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  • Writer's pictureBaldMarauder

Keep Developing: Simple Development Ideas During Isolation - Part 3

As the days start to stack on top of one-another, we have a great opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves from a number of perspectives. Athletically, the opportunity to stop focusing on live competition and spend real time improving your athletic body is something many athletes don’t have. We have covered ground-based core development and linear explosion. Today we will be focusing on the third of our top three areas of opportunity.


Top 3 Athletic Areas of Opportunity:

1) Core Transfer

2) Explosiveness

3) Change of Direction



Changing Direction is a Skill


As discussed in earlier articles, the goal is to become as efficient as possible by maximizing proper movement patterns, and minimizing imbalances in the body. We have spent time minimizing energy leaks with our core transfer series, and maximizing efficiency with our explosiveness series. Now let’s combine these ideas by focusing on changing direction. This last area of opportunity can be though of in two ways - changing direction laterally, and learning to properly decelerate from a sprint so that we can go in any direction. Today we will cover both.


Don’t Be Fast – Be Smooth


When you watch elite professionals moving laterally or in and out of breaks, it looks effortless. That’s because they are efficient with their movement, and the lack of excess movement makes them appear ‘smooth’. Smooth is fast. Many people are born with a natural inclination to move well through directional patterns, but every athlete at the highest levels needs to work at these skills to differentiate themselves from the competition. As developing athletes, we can create habits now that will propel us ahead of our current peer group while setting the standard for movement as we continue to develop. We will start this by learning how to slow down. Without the ability to properly slow down, it is impossible to maintain speed and control on exit. We have all seen athletes do a poor job of coming to balance when entering confrontation, and flying past their opponent out of control. In most confrontational sports, how you get there determines what happens when you get there.


Keys to Deceleration

1) Feet maintain proper width (close to shoulder width) during deceleration.

2) Hips and knees are bent, slow down use your large muscle groups to slow down not your connective tissues

3) Center of gravity needs to be maintained throughout movement so we can easily explode in new direction.

Deceleration Progression


1) Rolling Decels­ – place cones ten yards apart, then two more cones 1-2 yards inside those cone (6-8 yds apart). Athlete starts on inside cone and sprints towards opposite end. Upon reaching nearest cone, athlete begins to decelerate by lowering hips and speeding up feet in smaller steps. Weight is centered middle/ball of feet, chest over knees. Goal is to come to a full stop in a balanced, athletic position before the end cone. Repeat up and back for 4 sets. Quality over quantity. Can add a directional start to end of drill to confirm athlete is in a balanced position.



What many will notice is that either a) athletes end up with weight too far forward and high up on their toes; or b) feet are much wider than shoulder width. If either of these are the case – begin by moving at 50% speed, perfect form, through the exercise. Get comfortable thinking about using your glutes and hamstrings as your e-brake, not your patella tendon/front of knee.



Ankle mobility can be an issue with athletes of all ages and can affect foot width and weight distribution during deceleration. Do this quick check to see if you need to work the ankles a little extra.



2) Turning Decels – continuing from the above, now we are coming to balance facing perpendicular to our running direction. We are trying to break down and come to a complete stop in three steps. The third step will have your far foot (new plant foot) facing perpendicular to the direction you came from. We want to emphasize this foot position as it allows an athlete to get maximum amount of surface area on the floor to transfer power. Body is in a balanced position that allows for movement in any direction. Both directions for 3 sets. Quality over quantity.


3) Full turn – now that we have established decelerating and a half turn, it is time to explode back the other direction. We want to maximize the amount of cleats in the turf when we turn (or rubber on a hard surface), and we want to distribute our weight to the inside of our plant foot. This allows us to generate the most force into the ground, which we have learned, gives us the opportunity to be explosive.

Drawing from earlier in this series, we want to maintain a tree trunk core to maximize power transfer through the ground. We also want to strike the ground with minimal time on turf. Go through these drills at 50% - perfect form at a reduced pace. Once you are comfortable – try to be fast out of the turn as you can. Don't be a pickup truck! If you have all of your weight on your front leg, you will lose footing with your plant leg - you have to commit to being in a balanced position.



6-8 sets each direction – take 45 seconds rest in between each set.

Extra: add a 45 degree angle exit to your progression - same footwork and body position but foot angle will be perpendicular to new exit direction.



Maintaining Balance Through Lateral Movement


Now that we have learned how to decelerate - let's transition into lateral change of direction. In this progression we can use a base shuffle to reinforce balance, progress to 'sticking' each change of direction (COD), and finally we can 'stick' the COD and sprint away.


Shuffle: If you don't have hurdles or cones no problem; all of these drills can be done in your driveway or anywhere there are lines. As a starting point, we will get into our base athletic, hip hinge position - we want to use this drill to maintain body height and keep our arms within our framework. Shuffle around the markers and back 2-3 times, try to keep your head up the entire time. Emphasize body posture and keep your feet from touching each other.



Side Shuffle Plant - Plant and Sprint: The emphasis in all of these drills is to improve our balance, as improved balanced allows us to put weight efficiently into the ground. In this drill we high knee shuffle across the hurdle section, and stick the landing at the end with our plant foot. Hold for a second and reverse course. Up and back twice for 2-3 sets.

Then put it together with a sprint exit. I like this version in particular because the hurdles create a 'self-correcting' exercise, meaning the athlete will hit the hurdles on the turn and sprint if they don't pull up their knees. One trip down with high knee shuffle - stick the plant - turn and sprint through the cones. 2-3 sets each direction.


Conclusion


Most people don’t think about working deceleration drills into their routines. Watching an athlete break down tells me a ton of information about where they are compared to their peer group, and what they need to work on. Decels are taxing on the system; imagine the disc brakes on a sports car lighting up red when they go from 0-100-0 as fast as possible. Athletes most likely will feel these in their quads and hips the next day. It’s ok and an important part of training! This progression is part of a good warm up, and can be performed once a week – twice at most.

I hope this series has given you some ideas about continual development – this isolation we are all in is really a great opportunity for our athletes to move around in different patterns and develop their entire system. None of this is designed to take place of sport-specific training; it should enhance our ability to participate in our favorite sports!

Read more about developing athletes at www.unrivaledsystems.com/blog and hit me with any questions at info@unrivaledsystems.com. We are in sessions everyday, so if you have something in particular you are interested in just holler and we will try to put something together for everyone.

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