Sunday, March 28, 2010

Multi-Directional Movements: Transit

In the last post I outlined Base Positions as a category of multi-directional movement going through my Hierarchy of Coaching Success related to speed and agility.  The next catergory is transit movements.  These are movements with the goal of propelling the athlete through-out their playing space (field, court, lane, etc...).

Many people training athletes like to break down movements into linear and lateral.  It seems natural and has a nice separation.  I used do this entirely, but now only do it in early phases.  The reality of sports is usually that these are always intertwined out on the field.  Training should work that way as well.
Big 4
For all of the transit movements, I still emphasize the Big 4 as I was introduced to from Loren Seagrave.  It is a breakdown that covers the different aspects of the movement as well as ties the rest of training to improving movement. This should be an entire post of it's own, but here is a quick rundown.

  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
Big Force
To propel the athlete significant forces have to be applied to the ground.  Drive harder may be the key for some athletes.  This means that we need to consider the strength qualities of; starting strength, rate of force development, max strength, relative strength and reactive strength.  The importance of each will differ with the transit modde, sport and conditions to some degree.  We will need to consider how we improve these qualities through drills, resistance training, and plyometrics.
Small Time
In sports, speed counts so applying that force in a small time, while in contact with the ground, is critical.  This requires the right strength qualities as mentioned above. Some athletes need to train to apply the forces faster.  Again this comes back to specific strength qualities and how we cue and emphasize certain movements.
Proper Direction
Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right magnitude of force, but the right direction.  As we examine movement mechanics, especially multi-directional, the proper direction of application becaomes important.
Optimal Range of Motion
To move well an athlete requires the proper range of motion through their joints and soft tissue structures.  In many movements it's important to note that it's not the largest rom but the optimal.  In many sporting situations, having their feet close to the ground to react quickly and apply force is better than having them far away.
Sprinting is a pretty straight forward mode of transit, and breaking it down into acceleration mechanics and maximum velocity mechanics is understandable.  The mechanics of each phase is different and the need for each depends the sport and position. 
Overall the frequency of acceleration mechanics is much greater across many sports and positions.  If you have to move farther than one step you need to use some degree of acceleration mechanics. 

We will train this with basic mechanics drills that build specific strength, kinesthetic awareness and range of motion.  Wall drills, skips and harness work make up the bulk of this.

Then we have drills to elicit a specific training effect.  Sleds, hills, bounds, and plyometrics all can accomplish this by adding resistance or disrupting the current motor attractor landscape.  We also need to create applied situation where the athlete can apply these parameters and develop the best movement solution for themselves.

Max Velocity
There are clearly cases where an athlete need to maintain higher sprinting speeds.  These max velocity mechanics apply when the athlete has linear momentum and they differ from acceleration.

Much like acceleration we will utilise diferent max v mechanics drills.  Not so much to create an exacting stereotype of movement, but to develop specific strength, local energy systems, kinesthetic awareness and range of motion.  We may use fast leg drills, step over runs, in/outs, and butt kick  to help the athlete develop new motor parameters.

For a neuromuscular training effect we will look to bounding, sleds, weight vests, slight inclines, and slight declines to acheive the desired effect.  many of these are used in contrast with unloaded efforts to not just have a training effect, but to enhance motor control as well.

In some cases moving fast for the field sport athlete is more tactically effective with a higher stride frequency.  A long stride length requires the feet are further from the ground for longer.  When in a sporting situation where an athlete may have to react to stimuli of opponents, objects, or changing environment, having their feet off the ground is bad.  If they can move close to the same speed but at a higher frequency and maybe lower amplitude, it may be advantageous.  This is one of the biggest differences between track speed and field speed.

In this case we will work on developing that from multiple standpoints.  First we will try to use various plyometrics drills that focus on developing reactive strength.  This will be required to be effective with a high turnover.  Then we will use high frequency based drills to emphasize turn-over.  Drills like stepover runs in the ladder, running into a ladder or spacing and maintaining speed, and 2-inch runs are a few examples.  Then we applying it.  Using live drills in which the athlete needs to react while moving fast wil help them find the best movement solution.

Somehow people always forget backwards when talking about linear speed.  We need to consider how athletes move backward.  There are usually two basic approaches; backward running and sliding.  Backpedal is a true "linear" movement relative to the hips and center of gravity.  Most backward sliding movements are actually more of a "lateral" movement because the hips have been turned even if the head and shoulders haven't.

The purpose again is to have a way of looking at the demands on the athlete so we can determine their training needs.  Next article we will cover the lateral categories of transit movements,