Better speed through posture

We all know of teams can be faster than a sum of their parts. Team speed is about way more than the speed of each individual player. A bunch of average players can truly sync up in extraordinary ways. But whenever I watch such a team play I always wonder how they would fare against a group of faster individuals that sync up in just the same way. We can appreciate the way they work together, but let’s not forget they can still get faster.

Getting faster isn’t always that hard either. Too many coaches ignore simple methods that can make their players faster. Something as simple as more focus on posture can go a long ways towards maximizing both individual and team speed.

Differentiating team speed from individual speed

We‘ve been exploring team speed recently on the site. It’s a complex topic full of nuance. In Dean Benton‘s article he outlines four categories of team speed, with individual speed being just one on them. The limiting factor for each team or each individual might be found in a different category, and attention needs to be paid to all categories. But if you take a step back two fundamental truths stand out to me:

  1. Speed expressed in a dynamic game environment varies from linear speed in many important ways.
  2. The fundamentals of sprinting nevertheless play a crucial role in speed and nearly everyone can improve on them.

The question then becomes, what is the low hanging fruit that coaches can use to get easy gains in the individual speed department. Most coaches turn to simply adding in more high speed running, or perhaps sled pulls. Both can be good solutions, but more often than not the secret isn’t in what you do, it’s in how you do it.

Posture, posture, posture

As speed coach Jonas Dodoo said on our podcast last month, speed in all forms comes down to efficiency. I like this approach to sprinting as it is simple and easy to coach. No matter your speed profile or background, you just have to focus on one thing: efficiency. The same simplicity is found in Vern Gambetta’s PAL approach which breaks sprinting down to three key areas: posture, arms, legs. Essentially it’s about being in the right positions, then applying the right forces. Optimally connect them and that’s where the rhythm comes in.

Take a step back further and one both Dodoo and Gambetta have one major common thread: posture. As Dodoo asked us on our podcast, efficiency starts with asking “is your posture efficient or not?” If the posture is not there, you can’t be efficient. The same goes with Gambetta’s approach. As he says, if you improve posture, then arm action and leg action often work themselves out on their own.

Then what is posture in sprinting? I liked Boo Schexnayder’s definition when we had him on our podcast: posture is the alignment of the pelvis with respect to the spine. Gambetta goes a step farther and defines it as the alignment of the body from the point of foot contact to the top of the head. In both cases it is about getting the whole body to work together. That’s what efficiency is about after all.

Posture starts with the little things

Training posture can be achieved through complicated methods, but it can also be done by simply paying attention to the details. In sprinting, as with many things, we often focus on quantity over quality. How long? How fast? How much rest? Instead of focusing on the numbers, focus on the execution. Coaching is about training movement as much as it is choosing exercises. And when it comes to movement the small details in execution matter a lot.

One example from Vern’s classic speed DVDs always stands out in my mind. His fall and catch progressions look simple, but nearly everyone goes through them so fast they miss the point. I could explain it, but this is one case where a picture is worth a thousand words. It brings together efficiency, posture, leg action, arm action, and how it comes together to produce speed: