5 Ways to Utilize The 10 Yard Dash in Evaluating Athletes

By Coach Matt June

OVERVIEW

The majority of field athletes play a sport that requires them to accelerate quickly over a short distance. This alone is a reason enough for us to test a 10 yard dash. During the assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash for every type of athlete that enters the facility. 

-In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. I’ve found the 10 yard dash is a fantastic tool to expose technique, for good or bad. Looking at how an athlete attacks their first 3 steps can showcase the game speed of the athlete.

-In more detail, our 10 yard dash test is used beyond a metric of speed. Often times we utilize the test as a day to day measure of training preparedness. Done on our laser timing systems, we can get an objective measure to determine the recovery level of the athlete from previous training days. 

-From a safety standpoint, the 10 yard dash is one of the safest forms of sprint training you can be doing.  Once an athlete starts getting near max velocity, they run a greater risk for injury. Rarely do I see someone get a sprint related injury in the first 10 yards.

-Finally, Let’s also not forget about the general concept of a young athlete simply having fun, running fast and getting their time.  This goes a long way and the training intent increases when you start timing sprints.  

1: Are you fast or not

During assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash from youth to professional. In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. 

2: Tests Daily Preparedness of the Athlete

Often times I will have athletes perform a series of 10 yard sprints immediately following their warmup. This is a tool that I use to assess how prepared this athlete is to train that day. Major decreases in 10 yard sprint time will show me that an athlete may not be prepared to train at a high intensity that day. More importantly, if an athlete is consistently getting lower and lower times on a daily 10 yard sprint test, it may be time to adjust program volume and intensity and explore recovery and lifestyle strategies that they athlete may be struggling to implement.

3: A Functional Assessment tool

By watching an athlete run multiple 10 yard sprints we can get a pretty accurate idea of what TYPE of athlete they are. Are they elastic or muscle dominant? In short, elastic dominant athletes utilize stretch in fascia and connective tissue to produce force. Muscle dominant athletes utilize the contractile properties of the muscle itself to produce force. While both types of athletes may in fact run the same 10 yard dash time, a trained coach can see and hear the difference in the type of contact the athlete’s foot makes with the ground. This tells us how we will likely have to train them in the weight room. For example, an elastic dominant athlete might not need a large volume of plyometrics in their program where as a muscle dominant athlete might benefit greatly to an increased volume of jumps and plyometrics in their training.

4: A Personality Assessment Tool

What KIND of athlete are we training.  Regardless of age or training experience, we see a broad range of competitive expression when athletes perform a sprint test. I can identify the ego-oriented competitor, who may be overly concerned with another athlete’s time in relation to theirs. On the other hand, we have the confident competitors, who regardless of anyone around them they are on a mission to breaking their previous times. Lastly, I can identify the non-competitors, and more specifically, the nervous competitors. These athletes are those who generally fear failure and therefore don’t invest emotional energy into the task.  Regardless of the type of competitor, it is critical to time every 10 yard sprint to allow the athlete feedback in the intent they are eliciting every rep. In those who may shy away from being evaluated, it is important that the coach implements specialty exercises to allow the athlete to increase their acceleration ability. 

5: Answers the Important Questions

From a technique standpoint, the 10 yard dash is going to show me how this athlete accelerates. Are they standing tall, short, hunched over? How is their head position? What do their arms look like?  Are they moving too much side to side? Is their foot getting underneath them? What does their shin angle look like? How is their foot striking the ground? All of this happens in 8-12 steps. For many of our field athletes, this is sometimes all I need to see to assess whether or not this athlete is running with the proper technique that will allow them to maximize their speed potential.

Five Drills that Can Help Improve My 10 yard Dash

1. Bounding 

2. First three steps through low hurdles (working on foot placement shin/torso angle) 

3. Hill Sprints 

4. Resisted Sled Sprinting 

5. Barefoot Sprinting


Concluding thoughts

With so many different metrics being tested on athletes with incredible new technology, do we really know if any of these tests are answering the major question… Does the measurement have transfer to the field of competition? The 10 yard sprint is a simple test that I have utilized with all athletes in providing objective information in evaluating an athlete. From tracking speed and acceleration, to determining the functional and psychological predisposition of the athlete. More and more professionals in our field work tirelessly to create amazing, in-depth movement screenings, however my message to leave the reader with is to not forget about the simple tool of putting an athlete on the starting line. 

Teaching Agility and Game Speed

Game speed is an abstract concept. Sometimes athletes who are slow on the track appear as though they have a totally different gear on the field. For a long time, coaches struggled with this concept. They would often say, “That kid just has that type of speed you can’t teach,” or “That’s natural born speed.” But what is it about these athletes that makes them appear so fast on the field, when on a timer they are not nearly as impressive? This type of speed is called agility, and it is something that has been attempted to be taught through the use of speed ladders and complicated rhythmic drills. In Athletes Warehouse, we have the answer to unlocking agility, and it is no longer something that can’t be taught.

Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction in any combination. However, we have found the number one determinant of agility to be reactive ability. This can explain how someone is able to continually gain a step on a defender who has faster acceleration times on the track. Once we determined that reaction determines agility, agility in game speed no longer becomes a skill that can’t be taught. In fact it can be taught very easily to athletes who are exposed to a specific training progression at a young age.

Agility drills that require the athlete to memorize and in-grain patterns into their memory fail to transfer to the requirements of sport. For example, if I’m a lacrosse defender and an offensive player is attempting to go 1-on-1 with me to the goal, there is no time for my mind to operate in a rhythmic order like a speed ladder drill. My subconscious mind is going act on the first hint of body language the offensive player gives away. Sports are chaotic, and therefore there are moments when we must train in chaos.

When we look at sports in terms of reaction to chaos, we realize how simple it can be to mirror this in training. No athlete should be in an agility drill by themselves because no athlete is on the field by themselves. Every action performed on a field is in response to another person. Utilizing a partner in our agility drills allows our athletes to accumulate repetitions reading another person’s body language. Even the best athletes will naturally express body language that will expose the direction they intend to move. When we progress athletes through a series of reactive agility drills they begin to become more efficient at reading their opponents.

Best Exercise to Improve Sprint Times

As coaches, we are constantly formulating and implementing new drills and exercises in an effort to increase the speed potential of our athletes. New and creative exercises expose our athletes to a broad range of movement patterns. This is important for overall athletic development. However, no matter the age, experience level, or sport, we are continually implementing sled pulling into our programs as we have found it to be one of the most powerful exercises in increasing sprint speed. It has become a requirement of our programs for those who are looking to increase speed.

Upon implementing our sled program, we have seen athletes show improvements in 20 yard and 40 yard dash times by up to 1/4 of a second in as little as 5 sessions. This is a drastic increase in speed. We have taken countless athletes through this protocol and have found these results to be consistent no matter how long the athlete has been training. As our program adjusts for age and body weight of the athlete, it can be completed by an athlete of any age or training status.

The sled works in a very unique way to strengthen musculature necessary for sprint. It is the most effective tool we utilize to improve backside drive as well as hip and posterior chain strength. It is a unique apparatus as the resistance never leaves the ground, and therefore becomes one of the safest exercises that a young athlete can do. When they are fatigued or their technique breaks down, the sled simply stops moving and there is no worry about an external load on the athlete.

If you are an athlete looking to developing speed in a completely unique way, reach out to our front desk by contacting team@athleteswarehouse.com. Our team of coaches is excited to share our secrets of speed with you.

LINEAR SPEED VS SPORTS SPEEd

Before we start, it is important to understand we are using linear speed in reference to straight ahead sprinting as done in track and field.  Sports speed is in reference to every other sport there is that requires running or sprinting. Yes, there is a difference between the two and this article will focus on how and why we train certain ways for all our athletes.

In terms of training, how are they different between track athletes and field sports athletes? Keep it simple – track athletes need a tremendous focus on sprint technique, starting mechanics and actual practice and conditioning for their individual races.  Field sports athletes need to focus on so much more than technique. Field sports should be looked at as multi-directional speed athletes and track athletes as linear speed athletes.  

Multi-directional speed is mostly based on reactive movements dependent on what is happening on the field. This speed requires a major topic that we often miss, DECELERATION.  Most field sports athletes need to be able to decelerate and accelerate very quickly. In track, there is no deceleration.

Take for example a running back in football.  Obviously, they need to be fast but it is so rare that a running back is sprinting linearly for 50 yards ever in a game.  The majority of the time they are cutting and reading defenders. Their “speed” is based on about 5-10 yards each play and their ability to decelerate and accelerate very efficiently.  How about a baseball player stealing a base? Some of the best base stealers are not the fastest guys on the field but the best at reading a pitcher and getting a good jump off a pitcher’s wind up.  A tennis player may never sprint more than 10 yards back and forth but the majority of the time they are reacting to their opponent and anticipating where the ball will be next. I think we understand the point – field sports athletes require “game speed,” which is so much more than linear running.

Let’s get back to the point of this article – understanding the training differences between the two.  For both track athletes and field sports athletes, we need to train linear, multi-directional and deceleration.  For sprinters, all they do is run linear and that is exactly the reason they need to train other things like jumping and lateral movements.  If a sprinter comes into our facility we can’t be sprinting them too much because they are sprinting linearly year round for their sport. We need to take a greater approach to injury prevention, deficiencies in their gait, jumping, and deceleration – the areas that get neglected on the track.  Field sports athletes are just the opposite; they are constantly cutting, jumping, diving, moving in various planes. We need to be cautious of taxing those movements over and over again. Imagine you just played a bunch of basketball games during the week and then arrived at training with your performance coach only to find yourself doing the exact same movements; jumping, cutting and sprinting.  It just doesn’t make sense.

The training of speed for any individual athlete is as simple as understanding their personal movement deficiencies and how to make them perform better in their sport.  I can’t tell you how many times an athlete comes in and says, “I need to get faster.” Well, everyone needs to get faster but we have to do so in a productive manner. As coaches, we want you to get faster progressively without injury.  Most injuries in sport happen during deceleration. I think this may be the biggest difference between the two types of speed mentioned in this article. Training deceleration requires technique but it is also very taxing when done with proper intent.

I could go on forever on the differences of all sports, positions, etc but the takeaway message is don’t over complicate speed. Know your athlete! This includes: being aware of their movement deficiencies, understanding their strengths, getting to know their personal schedules, feeling out when and how to push, and then knowing when to focus elsewhere.  I’ll say it once more, KNOW YOUR ATHLETE! The younger the athlete, the more the training should consist of a wide range of movement patterns. When training a varsity or collegiate athlete the training should be very specific to the athlete’s needs and be focused towards injury prevention and performance.  Train linear, train multi-direction, train deceleration and do so in a proper fashion for each individual athlete.

-Coach Matt

12 Strength Exercises Your SPRINTER Should Be Doing

This article provides twelve exercises to improve sprinting speed in athletes, as well as other information regarding how to sprint faster.

by Matt June

Stiff Leg Deadlift

This exercise is very specific to sprinting as we are eccentrically loading the hamstrings/glutes and quickly driving up through hip extension.  Beginners to this exercise start lighter and progress this movement.  Use a tempo on the way down (3-4 seconds) and drive up fast by extending the hip to meet the bar at the top. 

Wide Stance Box Squat

Setting a box just below parallel (an inch or two), complete this exercise with a wider stance than you normally squat from.  Be sure to sit back to the box and have your knees slightly behind your toes.  By doing so we are now squatting properly and using our glutes and hamstrings to drive out of the bottom.  This exercise is tremendous for teaching how to squat properly but you are now working on two major muscle groups vital to sprint performance.  Use this exercise as a staple and keep your reps between 2-4, staying between 70-80% of your 1 RM.

90 degree Front Squat

We want to load this between 75-85% of 1 Rep Max and the focus is moving the weight fast out of the bottom position.  We’re calling this “90 degrees” only to imply that we are not getting to the very bottom of our squat.  Unlike the Wide Stance Box Squat, our focus here is the leg extensors (quadriceps) and the concentric action of the squat.  At the same time, we are using the stretch-shortening cycle to quickly reverse eccentric to concentric action (same as in a sprint).  Bar speed is more important than weight on the bar for this exercise.

Hip Thruster

We use this exercise specifically for hip extension and we can achieve both power and strength with this movement.  Specific to sprinting this is an exercise that will improve the acceleration phase of our sprint (where the majority of athletes will spend the most time in their sport)

DB Walking Lunge

Specific for sprinting, this exercise is great because of multiple things going on at once.  One we have a single leg exercise, we are moving in the horizontal direction, we have to decelerate on the way down, accelerate as we come up and drive forward to the next step.  By using dumbbells we now have a stability aspect, not allowing our torso to move side to side. 

Single Leg DB Calf Raise

One of the most forgot about exercises for sprinters / all athletes.  This industry dwells on the hamstring and quad for knee health yet we always forget whats underneath the knee…the calf.  This is just one example of a calf exercise you can easily do with little equipment.  Plain and simple you need to train the calf, every other day. 

Heavy KB Swings

Heavy, challenge yourself with weight for this exercise (when our form and technique is perfect and ready to use heavier loads).  Very similar to the Hip Thruster, except this exercise is now standing and we can work on horizontal power.  Again, we are working on decelerating load and accelerating load (Sprinting). 

Heavy 1 Arm KB Walks

A simple exercise that can easily be done incorrectly.  We are doing this for anti-rotation purposes.  In sprinting our torso must avoid rotation as we are trying to move in the horizontal direction.  With this exercise, we can work on just that and can be down as a superset with another big exercise from this list. 

Heavy Sled Towing

If you are going to take away any exercise from this list, take this exercise.  Start lighter and progress the weight, dragging for sets of about 50-80 yards.  When you are towing make sure you have a slight lean of the torso (acceleration/start phase) and you are making contact with the ground behind your hip.  This exercise is phenomenal for acceleration and really should be done with all athletes.

Weighted Sled Block Starts

This exercise is more specific to sprinters coming out of blocks but it can still be done with athletes struggling to stay horizontal in their first few steps of a sprint.  The load does not need to be too heavy, we need to be able to fire out of the blocks and drive the sled about 5-10 yards (no further).  This exercise is concerned with our initial first step and staying aggressive for our 2nd,3rd,4th,5th…etc.  Do this exercise as a warm-up or superset with a barbell exercise from the list. 

Plyoball Hamstring Curl

Plyoball or machine we need to be doing leg curls.  Focus on the eccentric portion (about 3-5 seconds to return to the starting position).  The reason we like the plyoball is because now you have a stability aspect and you have to control your whole body while completing the leg curl.  Superset this exercise with the squat or use right before the squat. 

Reverse Hyper

The all mighty exercise for everyone, not just athletes.  We get therapeutic and strength sides of the same exercise.  Therapeutic – we are getting spinal traction or decompression (relieving pressure of the spine), this is the eccentric component.  The Concentric component of this exercise works the entire posterior chain at the same time.  We have hamstring, glute and back extension all at once.  This is not only an exercise that can help you become faster, this exercise is just as important for injury prevention. 

I want to know how to sprint faster. You want to know how to sprint faster. We all want to know how to sprint faster. I was curious as to how to sprint faster, can you teach me how to sprint faster?

12 Exercises Your Baseball Pitcher Should Be Doing

Over the past few years, we have been lucky enough to work with some very talented baseball athletes (more exclusively, pitchers) and decided that we would share 12 exercises for pitchers that we feel have attributed too much of their progression with us.  The main focus of these 12 exercises is to challenge the athlete is all three planes of movement while closely looking at their shoulder and spinal stability.  Check out the videos and explanations of each exercise below and look out for future articles diving deeper into our affinity with each of these movements.

Exercise: THORACIC GET UP:

Set Up: Kettlebell, Dumbbell

Purpose: Strengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously requiring extensive squat musculature activation of the lower body. 

Execution: Drive the kettlebell straight up overhead. Ensure that the kettlebell, wrist, elbow, and shoulder are in a direct line with one another and that the shoulder is in external rotation. This external rotation should remain intact throughout the entire movement and will be aided by the lower trapezius stabilizing the inferior spine of the scapula. Begin the movement by looking up at the kettlebell and descending into a squat position while reaching the palm of your free hand to the floor. Lower body squat mechanics should remain normal. The end of the movement should have a straight line down through both arms to the floor.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed with a 3-second tempo countdown, 3-second tempo count hold, and a 3-second tempo count up. Use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as a guide for rep count and weight load.

Exercise: TRANSVERSE LANDMINE PRESS

Set Up: Landmine

PurposeStrengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously stressing hip internal rotation and external rotation demands similar to that of a pitching motion. 

ExecutionWith the left knee up and the right knee down, start with the barbell in the right hand. The shoulders of the athlete should be square to the front foot with the barbell rested in front of the right shoulder. The athlete should drive through their right knee and left foot in order to stabilize the body and press across their midline to their peak reach capacity. At the end of the movement, the athlete’s ear and bicep should be in-line.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed at a steady and powerful rate up while being conscious to not over-reach the shoulder. Rotation and elbow extension should finish simultaneously. The eccentric portion should be performed at a slower and controlled tempo. 

Exercise: LOW POWER STEP UP

Set Up: DBs, Box (box height should be below knee) 

Purpose: Improve the power drive (knee and hip extension) on the front side leg. 

Execution: Begin with the front side leg on top of the box. Lift the foot on the box and then rapidly drive down into the box simultaneously extending the hip and knee. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise should be performed with powerful intent during each repetition. It should be performed on the front side leg only. 

Exercise: LATERAL SLED DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with rope/handle attachment

Purpose: Teach the athlete how to create and generate lateral power similar to that experienced during a pitching motion. The movement should be performed off of the drive leg in the direction that the athlete pitches from.

Execution: Begin the exercise with the handle in pitching arm hand. While stabilizing the shoulder, the athlete will then drive their back drive leg into a crossover motion across their front leg. This motion should be repeated rapidly with powerful intent off of the drive leg on each repetition. 

Coaching Cue: The athlete should work to achieve triple extension on their drive leg during each repetition while keeping their hips and shoulders squared.  

Exercise: SLED LEG DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with significant load

Purpose: Create massive extension through the front side leg and improve ground reaction force (GRF) with front side foot. 

Execution: The goal of each repetition is to decrease the time it takes for the athlete to achieve ground-foot contact and extend the hip and knee. The athlete should have their chest forward on the sled with an overloaded sled so that the only thing propelling the sled forward is the rapid leg extension. 

Coaching Cue: Each repetition should be aimed at a decreased time to knee extension.   

Exercise: BENT OVER HEXBAR ROW

Set Up: A hexbar inserted into a landmine with plate

Purpose: Lower trap activation while maintaining a more conducive elbow angle. This exercise will also activate the rhomboid, mid-trapezius and internal stabilizers needed to hold this position. 

Execution: The athlete should be centered in the middle of the hexbar so that the weight is evenly distributed around the athlete. This varies from a traditional bent over row as the weight is not solely located in the front. This even distribution will prevent excessive rounding of the back and will be easier to maintain a proper posture position. Additionally, this exercise varies even further from a t-bar row as the positioning of the plate and the angle of the hexbar prevent the athlete from over pulling and over-activating the upper trapezius muscle.     

Coaching Cue: This movement should be performed with a controlled tempo concentrically with a three-second eccentric tempo. Pausing at the end of the concentric phase prior to beginning the eccentric phase will be beneficial for reinforcing proper activation and positioning. 

Exercise: DB SOTTS PRESS

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: This exercise will put a great deal of stress on the internal stabilizers during shoulder flexion. It will demand and elicit one of the greatest needs for mobility and strength of the upper and lower body.  Lower trapezius activation will be necessary in order to stabilize the inferior spine of the scapula and prevent it from ‘winging’ during shoulder flexion. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells on their shoulders and descends to the bottom position of their squat. While still activating midline and internal stabilizers of the hip region, the athlete will then press the DB’s overhead. The overhead press should be achieved without significant changes to the squat position. 

Coaching Cue: This is a clearly incredibly difficult movement and should only be performed by an individual who is well-established and competent in the weight room (not just a great pitcher). The wrist, elbow, and shoulder should be directly inline with the bicep finishing next to the ear. The athlete should maintain proper spinal posture and midline activation throughout the entire range of motion of the press. A three-second tempo can be applied to the concentric, amortization, and eccentric phase of the movement. 

Exercise: DB POWER CLEAN

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: Teaching triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. Demanding eccentric strength capabilities when catching the weight and teaching the athlete how to manipulate their lower body in order to generate power through their upper body. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells at their side in a power hang position. While simultaneously and rapidly extending their hip, knee, and ankles they will thrust their weight upward in a straight line. Once the weight has reached the pinnacle of its height the athlete will then drop underneath the load and catch the DB’s on their shoulders in the same power position that they originally launched the weight from. 

Coaching Cue: It is important to pick an appropriate load that will tax the athlete enough to need to achieve triple extension. The athlete should avoid pulling the weight upward with their arms and instead launch the weight with their lower half. Additionally, the athlete should be catching the weight in a strong position and not being overmatched by the momentum of the load when landing. 

Exercise: SL ECCENTRIC HIP THRUSTER

Set Up: Barbell, bench

Purpose: Develop unilateral eccentric strength of lower half posterior chain musculature. Activation of the glute and hamstring. 

Execution: The athlete should find a comfortable position for their back on the bench with the barbell evenly distributed across their waist. The athlete will then raise the bar to full hip extension with two legs and eccentrically decelerate the weight using one leg. 

Coaching Cue: This action should be performed as a negative with a 3-5 second tempo downward. 

Exercise: HEXBAR DEADLIFT

Set Up: Hexbar

Purpose: Develop ground reaction force in the vertical direction. Develop strength through musculature of the posterior chain. 

Execution: This is a play on the traditional deadlift however the weight is now more evenly distributed around the athlete opposed to in front of the athlete. This will be more conducive for posture awareness while pulling heavy off of the floor. Additionally, for a throwing athlete who experiences difficulty with posterior shoulder activation, having the handles at the side of the athlete during this movement will allow for a better upper back and shoulder position throughout the entirety of the lift. 

Coaching Cue: This lift can be performed with a powerful and rapid rate during the concentric action and a controlled 3-5 second tempo during the eccentric phase. 

Exercise: KNEELING ANTI-ROTATION PULLDOWN

Set Up: Band attached at an overhead angle 

Purpose: Train the athlete to resist torque in order to generate torque. Teaching the athlete how to brace their midline and achieve separation between their upper and lower body.  This movement will require activation and stabilization of the front leg glute while also demanding stabilization of the hip internal and external rotators. 

Execution: With the right knee up, left knee down, the athlete will have two hands fastened around a band over their left shoulder. With straight arms and a braced midline, the athlete will then pull the band down toward the right knee, pause, and then return to their original position. The hips should remain square and the right knee should remain stable through the entirety of the exercise. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise can be performed two ways. It can be performed with a tempo pull down with a hold at end range of motion with a tempo deceleration on the way back or it can be completed as a negative with a coach pulling the athlete through the concentric phase and then completing a negative during the eccentric phase. 

exercises for pitchers is exciting because exercises for pitchers can help with throwing and staying healthy. Exercises for throwing are to keep the shoulder strong and healthy through these exercises for pitchers that are shown above. Exercises for pitchers can be lots of different types of exercises for pitchers. We really stress exercises for pitchers. when pitching you can get hurt but doing exercises for pitchers you may not. i personally like exercises for pitchers because exercises for pitchers are also fun. fun is good when doing exercises for pitchers.