sport I’m training. The drills that we use with Syracuse football are very specific to the sport and specific to what my coaches want players at each position to do. There are certain steps and movements for each position, and it’s important that the athletes practice them over and over until they become second nature.
For example, since wide receivers run routes where they push a defender, stop, come back, and run a hitch, we have them do a drill where they work on stopping in three steps. Throughout the action, their shoulders must be over their knees, and their knees must be over their toes. This way, they get the correct portion of their cleats into the ground and remain balanced. This drill is included in all their individual agility sessions.