Pacey Performance Podcast Review – Episodes 414, 417 & 418

This blog is a bit of a change up in my review of the Pacey Performance Podcast as I’ll be doing a ”shorter” form review of three Episodes in one blog.


Episode 414 – Pete BurridgeDebunking 5 myths on speed training and getting team sport athletes FAST

Episode 417 – Phil Scott – Anaerobic speed reserve: Individualising conditioning in team sports

Episode 418 – Nathan Kiely – A critique of the “knees over toes” phenomenon and maximising cross training prescription



Pete Burridge


Pete is First Team Athletic Performance Coach at Bristol Bears and heads up the speed training element of the programme. He recently wrote an article on Sportsmith which detailed a number of myths that surround this area and how we can debunk them.

Training video


🔉 Listen to the full episode with Pete here


Discussion topics:

”Based on your 5 myths around speed training article, one of the first ones you mentioned was that you can’t coach speed.  Can you tell me more about that?”


”There is a belief in some circles that if you wanted a fast team you had to go out and recruit speed, that you couldn’t work on it and it was just this innate quality that genetics drove.  Don’t get me wrong, there is an element to that but I think that maybe, because that message was so strong some people even now think that you can’t make any meaningful inroads and change on the field when it comes to speed.  I’d dispute that.  Obviously I’m majorly biased and it is even backed up in research that pretty much once you get to 22 years old, the speed gains really start dwindling in a team sport setting, but from my practiced-based evidence I see you can make change, and it can be long lasting but it takes time, good quality coaching, and a culture around speed from a buy in perspective from the players to actually want to make any sort of change.


The same research has shown that what is called a ”meaningful change” or competitive advantage showed that you only need 30-50 cm of separation, which makes a tonne of sense, because if you’re a footballer and you’re trying to whip in a cross, beating them with a step over and knocking it past them and then being able to find that little yard of space to be able to create a window to whip a ball in, that’s going to lead to success.


In my sport of rugby, being able to accelerate that half a second quicker gets you to a weaker shoulder or at least it means you don’t necessarily go through a hole untouched but it might mean you find a weak shoulder, you might get an arm tackle which allows you to get an arm free which then allows you to off load or find a pass, or at the very least make game line, which is very important.


Actually the effects you need to make are very small.  So if someone goes, ”what’s the big deal about making someone’s 10m sprint time go from 1.72 seconds to 1.69 sec?” actually when you extrapolate that out that could be the difference.


”You mentioned also that Technical models are a waste of time for team sports.  Can you tell me more about that?”


”When it comes to technical models, I see the argument- why should we conform someone to run exactly how Usain Bolt runs because Usain Bolt is such an outlier we shouldn’t be trying to conform to what he does, because we are all going to be setting us up to fail.


However, there are some key movement hallmarks for successful biomechanical efficiency


One of your guests that you had on recently, Shawn Myszka, I really liked some of his thought processes around self organisation and guided discovery, especially from an Agility perspective.  But I sort of see it as being a long a continuum.



Imagine Shawn Myszka on steroids way over to one side where everyone just finds out and discovers it themselves – there is no instruction, there is no guidance – again he would attest that’s not how he coaches, compared to the super hyper track coach where everyone runs how Ben Johnson runs because Charlie Francis said so.  We’re at both ends of the spectrum here.


You need to understand where you are with your group.  You have to have some sort of end goal where we are aiming to shoot towards something along these lines because otherwise how do you provide any context for how to change someone’s movement if you don’t have a model of what good ”sort of” looks like?  In the same way that Stu McMillan says you have got to learn the rules before you break the rules!  Absolutely, you’re going to have an athlete that perhaps doesn’t conform to the technical model but can be successful and still run efficiently and fast.  But those cases are more rare than everyone so you still need to have some key things that you are trying to get from someone, which will help you as you go along your coaching journey.


You need to reach the messy zone of learning.  If you are actually trying to change someone’s mechanics, at first it is going to be messy, you’re not going to get good outcomes but understand that that is part of the process.


The process isn’t going to be linear and if we want to maximise learning we want some element of failure in there


That failure rate can’t be 0% otherwise what we’re tasking the guys to do is too easy.  With time and with effort and constantly revisiting what the athlete needs to work on we can hopefully solidify that movement pattern.


  • Do it well in a closed setting – an athletic performance lead warm up – coaches aren’t involved, there is not a ball involved, they’re just running in a straight line, not a lot of decision making.  Nail it there and once the failure rate disappears to the point where they are able to nail it there, what do you then do?  You pressurize it.
  • Do it well under competition – race each other in a straight line
  • Do it well under a level of complexity – run with a ball or run off line so run an arc, or beat a defender and then run upright into space
  • Do it well in a game setting in a 15 vs 15


”You mentioned the process that you would go through to understand whether it was a technical thing or it’s a physical thing  Is there anything that you do which gives you more clarity on that?”

”This pre-season we have tried to take our speed programme up a level and taken the concept of ”bucketing guys off,” in part to utilise all our coaching resources as we have a great coaching team, with lots of passionate people about speed.  It’s a top down approach that comes from our Head coach – he is invested in it, he sometimes comes and watches the speed sessions, and is interested in the times that the players run and the players know that this is something that the guy who picks the team is interested in.

We get a lot more time than most coaching environments get to work on both generic speed and also specific game speed.  When we split the guys to bucket off, it was in part to reduce our coach to player ratio, but it was also to see if we could be a little more specific to the player’s needs.  As part of that process we did some profiling, so we tried to marry up some of the more quantitative stuff with some of the more qualitative stuff like video.


We had a couple of categories:

  • Any obvious front side issue
  • Any obvious shin angle issue
  • Any obvious stiffness loss
  • Any obvious torso issue – over rotation, chest out, hunched


We used a very simple binary 1 or 0 with the video footage – if the answer was yes to any of the above they got a ‘1’ and we then looked at their RSI scores and ranked that.  W wanted to use some of James Wilde hip isometric strength testing but we didn’t get chance to do that.  But through some of our gym programming we could kind of tell the guys that really don’t have the hardware to project themselves well.  So we were able to group the guys into four main groups:


  • Stiffness group – guys with a stiffness issue.  You can’t run on flat tyres so our job was to pump their tires a little bit so they get more energy return out of the ground.  So they did a little more plyos and reactive SSC based work.  It didn’t mean they did no technical work, it just meant in terms of the training pie, more of it was directed towards that.  Cues were things like ”pop off the ground,” and ”push don’t smush.”
  • Physical group – if you’ve got a 1 Litre engine versus a 5 Litre engine, all other things being equal, the 5 litre engine is going to run past you.  So those guys were spending a little more time doing resisted speed work that was force driven in exercise selection.   Cues were things like ”tear the ground away, push the floor back, take off like a fighter jet!”
  • Technical group – guys with obvious technical deficiencies and may have done more drill based work to really nail the context of running with good postures because you have to have the position and the posture before you can add the power.  They might have the hardware, they might have the 5 litre engine, they might have their tyres pumped up, by the driver is an absolute clown.  If you put me in a Formula 1 car, I’m going to crash the car!
  • Remedial group – lower impact work while still trying to get some of the cues and getting the basics of some of our philosophy across to them.  Guys who can’t handle the amount of SSC load, or new players or Academy players who we weren’t fully aware of their training load or how much exposure they have previously had to speed training.



”It’s too risky to train speed.  Is that something that you still come across?”


”I think so.  My instant answer to that is I’d almost argue it’s just as risky to not train it!


If you’re getting max velocity exposures in your training session then doing it in a standalone session, is that necessary? Probably not.


But if our game demands are very different to our practice demands then there needs to be something done to bridge that gap.  If in training you are getting nowhere close to maximum velocity but yet in their games they are getting exposure to it, then that’s a risky game to play.  Because we have been smart with our exposure of speed to our guys and risk management from a medical and athletic performance perspective, we have been able to spot a car crash before it happens and hopefully mitigate some of those risks.  I believe players need exposure to top end speed whether that is to speak to the coaches and constrain a session so we can get it in the rugby session (which is the ideal) – that invisible thread of training, where you are that guiding hand where they are getting it in a (large) small sided game.  But if you are not able to do that then there probably is a place for some stand alone artificial velocity exposure whether that’s in the speed session or within the session itself – it doesn’t really matter as long as you have built up towards it.


Sweet spot for speed might be 6-10 exposures above 95% max velocity per week


  • Training– >90% max velocity for over 1 sec – 1-2 artificial exposures per week, where that is either in a speed session or at the end of a warm-up where they do a rolling effort.   Backs might pick up 2 more.
  • Game – varied.  Forwards 1- Backs 2-4.
  • Pre-season – week 1 >85%; week 2 85-90%; week 3 90-95%; week 4 95% and above; week 5 light the turbos and run a PB.  Do a above 80% warm up, then do a rolling effort and that’s it – you’ve given them what they need.



Phil Scott


Phil is Men’s Strength and Conditioning Coach for England Cricket.  Phil comes on the podcast to discuss why he turned to the anaerobic speed reserve to enable him to better individualise aerobic training


🔉 Listen to the full episode with Phil here


”A lot of people might think it’s just a lot of guys standing around.  Dispel a few myths when it comes to cricket game demands?”


”It’s deceptive.  Fundamentally we have got three formats.


  1. T20 – really short format
  2. One day  – lasts 7-8 hours
  3. Test match – lasts up to 5 days


What these guys do is quite phenomenal.  Until I got hold of the GPS systems to profile and understand what they did, they, even the players themselves didn’t believe what they did!


T20 – it’s about an 90 minutes of batting and fielding at a time, 3 hours in total.  The bowlers will cover up to about 8 km in that hour and a half.  If are then going on to bat as well and you are successful, you might run between 1 and 3 km depending on how much running you are doing between the wickets.


They are doing up to 300 metres of high-intensity sprinting and there will be around 100 max accels/decels within that game so it is a lot to take on. Bear in mind that it is a relatively short tournament for those T20 games; one experience was 8 games in 21 days with 6 flights, so a game every 2.5 days if you get to the final, which with that experience we did! Its that ability to sustain that performance and recover from that performance, plus, throw in a bit of jet lag so the guys work hard even for that T20 scenario.


One day – they go on a bit longer but it’s a similar intensity so you’re looking up to 16 km per game for the bowlers and if the batters are going to go on and score a hundred in their innings it could be between 5 and 7 km.


Test match – if a bowler is going to bowl 40 overs in a match we have worked out it is around 50 km for an average total distance for that 5 day match.  The highest we have seen this year was 67 km covered in a match over 4.5 days.


I also like to highlight that they usually have a couple of training days leading into that so have 7 km in addition- so they potentially cover up to 65-70 km in a week and they are asked to repeat that seven times throughout the summer, that is a lot of distance and a lot of repeatability purely from a total distance.


The bowlersWithin that 50 km, 7 km of that is above 20 km/h, and 3 km of that is above 25 km/h, and also they stand in a field for around 17 hours


So to translate that into layman’s terms, go for a walk with the dog for 6 hours in a day and every 3 minutes I want you to do a 20 m sprint – that’s the layman’s translation of what they fundamentally do for these test matches.  Once we were able to explain that to the players, and the science & medicine staff as well, wow – this is what we are dealing with – can we raise the game and the expectations and the conditioning to cope with that – so it was a bit change at that point!


”Talk to us about the use of Anaerobic Speed Reserve with Cricket”


”If you are going to work  above your maximum aerobic speed (MAS) then if you don’t take into consideration their maximum sprint speed (MSS) then some athletes will have more efficiency and more in the tank left to work with than others.  So if we take an example:


Athlete A vs Athlete B – Athlete A and B has an MAS of 18 km/h.  But they have different MSS.  While Athlete A has an MSS of 29 kph, leaving 11 kph “in reserve,” Athlete B has a MSS of 33 kph, leaving 15 kph in reserve. If we programme for them at 140% of that MAS that comes out at 23.8 km/h- which is 53% of the ASR of Athlete A and 39% of the ASR of Athlete B.  Athlete A will, therefore, reach fatigue more quickly, and likely will be unable to complete the session at the same level as Athlete B


Athlete A – ASR – 11 km/h  vs.  Athlete B – ASR – 15 km/h


To take in the MSS if we programme at 40% of their Anaerobic speed reserve (ASR).  Athlete A will be going at 22.4 km/h and Athlete B will be going at 24 km/h – that’s fundamentally a big difference, and that for me, was why some guys were blowing up and going ”I can’t complete it”, whereas the other guys were going, ”this is too easy!”  [Daz comment: the athlete working at a higher percentage of their ASR will fatigue more quickly]


In cricket we use a 2 km time trial to assess MAS.  We do a 40m sprint for MSS with splits at 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 metres.  90% of my guys will be hitting their MSS between 20-25, or 25-30 metres.


The accuracy of data collection is vital. When collecting maximum sprint speed via timing gates, coaches need to set the gates at a distance that allows your athletes to reach top speed, while also having a small enough margin for the reading to be valid.


SRR = MSS (kph) / MAS (kph)


Calculating this ratio for your athlete or squad lets you start profiling them and then adjusting your training program accordingly. This is not fundamentally a scientifically rigorous process that gives you an exact figure or fibre type percentage that then dictates the perfect program. Instead, it’s a very good guide for your programs to get the best adaptations for the athletes you are working with.


16.2 km/h was the average MAS when I first starting working in cricket.   Initially I was working at above 1.80 as the speedsters and below 1.70 as the aerobic guys.  In between that, that is what I was referring to as the mixed profile.



Why is this important? If I take a typical protocol I was using for aerobic endurance development in pre-season and let’s say it was  1 minute off: 30 seconds off (deliberately a 2:1 ratio) those aerobic guys, it didn’t touch the sides, it wasn’t enough and you would hear them say, ”can I do some more?” and the sprinters would start okay, but then they really would blow up, and some of them would not be able to complete that session.


A power output drop off in research I’ve read was 60% on three repeated Wingates where the slow twitch guys was only 40%.  In terms of recovery, the slow twitch guys were recovered after 20 minutes, the fast twitch guys were not recovered even 5 hours later.


”How do you actually programme for these groups?”


”If I start with the aerobic guys, they fundamentally need longer to give them time to get into that time at VO2 max- 90% maximum heart rate (MHR) – what I call the red zone.  Minimum of 2 minutes and usually up around 4 minutes.


I usually always work with a 2:1 ratio to keep them in the red zone.  The intervals for this group can be longer since they seem to take longer to exceed 90% maximum heart rate.


I have previously used 1 km ladders.  If you think these guys are going at 18 km/h – which is a 3:30 minute 1 km.  So, I found my aerobic guys really enjoyed them and I start them off relatively slowly.  So if they are doing a 1km in 3:30 minutes I might start them off at 4:00 minutes or 3:50 min pace for 1km, and then take 10 seconds off for each ladder, and we would up to 5km.  They are very cocky at the beginning but that accumulation and build up allows them time to get into their red zone and then hold on to it.


For the sprinters I have found that they can even adapt aerobically to a sprint session as it is such work for them but fundamentally a sprint session with 10, 20, 30 or 40m sprints with a jog back and then go again and try to hold them at 90% of their MSS.


As an example of our approach to training these athletes within cricket:

  • Sprint work: experimenting with the rest period can also tap into some aerobic adaptations;
  • Sprint endurance training: longer sprints (30 sec) at 85-95% MSS with long rest ~(4-8 minutes);
  • Repeated sprints: <10 sec sprint with <60 sec recovery;
  • Aerobic tempos: 100m in 15-16 sec, followed by active recovery back to the start in 44-45 seconds.


One of my go to is what I call aerobic tempos and go on the minute.  Cricket love ‘6’s’ because you bowl 6 bowls in an over, so I generally break that up into 6 reps and give them a couple of minutes in between.  Sprinters prefer that and they’d rather get their time at VO2 max in that setting that even close to a 1 km ladder – that just doesn’t work.


As far as the hybrid group goes – perhaps a bit of a cop out answer – but you’ve got options.  You’ve got all of those options above but I perhaps don’t go to the extremes.  So I wouldn’t necessarily jump to a 1 km ladder, it might be more of a 500 metre ladder.  They also respond well to the repeat sprint programming.


I don’t have any fast bowlers in the aerobic zone- they all tend to sit in the hybrid and speed group – which makes sense because maybe if you are going to bowl at more than 85 mph you are going to have to have a lot of fast twitch fibres for that, and that doesn’t suit an aerobic orientated person.  So they are able to get very aerobically fit but they are mostly in that high/mixed category.


Once we see the guys hitting that minimum aerobic standard because we are then pushing that MSS those ratios go up a bit more and and we see more guys going up into that 1.9 and 2.0s ratio for ASR, rather than changing the standards.


Accessing the SRR does not work particularly well if an athlete has not reached a minimum aerobic capacity standard. Athletes should complete the 2 kilometer time trial in under 8 minutes (15 kph MAS) before you see any real benefit in applying these individual approaches. Prior to that level, they just need to do more cardiovascular capacity work. Obviously, in each sport there will be a minimum standard your players will need to achieve, based on your own needs analysis.


  • Aerobic group – minimum standard is less than 7:00 mins for the 2 km time trial – so 17 km/h MAS
  • Mixed group – minimum standard is less than 7:30 mins for the 2 km time trial – so 16 km/h MAS
  • Sprint group – minimum standard is less than 8:00 mins for the 2 km time trial – so 15 km/h MAS


This is what the guys in the different groups need to feel they can do in order to feel in good shape aerobically


Nathan Kiely


Nathan is Speed and Rehab Coach at the Brisbane Broncos, Nathan Kiely.

Nathan recently wrote a piece for Sportsmith on the ”knees over toes” movement which he dives deeper into in this episode. Why has this gained so much momentum, particularly on Instagram and how we can be better at being critical when other things like this come along.


🔉 Listen to the full episode with Nathan here


”Would you mind giving us an overview of what the phenomenon is ”knees over toes?”


”Ultimately knees over toes is just an approach to training your lower body, so on its own I don’t have an issue with it.  In fact, I’m a big proponent of things like teaching a young athlete in the gym an Olympic style squat – I want a vertical trunk, I do want you ass to grass, I do want your knees going over your toes, I want deep knee flexion.  I want each athlete to have the capacity to do that sort of stuff at different times in your programming.


But what I saw was athletes doing knees over toes stuff that I hadn’t programmed for them, and I’d go over to speak to them and say what’s going on here, why are you doing that? They would tell me they’ve got a sore knee, and they’re doing the stuff the physio has given me but I also saw this stuff on the internet and I thought I’d try it out.  So I’d go, ”Cool, let me know how you go with it,” and inevitably 2-3 weeks later they go my knee is killing me, they are so sore, they’ve getting worse, maybe its a time to take a step back from the knees over the toes stuff.


There is definitely a time and place for it but I think we needed to work through the methodology of it and understand it better.”


”There is a lot of push for the split squat as being a foundational exercise for this philosophy of training.  How do you feel about that and the transfer to the things we want to happen on the field or court?”
”’There are two prongs to it – there is the rehab setting and you’re talking about people in pain, and the performance setting.


Rehab Setting

There are two pervasive claims that the knees over toes community make:


1. The VMO muscle is really important for reducing knee pain – what they have tried to do is use evidence to support their claim, and I actually bothered to read the papers that they cite, and it doesn’t say what they say it says!  So the first paper they quote is from a 2013 paper which found that people with strong VMOs in their cohort had a 75% chance of having knee pain, and people with weak VMOs had an 85% chance of having knee pain.  So there is a trend but it is not statistically significant and it’s not definitive evidence.  So to say it’s a key muscle and everything is about VMO is probably an over statement.  It’s multi-factorial- there’s more to it that.


2. You can preferentially target the VMOwith the knees over toes approach – citing a paper in 2016, and I don’t know what they were thinking when they cited this paper as it’s not what the paper showed at all.  The study showed that surface VMO muscle EMG activity was highest at 90 degrees flexion so NOT a deep squat, and it actually drops by 30% when you get to 140 degrees of knee flexion.


Athletic Performance


Knees over toes split squat and the transfer to acceleration


Looking at the shin angle and relationship with knees over toes and making you better at performance.  This claim doesn’t come from Ben Patrick.



When I saw that, I thought ”I can see what you’re saying, but that’s not actually how it works.  And the reason that’s not how it works is because of the confusion around LOCAL and GLOBAL COORDINATE SYSTEMS.  I have to give a lot of credit to Dan Cleather and his book Force, and one of the things he goes through is the confusion around Force Vector theory- which he rubbishes and which comes from the work from Bret Contreras.


Essentially you can look at the individual athlete and the reference frame for them.  So you’ve got superior-inferior (up and down) relative to your body and then you have the global coordinate system which is vertical in relation to the World, and your body and the World don’t always necessarily align with each other.


In acceleration an athlete is going to be generating force in an inferior orientation through their body- which is down and back in the World view system and this is where you get confusion around horizontal forces and you look at horizontal GRFs in acceleration and people go, ”oh you need horizontally orinetated strength training like the hip thrust but you’ve got to look at the orientation of the body at a 45 degree horizontal trunk and shin angle.  The athlete is stil pushing straight down in relation to the body.   Then if you look at that and compare that to the knees over toes split squat, you are distributing load over the toes and pushing up and back through the forefoot to return to the start position, which is a different movement, and it doesn’t correspond neither from a local or global coordinate system perspective.


I would argue that a low box step up has far more dynamic correspondence to acceleration than a knee over toe split squat.

Top 5 Take Away Points:

  1. It is a misnomer that if you wanted a fast team you had to go out and recruit speed.  You can train it.
  2. Sweet spot for speed might be 6-10 exposures above 95% max velocity per week
  3. Fast twitch vs Slow twitch – A power output drop off in research I’ve read was 60% on three repeated Wingates where the slow twitch guys was only 40%
  4. MAS standard – Athletes should complete the 2 kilometer time trial in under 8 minutes (15 kph MAS)
  5. VMO muscle EMG activity was highest at 90 degrees flexion so NOT a deep squat, and it actually drops by 30% when you get to 140 degrees of knee flexion.


Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about?

You may also like from PPP:

Episode 413 Marco Altini

Episode 410 Shawn Myszka

Episode 400 Des, Dave and Bish

Episode 385 Paul Comfort

Episode 383 James Moore

Episode 381 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 380 Alastair McBurnie & Tom Dos’Santos

Episode 379 Jose Fernandez

Episode 372 Jeremy Sheppard & Dana Agar Newman

Episode 367 Gareth Sandford

Episode 362 Matt Van Dyke

Episode 361 John Wagle

Episode 359 Damien Harper

Episode 348 Keith Barr

Episode 331 Danny Lum

Episode 298 PJ Vazel

Episode 297 Cam Jose

Episode 295 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 292 Loren Landow

Episode 286 Stu McMillan

Episode 272 Hakan Anderrson

Episode 227, 55 JB Morin

Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely

Episode 212 Boo Schexnayder

Episode 207, 3 Mike Young

Episode 204, 64 James Wild

Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass

Episode 183 Derek Hansen

Episode 175 Jason Hettler

Episode 87 Dan Pfaff

Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo

Episode 15 Carl Valle

Best Speed & Plyo Drills for Acceleration – Part 3

Best Speed & Plyo Drills for Acceleration


Background to the Blog


After I did the research on Tennis movement there were a few things that were left unresolved in my mind in terms of the best approach to develop movement, and specifically acceleration.  In Part 1 I introduced the Force-Velocity Curve and rational for some of the jumping progressions I am considering to aid in Acceleration development.   I also did a Part 1.2 where I looked at an aspect of the technical model for acceleration and different jump metrics related to acceleration.


As it relates to Acceleration (involving distances of up to 10m on a tennis court) I concluded that Maximal Strength and Explosive Strength would be more related to Acceleration:


  • Heavy strength training
  • Jump exercises that start from a stationary position (without counter movement) and emphasise concentric only actions – such as single leg hops to box
  • Olympic lifts (80-90% 1RM)
  • Explosive Back squats (60-80% 1RM)
  • Heavy Sleds


As it relates to Tennis Footwork (most tennis movements within a few metres) I concluded that Ballistic Strength (aka speed-strength) and slow SSC plyos would be more related to Footwork:


  • Loaded Jumps (20-60% 1RM)
  • Med Ball throws
  • Bounding (short bounds) – related in particular to a shot like the wide running forehand.  


And I talked about the pros and cons of the 3 Hop for distance as a test/exercise.


You can’t do it well unless you can use your hip, knee and ankle.  Because the first hop will be biased towards your hip, the second hop biased towards the ankle, and the landing biased towards the knee! 


If you can 3 hop 3x your body height and stick it we are confident in your single leg capacity.  It’s an LTA Primary exercise for Robustness – an exercise that gives confidence that the player has the force reserve in on court high cost deceleration actions (serves, change of direction and shots).



So to finish this blog series off (I haven’t forgot I still need to do part 2) I’d like to share some of the ‘drills’ you can use to aid in Acceleration development.  In this series I’ll be focusing on Stationary drills.  Some of the Heavy Throw/Jump and Heavy Resisted Runs that Cam mentions above can be saved for another blog.


The Drills


For this blog I’ll be sharing some useful insights in an old instagram post from Alex Natera on his preferred stationary drills to teach Acceleration.  


Key shapes we need to hit can be summarised as ‘Touch Down’ and ‘Toe Off.’  Furthermore, Alex identifies eight technical boxes to tick for an ideal acceleration drill.



Banded Strike & Switch Drill



”When it comes to stationary acceleration drills I have a preference to use drills that “tick” as many technical “boxes” as possible.


The BANDED STRIKE & SWITCH DRILL is a drill for me that addresses a number of acceleration aspects that many others do not. The drill holds postures throughout that are appropriate to acceleration, the drill requires significant pre-tension in late recovery, a switching of the limbs, a forceful propulsion/drive of hip/knee/ankle and the drill accomplishes key acceleration positions at touch down and toe off.



I tend not to use drills that may address a certain technical aspect but completely defy other aspects. The Lock and Lift Drill and the Wall Drill can both be useful drills in their own right. They both tick technical boxes as highlighted in the clip.”

Wall Drill



”Wall Drills address a number of technical aspects but it is that excessive touch down position and the lack of propulsion/drive of hip/knee/ankle that see me using this drill sparingly and only in very specific circumstances.”


Wall Drills with a Switch address a number of additional technical aspects which seem to make it a better option for Alex.  He just doesn’t give it a tick for Touch down position or Propulsion.


Lock and Lift Drill



”It is the near-to upright finishing posture and the lack of a strike in the Lock and Lift Drill that often preclude me from implementing them as a viable drill to assist in acceleration development.”



In this drill Alex only gives two ticks on his technical checklist – Start posture, and Touch down position.


Summing Up


It goes without saying I’m not a track & field coach, and Tennis players are not in pursuit of a perfect technical model for their sport either.  There is definitely a difference between sports with that action as the force able to be generated by a sprinter for the first few steps under no fatigue creates a different shape to a court or field athlete running under more fatigue or with less intent.


Having said that acceleration requires the tennis athlete to have reasonable dorsiflexion range in order to achieve the shins roll we are looking for and if athletes don’t have this to get to that ankle lock position then the shin will always be limited in the angle it can achieve.


The drop into heel lock is an interesting one.  Speaking to the elite track coach at the UKSCA conference he said: ”I’m not sure I’m fully onboard with it – is it a desirable action even if many people are doing it? Is it a default and not an actual trained thing to do? I’m not sure! If people are strong enough in their calf they can lock the ankle down pretty rapidly and get that stable base or utilise the elasticity without the elongation of the muscle tissue. Interesting and I will look at it a bit further.”


Personally I’ve had this debate with sprint coaches earlier in my career when I was curious about it – my summary is that the heel may touch down even with elite sprinters during some point in acceleration but the emphasis of the force with certainly be associated with  a purposeful foot strike just behind the ball of the foot.


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Jump Profiling to Assess Acceleration Ability – CMJ or Drop Jump?

Jump Profiling to Assess Acceleration Ability


So I thought it was time to give you an update on a topic that has recently peaked my interest – acceleration.   In Part 1 I introduced the background (the ”Why”) behind bounding.   In Part 2 I’ll focus on the jumping drills – bounding (the ”How”).  Finally, in part 3 I’ll discuss the speed drills – acceleration (the ”How.”)


This blog is a Part 1.2 if you will, because as much as I wanted to share some thoughts on bounding as a potential part of APA Method 2.0 (those methods I want to add to the existing APA Method 1.0) I also wanted to be clear that I don’t currently do much in the way of bounding, and any kind of multiple jump test isn’t currently part of the jump profile in our Fitness Test.


If I’m honest, my interest has peaked in hops/bounds because the governing body of Tennis have introduced a 3-Hop for distance test into their profiling as a means to measure force capacity, and if I am or if I am not going to introduce it, I want to have a rational.


So for this blog I wanted to cover off the current jumping profile we use at APA- and take a pause to reflect on that and what info it gives us.


Acceleration Development


For clarity, when I talk about acceleration (in Tennis) I am referring to those movements which occur over the first 1-10 metres of a court sprint.  In Part 1 I made a case for emphasis on explosive movements executed with ”counter-movement, i.e., in the reversal yielding-overcoming (“eccentric-concentric”) regime, with the major role played by the Explosive Strength expressed in the overcoming (“concentric”) regime.


Acceleration to the ball – when first moving to the ball following the split step we’re actually not moving fast at all, but we are generating high forces.  The initial acceleration to the ball requires explosive strength.  Those first several strides are characterised by longer ground contact times. The more force we can develop in these first few steps, the faster we can displace ourselves.  Explosive Strength expressed in the overcoming (“concentric”) regime will be a key physical quality (strength-speed).


So with all that being said, I have always felt that the Squat jump was a good proxy for explosive strength-speed.  This was echoed in an interview with Matt Allen on the Pacey Performance Podcast.


First 10m – focus on non-plyometric jumps e.g., horizontal SBJ – Matt Allen (Tottenham F.C)


If you want some more insights into this have a look at my Pacey Performance Podcast Review with Cam Jose where he gives his own thoughts on the physical qualities associated with the segments of a 40 Yard dash.



As you can see, Cam mentions ”Short Bounds” as being a good training method for the 10-20 Yard segment – more speed-strength, and ”Long Bounds” for 20-30 Yard segment – more reactive strength.  Given that we are focused on the first 10 Yards in Tennis what jumps might give us a good insight into the physical qualities associated with acceleration over that distance?


  • Squat Jump – My thought process for having the Squat Jump in the test battery is that it may be informative when thinking about acceleration ability over 0-10m (because of its concentric emphasis)- and ability to produce power from a static start (no stretch-shortening cycle).  It’s like a bodyweight proxy for strength-speed and early RFD and it’s one of the jumps that is part of the APA Fitness test battery (more on the squat jump later).


  • Counter movement jump – a test of the long or ”slow” stretch-shortening cycle (greater than 250 ms ground contact time).  This could be associated with most tennis movements over a few metres including shots like the running forehand where there is more hip and knee flexion and more time in contact with the ground.  It’s like a bodyweight proxy for speed-strength.  I see the 3 hop for distance fitting here too (slow SSC), and my thought process is that if someone is good on that test, they will probably be good at a shot like the running forehand.  A CMJ could be used as an indication of 10-20m acceleration ability (and definitely braking capability but that’s not the focus of this blog).  Think multiple jumps such as the triple SBJ. You are probably someone who is going to be very powerful and have longer coupling capability- meaning you are able to produce power over large ranges of motion with your hip, knee and ankle.  You are probably going to dominate hill sprints, light resistance sprints.  You have a lot of power against lighter resisted activities.  The question is, how much more do we gain by doing a repeated jump/hop such as a 3 hop for distance, or a triple SBJ, vs, a regular single effort CMJ?


  • Drop jump – This is a measure of the short or ”fast” stretch-shortening cycle (less than 250 ms ground contact time).    Relevant to the split step and racket head speed on serves and groundstrokes.  It’s like a bodyweight proxy for  reactive-strength.  Could be used as an indication of 20-30m ability.


Up until now most of my thought process has been that a test like a drop jump or the 10-5 RSI is a test more for ankle stiffness and this is a good barometer of improvement at max speeds (achieved at distance of upwards of 20m for team sport athletes).   If you are improving this quality, there is a good chance you will see improvements in max velocity.


10-5 = 5 best averaged over 10 jumps.


But accelerating doesn’t take place on two legs and it seems that at the ankle at least, there may be a more reactive component related to ”ankle stiffness, ” so maybe it will benefit from a test like the RSI 10-5 jump test? To help me consider this thought process in more detail I’m going to refer to some useful insights from an article on sportsmith on ”shin roll” and its importance in Acceleration and an old instagram post from Alex Natera to give some further food for thought on this concept.  I’ll finish up with some words of wisdom from Frans Bosch.

Tobias Alt


Tobias does a great job of describing ”shin roll” which is the change in shin angle (Figure 1), the shin’s sagittal motion where there is a progressive forward rotation towards the ground occurring from late swing (large shin angle) to the late stance phase (small shin angle).  Check out the full article here but I’ve included a few key sections below:


Figure 1. Representative illustration of shin angle (sagittal plane angle between the shin and the ground) and shin roll. Forward rotation starts from the shin block (large shin angle) and stops at the propulsion pose (small shin angle).


This acceleration strategy is referred to as ”rotation-extension strategy”. That is, a rotation of the centre of mass around the foot in the early stance followed by a delayed and sequentially staggered catapult-like extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joint in the late stance phase.  Efficient acceleration needs a degree of patience to give the centre of mass the time to rotate to avoid excessive vertical acceleration.



Figure 2. Four key positions. A: shin block, B: touchdown, C: heel lock, and D: propulsion pose are linked by a progressive shin roll motion during swing-stance phase transition. The shin’s downward tilt is facilitated by three different movement strategies: shin alignment, horizontal ankle rocker and shin drop.



Physical vs Technical Qualities


Coaches and athletes should direct special attention to the dorsiflexed ankle joint acting as fulcrum and the acceleration-specific joint angles preceding the delayed extension. This training occurs in tandem with increasing the required strength capacities of the accelerative muscles (e.g., hamstrings, gluteus medius, gastrocnemii)


Coaching Cues


After reaching the shin block position, athletes should powerfully attack the ground, like a hammer striking a nail. Subsequently, an elastic deformation by means of a well-timed horizontal ankle rocker strategy in the early stance phase might minimize braking duration and will promote the rotation of the centre of mass over the stance foot. Therefore, braking is a necessary part of the step cycle to store energy for a mechanical advantage on its return.


In linear acceleration, the ankle behaviour should no longer be associated with rigidity and minimal displacement in a short amount of time, but with dynamic elastic deformation.


Efficient acceleration requires a degree of patience to give the centre of mass the time to rotate before the delayed extension to avoid excessive vertical acceleration


Finally, the correctly executed application of this acceleration technique can be characterized as a horizontal bounce.


Alex Natera


The comments about elastic deformation and ankle behaviour no longer being associated with rigidity was something that Alex Natera first put me onto when he shared a single leg plyometric hop over a small hurdle and highlighted some important components of the landing phase – which includes reference to the elastic deformation.



”No matter the level, type or experience of an athlete I often “strip it back” and re-visit the function of the ankle/foot complex and ground interaction for reactive hopping, bounding and jumping. My preference is to keep it unilateral as much as possible but strip back the intensity and complexity of the plyometric activity. This allows us to zone in on pretension/preactivity, a purposely foot strike just behind the ball of the foot, followed by the locking of the ankle into tendon recoil. This exercise is often a warm up before the main event.’


This got me thinking and I noticed that in a lot of videos and images I was watching of tennis players I was observing this tendency for the foot strike with the mid/forefoot followed by a  heel to hit the ground after the initial touchdown, what Tobias referred to as the heel lock, and Alex referred to as an ankle lock.


Below is a series of still images of a pro player executing an acceleration across the court (right foot- left foot- right foot).  I know it’s not the same limb but in image 1 (right foot) you can see the initial mid/forefoot strike and in image 2 (left foot) I’ve captured the heel lock.



Wise words from a elite sprint coach


Speaking to a former elite sprinter and now coach at this year’s UKSCA conference, he said that we have to remember that ”the progression from acceleration to maximum velocity is a continuum and changing situation every step. Also the GCT of acceleration steps are longer than max velocity – but still aren’t very long – and are even shorter when already in motion like many field sports will be. They are shorter then a double leg – pogo which is the fastest of the plyo activities in terms of GCT.  (Daz comment – I seem to recall the first step of acceleration out of the blocks being around 0.5 seconds but that quickly drops to 0.2 seconds by the second step).


Ankle stiffness in acceleration vs. max velocity – depends on how you view and define this stiffness. If stiffness means little movement then in max velocity there is a lot more than in acceleration. In acceleration the ankle should produce high levels of stiffness to maintain the angle of foot strike and therefore shin angle at ground contact. This then shifts towards a move ‘compliant’ ankle for max velocity where the elasticity component plays its part in allowing a rapid flexion of the ankle to get the rapid recoil back from the tendons and fascia of the foot, calf and ankle complex.”


Perhaps an argument could be made for the drop jump then – because of the elastic deformation by means of a well-timed horizontal ankle rocker strategy in the early stance phase and to minimize braking duration (so a quick transition from heel lock to propulsion?)  When I put this to the elite sprint coach he said ”DJ and 10-5 will absolutely be useful for assessing physical qualities needed for acceleration – it’s all explosive and fast movements – and they are tests that might relate that tiny bit more – yes – but unless you are working with high level sprinters then its probably not a differentiation that is required to be made.”



To me this all sounds like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze in terms of switching from a SJ vs. CMJ comparison to a CMJ vs. DJ comparison for tennis athletes.  You may not share that opinion, and if you’re keen to use the DJ I’ve included further information below on how to interpret the jump profile data.


Furthermore, this doesn’t mean I won’t be programming drop jumps as part of a comprehensive jump training curriculum, only to say that I’m satisfied that measuring SJ vs CMJ still gives me enough insights into how well a tennis athlete uses their slow SSC- and in my opinion that is where most of the tennis actions live so it’s a valuable metric to monitor.  Finally, I think its incredibly important to prioritise calf strengthening as it seems that there can only be good things to come from doing that, and I’ll touch on that at the end of this blog.


Measuring Jump Performance


In 2006 I read Eric Cressey’s Ultimate Off-season Training Manual where he spoke about the static-spring continuum in the context of athletics.


  • If you’re a “static” athlete (think powerlifter), you’re very strong, but lack reactive ability. Your training needs to focus on initiatives (“plyometrics,” although it’s not the best term for what I have in mind) that prioritize reactive ability: your ability to effectively make use of the stretch-shortening cycle. Doing so will condition the nervous system and musculotendon unit to better store elastic energy and use it for subsequent muscular action.


You may or may not need to prioritize rate of force development (RFD, or explosive strength), which is your ability to develop force quickly. If you have tremendous strength, but cannot develop it quickly, that strength is useless in athletic contexts.


  • If you’re a “spring” athlete (think of a basketball or volleyball that just runs and jumps all day, but never lifts weights), you’ve got good reactive ability, but lack maximal strength. Your training needs to focus on “lifting heavy stuff” to make your “maximal strength glass” bigger.


Eric Cressey recommended using a comparison of countermovement jump versus drop jump.  The countermovement jump is a test of the long stretch-shortening cycle (greater than 250 ms ground contact time).  Do that first.  Next, grab that 12-inch box and place it on the ground about 6-8 inches away from your “takeoff” spot for the jumping tests. You’re now going to do a bounce drop jump; this requires you to step – not jump – off the box, and upon landing, spring right up into the vertical jump test.



The idea is to minimize ground contact time as much as possible; you really should “bounce” instead of just doing a “landing and jump.” Attempt to use the energy you take in to facilitate the force you put out. This is a measure of the short stretch-shortening cycle (less than 250 ms ground contact time).


Interpreting Jump Results


CMJ vs Drop jump


If your bounce drop jump from 12” is less than your countermovement jump, you can stop the test; it’s a sign that you’re using too much static and aren’t able to use the spring because you lack reactive ability.  However, if your bounce drop jump is equal to or greater than your countermovement jump, move to an 18-inch box and see what happens. If the jump height goes up, keep increasing the box height by six inches at a time until your jump height fails to improve. In doing so, you have not only established that you’re very spring-proficient and need to train maximal strength more; you’ve also determined the optimal height for future depth jump training: the height that maximizes power output (jump height).


If you find that your bounce drop jump is less than or equal to your countermovement jump, you need to prioritize
reactive ability; you’re not able to efficiently take in energy and use it for subsequent force production.  If your bounce drop jump – regardless of the box height you reached – is 20% or more than your countermovement jump, you need to prioritize maximal strength.  The closer to 20% it is, the more maximal strength you need. The closer to 1%, the more reactive training you should do.


CMJ vs Squat jump


As I stated earlier in the blog, I’ve often thought that acceleration is all about concentric force production (definitely in the powerful quadricep and glute muscles) so the squat jump would be a proxy for leg power in the initial 0-10m acceleration phase and the counter movement jump would be a proxy for higher speed explosiveness over say 10-20m.


Most athletes are generally able to jump higher when performing the CMJ versus the SJ, meaning an athlete has an adequate use of the stretch-shortening cycle to store and release energy.  Historically, when I have seen an athlete have a minimal difference in squat jump height and countermovement jump height I’ve used that as a indicator that the athlete is not very proficient at using the SSC – and needs to perform a greater proportion of plyometrics in their programme.  But not so fast!!!  There is another interpretation.  It could also mean they are a very good athlete at producing early RFD- and ability to produce force in small amplitude of movements.  This could include ankle stiffness at max velocity (and I’m now making a case for the foot strike during acceleration!).


Due to the differences between a squat jump (no downward momentum and/or limited SSC utilization) and the countermovement jump (downward momentum and SSC utilization), the tendon stiffness utilized becomes more apparent. Therefore, as proposed by Bas Van Hooren and Frans Bosch, a better indicator of abilities to reduce muscle slack, and therefore produce a higher magnitude of early rate of force development, would be highlighted by a minimal difference in squat jump height and countermovement jump height.


However, if the countermovement jump is much higher than that of the squat jump, it may indicate that an eccentric preload is required to take up the slack of a compliant tendon that would otherwise not be readily taken up during a squat jump. Thus, a compliant tendon and an increase in muscle slack would mean a lower rate of force development, a longer time to reach maximal force, and a larger difference between countermovement jump height and squat jump height.


Do we want more stiffness or more compliance?


I think I’ve already made my opinion clear that for Tennis I think having a more compliant tendon is okay because the majority of tennis actions afford more time in contact with the ground.   Any work we do at the calf to develop more tendon stiffness is going to show itself in a drop jump improvement but not necessarily in a CMJ, so we need to bare that in mind (see more below).


A stiffer tendon may allow for force to be quickly transmitted from the muscle to the connecting structures to produce joint motion by reducing the need to take up the slack, which would otherwise be present with a compliant tendon. Therefore, a stiffer tendon may allow for quicker, more efficient transmission of force compared to a more compliant tendon and therefore, possibly greater rate of force development. These improvements are critical for rapid, and efficient transfer of force through the SSC.


A study by Burgess and Colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of drop jumps and calf raises in regard to improvements in tendon stiffness. In the study, isometric single leg calf raises, increased tendon stiffness by 61.6% compared to only a 29% increase in stiffness from single leg drop jumps. Combining these findings with those of Kubo and colleagues and the evidence clearly highlight the potency of isometric at improving tendon stiffness.


Magnitude versus Rate – It is important to note an increase in stiffness might not increase countermovement jump height. This is possibly due to the fact an increase in tendon stiffness will not increase the magnitude of force being expressed in large amplitude movements. Large amplitude movements allow for a longer duration for the muscle to reach maximal force and thus, the rate at which force is produced plays less of a role, especially early stage rate of force development. As proposed by several experts, the downward velocity created by a countermovement may act to pre-load the tendon of the jump, thus taking up the slack and masking the negative effects of the compliant tendon.


Therefore, a stiff tendon may simply play a role in quicker transmission of force from the muscle to the tendon, which is why it may not have much influence when force is able to reach its maximal, such as large amplitude movements where ample time is provided for force development, similar to that of a full depth countermovement jump.


It is important to note that early and late-stage rate of force development are two independent qualities. Rate of force transmission from the muscle through the tendon is most likely predicated on early-stage rate of force development, which appears to be comprised of both neural firing rates and as suggested by the above evidence, tendon stiffness. However, early-stage rate of force development will not directly influence the amount of force being produced in movements with ample time for force to be developed. Therefore, one should not expect tendon stiffness to increase performance of large amplitude movements with large loading times.


However, early-stage rate of force development does play a role in situations where time is limited, such as the squat jump.  A countermovement jump has been shown to take a long enough time for maximal force to be developed, with the time of movement lasting roughly 0.5-1 second. However, a squat jump may take only 0.3 seconds to execute. Thus, the small time frame does not allow for maximal force to be reached and therefore relies more on early stage rate of force development, hence the improvement in squat jump height but not the countermovement jump height.


As argued by Frans Bosch, most typical sporting movements have to occur over a short period of time, with small amplitude of movement. Therefore, early-stage rate of force development may play a more critical role in sporting movements as opposed to lab-based, controlled jumping exercises. Proper training should not only increase the magnitude of the force that can be developed and transmitted, but also the speed at which it can be developed and transmitted. To increase the rate at which force is transmitted and early rate of force development, a stiff tendon may be necessary. Thus, isometric training may vital for developing these critical tendentious adaptations, as well as more reactive forms of plyometrics such as drop jumps.


My Verdict on Best Jump Profile for Tennis


I’m sticking with the CMJ.  I didn’t address it here but I think the triple SBJ or even the 3 Hop for distance still fall in the same part of the Force-Velocity curve (slow stretch-shortening cycle).  I’m putting the SJ as a bodyweight proxy for strength-speed and the CMJ, triple SBJ and 3 hop for distance all as a bodyweight proxy for speed-strength.


There is a skill element to the multiple jumps and that can be a good thing but in my opinion also introduces further ”noise.” At the end of the day I just want a proxy for how well the athletes use their slow SSC.  I’ll train the ”fast” SSC as part of our jump training curriculum, and I can always measure drop jump performance as part of the training, particularly when I am going after some adaptations at the calf complex.


Hope you have found this article useful.



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