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Want Faster Athletes? Let them Rest

Unless your sport is distance running, the best athletes that have the biggest impact on the game have a combination of speed and power. Even if you play a sport like soccer or football, there are better ways to train for endurance than long distance runs.

It’s completely unnecessary in a sport like baseball.

Even if you’re not running distance or poles, dozens of “sprints” with little to no recovery time is just as bad if not worse. You’re actually training your players to get slower. What coach wants slower athletes?

Our bodies are made up of fast twitch (Type II a & B) and slow twitch (Type I) muscles. Our fast twitch muscle fibers can contract at rapid speeds and have a very high force production, but they also fatigue more quickly than slow twitch fibers.

More does not equal better. Better is better.

If you want to help your athletes become faster and more powerful you have to allow them to rest and recover. I’d rather have athletes run 5 or 6 quality sprints at absolute 100% speed than dozens of sprints that progressively get worse with each rep. You have to rest in order to do that.

Throughout a training week I may only have my athletes run 25-30 sprints max, each one being 20 yards or less. That’s only 600 yards for an entire week!

And I’m not yelling at them to hustle back to the line, and I’m definitely not calling them weak or soft or lazy if they need to rest. If I were to do this the quality of each rep would decrease.

Your athletes that are genetically blessed with a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers are more effective at producing force quickly, but this also means they will fatigue sooner. These athletes NEED to rest even more, and you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t allow it.

I’m stealing this analogy from Mike Boyle, but you wouldn’t expect a world class race horse to start plowing fields and not get injured. Why do we treat our best athletes this way?

If you force this type of player to “hustle” back to the line and have them run 10 seconds later, they’re going to be slower. If they put their hands on their knees or it looks lazy, they’re not actually dogging it; it’s just bad coaching.

In a recent study, researchers examined a group of sedentary men before and after 3 months of resistance training and 3 months of detraining. They tested content of myosin heavy chain IIX (the isoform for fastest twitch fibers).

During the 3 months of resistance training content dropped from roughly 9% to 2%. During the 3 months of detraining it increased to roughly 17%.

This study highlights the importance of rest both in the short term and in the long term. You’re not doing your athletes any favors by running them into the ground, and even if you are training them properly you need to have phases of higher intensities and lower intensities to allow their bodies to recover, adapt, and reap the benefits of their training.

If all you do is run them into the ground each and every week with overzealous “conditioning” you’re making them slower and hurting their performance on the field.

In 2019, where so much FREE information is readily available it is inexcusable to still be training baseball players like endurance athletes. The sports performance field evolves at a rapid pace, and that information is out there for your players to see as well. It is a bad look for a coach to be stuck in the stone ages and too stubborn to adapt to how the game has evolved.

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