Jamie Hale explains how to develop quickness of movement.
Ask almost any coach or athlete, and they will probably agree that quickness is a crucial attribute to successful performance in sport (this does not necessarily apply to low-intensity endurance events). Quickness is defined as a rapid reaction and movement time with a given stimulus. Training for quickness is not the same as training for absolute speed. Quickness relies heavily on immediate movement reactions; therefore, we can think of quickness as the first phase of speed.
Training the nervous system is very important in the development of quickness. Proper neural training offers the following:
Multiple rehearsals of movements result in stored memories in the brain called engrams. The development of engrams is one of the reasons it is so essential to practice moves. If you practice with flawed technique, your technique will be flawed when competing. Therefore, the coaching focus must be on the quality of movement rather than quantity. Training quickness in short intervals results in the utilization and development of the phosphagen energy system.
Quickness is genetically determined to a degree, but proper training can increase quickness. Drills geared for pure quickness development should last 6 to 8 seconds, and training for quickness endurance should be longer in duration. Athletes are faced with a multitude of different situations when performing; therefore, placement of quickness drills varies accordingly.
Most of the time, I incorporate quickness drills in the warm-up preceding weight training. When training to improve quickness endurance, then this type of training is often placed at the end of a workout. When under a competitive situation that quick cut, pass or punch in the closing moment of an event, i.e. boxing, can determine the winner. By placing quickness movements at the end of a workout, the initial competition conditions can be emulated to a small degree.
Before developing a quickness program, athlete evaluation is helpful. There is an abundant amount of testing procedures that are used to measure quickness. Tests include reaction drills, start and stop and quick feet drills. Different circumstances require different tests.
To get an idea of an athlete's quickness levels, I like to observe them participating in their sporting event. I also use reaction drills, such as dodgeball, ball drops, and shadowing drills. Once I establish the athlete's level of quickness, I use the priority principle in training. The principle implies that weaknesses receive priority over well-developed motor qualities. Minimal time is spent on quickness development if high levels of quickness already exist. If the athlete is weak in this area, we would usually train this quality 2 to 3 times per week.
Shock method training (plyometrics) can help improve quickness. Keep in mind proper shock method training can be useful, but improper use of this training method can result in a decrease in performance and injury. A good strength and fitness base is necessary before performing this type of training.
In summary, quickness can be enhanced with proper training. Training the nervous system is the main emphasis in quickness training. Drills should last 6 to 8 seconds. This motor quality is essential if not crucial in most sports. Coaches need to learn how to maximize their athlete's ability to react and move quickly.
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About the Author
Jamie Hale is a Sports Conditioning Coach in the USA, a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame and contributor to numerous exercise and sports journals.