“He …. Could …. Go … All…. The …. Way! Ohhh, but’s he’s caught from behind and tackled at the 10 yard line.”
How many times have we heard this from a TV announcer or seen it during a breakaway run and possible touchdown?
In a previous blog, the importance of sprinting speed was highlighted with a focus on the 40-yard dash given its popularity as a measuring stick in American football (“What’s his 40?”). It also summarized the research study by Dr. Ken Clark of West Chester University that dissected the NFL Combine 40-yard dash and created sprint profile curves.
A key finding of Dr. Clark’s analysis was that maximum velocity was strongly correlated with 10 yard, 20 yard, and 40 yard performance, and so the authors suggested that more maximum velocity training may be warranted for athletes preparing for the 40-yard dash test or short sprints.
During the season, football practices often become consumed with the tactical aspects of the game (X’s and O’s) as coaches prepare for the next opponent. Most often, drills are confined to sub-maximal intensity and/or limited distances. Therefore, players do not have the opportunity to achieve max sprinting velocity during the practice week unless specific time is set aside for this type of conditioning.
Coaches must keep in mind that the human body is very plastic – that is, it adapts and adjusts to the demands of the stimulus placed upon it. During off-season training when the focus is on improving speed, strength and conditioning, the body is adapting to the training sessions. Often times, positive gains are seen in key athletic performance metrics like 40-yard dash and strength tests.
However, if the training stimulus, especially the intensity, is not maintained during the season a relative state of detraining can occur. In the scenario above, exposing the athlete to high-intensity sprinting only on game day may result in detraining, and also increase the risk of injury, especially hamstring strains. This may be akin to the “weekend warrior” routine for recreational adult athletes!
The Flying 10 is a great way to train max sprint velocity in high school football players including during the in-season. In the article, The Truth About Athlete Speed in the NFL, Cameron Josse addressed several aspects of the Flying 10. Here are some of the key points:
First, for those not familiar, the Flying 10 is performed as a build-up sprint. The athlete has a 10-30 yard build-up of speed leading into a full-speed sprint achieving max velocity for 10 yards.
In terms of volume or how much, Josse suggested that the volume of flying sprints (which also includes the build-up) be minimal; stating that “linear sprint workouts for football players usually don’t need to exceed 300 yards in one workout” vary between 250-300 yards (speed skills), 200-250 yards (big skill and combo) and 100-200 yards for linemen and pro-style quarterbacks. It was not specified if this was an off-season or in-season recommendation. In perspective, a study of collegiate football reported that the number of sprints ranges from about 5-15 and players cover about 300-700 yards of high-intensity bouts during games.
In summary, including Flying 10s in the weekly practice sessions may help to reduce the risk of soft-tissue injuries, especially hamstring strains, and improve performance. Again, if Friday night is the only time the athlete is exposed to high-intensity and maximal velocity running then they are not be adequately prepared.