• College Football Players Gain Power, But Not Speed Or Agility

      by Anthony Roberts

      Getting an eighteen year old kid stronger over the course of four or five years is easy. I was a collegiate coach and I had the opportunity to watch awful coaches in multiple sports that were able to get their players stronger over the course of a collegiate career. But think about it logically – take an 18 year old kid and have him follow the monthly workouts from Flex Magazine, and he’ll get stronger over the course of four years. But getting faster and more agile requires more than a subscription to MuscleRag International or Muscle & Fantasy.
      But it’s a different story when we’re not talking about adding a few pounds to a bench press or a squat; it’s much more difficult to improve agility and speed.

      If we look at the chapter on agility in the National Strength and Conditioning Association textbook, we find that there’s very little information on actually developing these assets. In fact, the chapter dedicated to agility has almost nothing to do with it (literally) – it’s one of the shortest chapters and gives the reader (and prospective Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) nothing in the way of useful information for getting athletes more agile.

      So a study was performed over 8 years, compiling data from almost 300 DIII football players and authored here in NJ, charting progress through their collegiate career. Players got bigger and stronger, but they didn’t appreciably increase their speed or agility. Most of the improvements were marginal or statistically insignificant; shaving a couple tenths of a second off a 40 yard sprint (that still clocks in over 5 seconds for linemen) and improving by less than a tenth of a second for backs running over 4.85s. In some cases there were actually performance decreases (some backs got slower in the proagility and linedrill, for example). I find this interesting, because a mere two hours north of this study’s location, we can find NFL pro-maker (and recent father) Joe Defranco making his athletes much more agile in four weeks, not four years. [Incidentally, the strength gains seen by these DIII players are roughly the same as I got training myself, with no help from professional strength coaches, through my college years. It should also be noted that by the end of the final year for these students/athletes, a lot had dropped out of the program - hence, we are left with a best case scenario in terms of results from the given programming]

      Agility and speed represent difficult traits to improve, as evidenced by the complete lack of a single worthwhile thought in the entire NSCA text book on the subject – which is no surprise given their lack of original thoughts in other areas. So it’s no surprise to see that DIII coaches can make players heavier (there’s only one way to accomplish this task, i.e. by increasing caloric intake) and stronger (again, it’s not rocket science to give an 18 year old kid a weight training program that will produce some kind of results), but lack the expertise to produce appreciable improvements in more nuanced variables. And when we see that the strength gains made in these same athletes are considerable, we observe that those gains do not proportionately translate to functional strength. [Which is ironic, as the NSCA has beaten that topic to death in recent years]

      And of course, the study was authored by (wait for it….) the President of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and credited to the University where he is listed as a football coach. And how well does the NSCA president’s team do, with his extensive knowledge on the coaching staff? In 2007 they went 9 – 3 (nine wins with three losses), and they’ve failed to post a record better than .500 (i.e. winning 50% of the time) in the three seasons since then, and have had losing records for two of the past four years.

      J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul 8. [Epub ahead of print]
      Performance Changes During a College Playing Career in NCAA Division III Football Athletes.
      Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J.
      1Department of Exercise Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida; and 2Department of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey.
      Hoffman, JR, Ratamess, NA, and Kang, J. Performance changes during a college playing career in NCAA division III football athletes. J Strength Cond Res 25(X): 000-000, 2011-The purpose of this study was to compare anthropometric and athletic performance variables during the playing career of NCAA Division III college football players. Two hundred and eighty-nine college football players were assessed for height, body mass, body composition, 1-repetition-maximum (1RM) bench press, 1RM squat, vertical jump height (VJ), vertical jump peak, and vertical jump mean (VJMP) power, 40-yd sprint speed (40S), agility, and line drill (LD) over an 8-year period. All testing occurred at the beginning of summer training camp in each of the seasons studied. Data from all years of testing were combined. Players in their fourth and fifth (red-shirt year) seasons of competition were significantly (p < 0.05) heavier than first-year players. Significant increases in strength were seen during the course of the athletes’ collegiate career (31.0% improvement in the 1RM bench press and 36.0% increase in squat strength). The VJ was significantly greater during the fourth year of competition compared to in the previous 3 years of play. Vertical jump peak and VJMP were significantly elevated from years 1 and 2 and were significantly higher during year 4 than during any previous season of competition. No significant changes in 40S or LD time were seen during the athletes playing career. Fatigue rate for the LD (fastest time/slowest time of 3 LD) significantly improved from the first (83.4 ± 6.4%) to second season (85.1 ± 6.5%) of competition. Fatigue rates in the fourth (88.3 ± 4.8%) and fifth (91.2 ± 5.2%) seasons were significantly greater than in any previous season. Strength and power performance improvements appear to occur throughout the football playing career of NCAA Division III athletes. However, the ability to significantly improve speed and agility may be limited.

      Source: http://www.anthonyroberts.info/2011/...e-agile-study/
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