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Speed And Conditioning In 20 Yards

Gabe Harrington has a Masters degree from Michigan State University.  He has coached at MSU, the United States Military Academy and most recently was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Colgate University Patriot League Football Champions. Gabe explains how you can get a lot done in a small area.


Many great speed and conditioning drills can be performed in just 20 yards.  One of them is the SMACK DOWN run.  I like this drill, because it has a very low incidence of injury – you can run your players at full speed, but because of the short distance the incidence hamstring pulls are kept to a minimum (in ten years and thousands of players, I’ve had zero).  Because players are running at full speed, they are going to GET FASTER.  If the volume is high enough, and it is, you get a great conditioning effect.  Also, because of the necessity to follow both visual and audio cues its carryover too many sports are quite high, not to mention personal and team accountability (more on this later).  The only equipment required is a whistle, stopwatch, and a stretch of 20 yards (a football field is optimal, but not necessary), and finally it’s just plain TOUGH.

But first, a few rules:

– All reps are performed at FULL SPEED with aproximately a 2:1 rest interval, that is, one group runs and then rests while the other two groups run.

A rep is either 1×20 yards (One!), 2×20 yards with directed plant foot (Two, right!), or 3×20 yards with plant foot (Three, left!).

– The structure is: six perfect reps equals one set.

– The full smack down is four sets with one minute for rest and water between sets (start with just two sets and work up to this).

– During a set the only rest allowed is when the other speed groups are running!

– If ANYONE jumps off-sides, touches the line with the wrong foot, doesn’t touch the line, or loafs in any way the rep does not count and is to be performed again.  In this way, a set could consist of six perfect reps, or six perfect reps plus any bad reps (which of course don’t count) for a total of more than reps… this is where accountability comes in.

Here is a sample using football players: 
Break your players up into three speed groups: Linemen (OL/DL), Middle Skill (LB/TE/QB/SPEC/FB), and Skill (WR/DB/RB) positions.

The coaching commands are as follows: number of 20yd sprints – which foot touches – set – whistle. 
For example, the coach might say, “TWO, RIGHT – SET” – then blow the whistle to start the drill.  The first speed group will sprint 20 yards at full speed, touch the line with their right foot and sprint back 20 yards through the starting point at full speed.  Immediately following this the second speed group is up, performing the same drill (Two, right). Immediately following them is the third speed group, if there were no errors then this would be one rep.  The coach should say the commands for each speed group and for each rep.  Group one is now up again for the next rep.

A sample run template is as follows:
1 (one), 2R (two right), 1 (one), 2L (two left), 1 (one), 2R (two right) = 6 reps or one set
Rest/water x 1 minute
1, 2L, 3R, 1, 2R, 3L = 2nd set oof 6 reps
Rest/water x1 minute
1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 3rd set of 6 reps
Rest/water x1 minute
2L, 3R, 1, 2R, 3L, 1 = 4th set of 6 reps


The above template is an example. Running programs are set by coaches based upon the the teams fitness level.  Like any drill or running program ease into it, be smart and Get Strong.

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