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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.




By National Strength and Conditioning Association
ISBN:   978-07360-8326-3
Binding: Paperback
Pages:   Approx. 216
Price: $19.95
Available: October 2011





The 40-yard dash: The biggest myth about potential NFL success?

Why the NSCA says the ability to change direction quickly is more important


CHAMPAIGN, IL—The 40-yard dash may be considered the marquee event at the NFL’s annual Scouting Combine, but an athlete’s time doesn’t always indicate his potential for football stardom. That’s because in nearly every sport, not just football, the ability to quickly change direction is the real difference between success and failure. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s forthcoming book, Developing Agility and Quickness (Human Kinetics, October 2011), the only way for athletes to maximize performance and bridge the gap between practice and competition is for training programs to address both the physical and cognitive components of agility and quickness.


Athletes who move faster than their opponents have an advantage. But as pointed out by Mark Roozen and David N. Suprak, two of the NSCA’s 17 leading experts featured in Developing Agility and Quickness, speed is measured by linear sprinting over a 40- to 100-yard distance. In most team sports, such as football, basketball, and soccer, athletes rarely sprint more than 30 yards in a straight line before they make a directional change. “Unless an athlete is a 100-meter sprinter, focusing a great deal of time and attention on straight-ahead speed may not result in optimal performance,” comments Roozen.


Those team sports are characterized by rapid acceleration, deceleration, and changes of direction within a 10-yard window. Court sports, like tennis and volleyball, also require multidirectional first-step quickness and changes of direction within a 4- to 10-meter span. The reality is that in most sports, with the exception of track-and-field sprinting, changing direction quickly is far more important than great straight-line sprinting speed. For this reason, coaches and athletes should be more interested in finding effective ways to improve the complex sporting skills of agility and quickness. Athletes must both move and think fast to achieve lightning-fast quickness on the field or on the court.


“Most sports involve short sprints and rapid changes of direction, followed by rapid accelerations,” says Roozen. “It makes little sense to focus a large portion of training time on improving speed capabilities for athletes who will rarely reach maximum speed in competition.” He and Suprak believe it makes more sense for those athletes to focus their attention on training to accelerate. Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity, so this phase of sprinting is critical for changing directions as rapidly and efficiently as possible.


Applicable to almost every sport, Developing Agility and Quickness focuses on improving athletes’ fleetness of foot, change-of-direction speed, and reaction time. It’s packed with more than 100 drills to help in the development of agility and quickness training programs.


For more information, see Developing Agility and Quickness.

About the Authors

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is the world’s leading organization in the field of sport conditioning. Drawing on the resources and expertise of more than 30,000 professionals in strength training and conditioning, sport science, performance research, education, and sports medicine, the NSCA is the world’s most trusted source of knowledge and training guidelines for coaches and athletes. The NSCA provides the crucial link between the lab and the field.



Chapter 1: Factors Determining Agility

Chapter 2: Factors Determining Quickness

Chapter 3: Testing Agility and Quickness

Chapter 4: Agility Drills

Chapter 5: Quickness Drills

Chapter 6: Agility and Quickness Program Design

Chapter 7: Sport-Specific Programming


Background Facts


  • Agility refers to ones’ ability to coordinate sport-specific movements quickly, while maintaining body control.
  • Quickness refers to one’s ability to do sport-specific movements as fast as possible – under control.
  • Success in most sports is dependent on an athletes’ ability to rapidly and correctly initiate and stop movement in multiple directions while maintaining good body control and joint position.
  • By ensuring the body is in the best possible position to produce, reduce, transfer, and stabilize both internal and external forces, an athlete will be more effective and efficient when attempting to change directions.
  • The initial response to agility training is primarily neural; however, by performing numerous repetitions focused on employing proper technique, neuromuscular patterns become ingrained and then strength and power begin to improve.
  • Coaches and athletes often take the approach of increasing mass to improve force. However, as mass increases, or weight is gained, the athlete must be sure that they are maintaining their ability to accelerate or move quickly.
  • Gaining weight, even if it is lean mass, does not necessarily mean improved performance if the athlete loses a significant amount of speed by doing so.
  • The vertical jump is commonly selected by coaches, trainers, and researchers as a method of assessing anaerobic power of the lower body; sports like basketball, volleyball, and football often utilize the vertical jump as a predictor of performance.
  • Line drills are commonly used by coaches and athletes to improve footwork, speed, and coordination. Line drills are excellent for the beginner as they are simple and require limited equipment.


Source: Developing Agility and Quickness (Human Kinetics, 2011)


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