As seen on | February 14, 2011

The first snow fall each winter is always bitter sweet time for me. The great thing is that it’s time to take the kids outside and go sledding but ends my weekly training sessions at the local high school football field. As I am all for training hard in the elements, 20 inches of snow doesn’t lend itself well to tempo runs and bear crawls. Thus when the snow falls I have to train predominantly inside and get creative with my training routines.

One of my training secrets (if you really want to call it that) was including these outdoor training sessions for as long as the weather allowed year after year. As a speed and power athlete particularly with football, it’s easy to get caught up in the “get big” phase of lifting and neglect those elements of training that actually tie everything together and refine movement. I have been around one too many athletes who showed high levels of strength in the weight room, but never seemed to put it together when it came to actual movement in sport. Also the idea of blocking out phases of training to concentrate on just getting strong at the expense of all other abilities just never felt right. I can remember the sluggish feeling of restarting speed training one particular spring, after I believed that I needed to concentrate a training “block” on building my strength levels. I was hell bent on raising my power clean ten pounds up from a personal best from the summer before. The reality was that a ten pound increase to an already impressive clean and lack of movement training during that particular time period yielded zero results.

Here then came the realization that the refinement of movement skill can and should be practiced in conjunction with the development of all other motor abilities, like maximal strength and power. As Paul Uram made clear decades ago that “these exercises develop muscle power but only left the individual a crude athlete. He must now embark on a long journey through basic movement patterns, which will refine his muscle power, hone and polish it, molding him into a capable athlete ready for the specific skills of his chosen athletic career.

Through the work of coaches like Dan Pfaff and Charlie Francis combined with my own practical experience, I learned that the alternation of hard days and easy days were much better in the long run than hard days and rest days. The extra work can at first feel like overtraining, particularly when D.O.M.S. sets in from high intensity training. But provided that appropriate activities are chosen on the days, these activities can be used to, in the words of legendary jumps coach Boo Shexnayder “reboot” the system and provide an environment for faster recovery and motor learning. It is with these concepts in mind that I have used what I call field training sessions for a number of years with both myself and as a form of homework for my athletes that I work with. One of the things I noticed was that the athletes, who actually took the time to do the extra work with these field sessions, seemed to make better long term progress in things like general strength, mobility, coordination and work capacity. The younger athletes I worked with main workouts were mainly made up of these field sessions. I felt that the limiting factor for strength and power development in many of my older athletes was simply the neglect of concentrating on the basics during the developmental periods of middle school and early high school. Many of them simply lacked the glue that holds it all together.

In the age of early sports specialization, abolishment of Elementary P.E. and our ever expanding technological gadgetry that keeps our attention in full flexion day after day it now becomes imperative for all levels of athletes and maybe even all human beings (at least in this country) spend a considerable amount of time revisiting the basics . As we all know the basics are what provide the very foundation for almost everything we do. As an adult it’s easy to forget that learning of the most basic of math allowed us to eventually learn more complex math like algebra and geometry. As young boy after much begging I finally talked my brother in teaching me how to play the drums. Before we ever tried to play a basic beat of a quarter notes, he first put my hands through many exercises that taught me how to hold the stick and strike the drum. My very smart brother, probably through his own mistakes, realized that learning these simple exercises led to a much easier time teaching, the more complex actions of actually learning to keep a beat. What he didn’t realize is that learning the basic beats and syncopation of percussion led to a very good understanding (movement awareness wise) to being able to feel the rhythm, timing and breathing in athletic movements like sprinting. It’s no wonder he could run like a deer and years later I found myself very competent at picking up many of the sprint drills with ease.

A very broad description of the basics of movement is balance, coordination, mobility, general strength and work capacity. These can be further broken down into many subheadings that show a much clearer picture of scope of movement and the importance of their constant and consistent refinement. As Kelvin Giles said it doesn’t take a genius to work out that these FMS’s (fundamental Movement Skills) make up everything we do with a human beings personal space. As a young athlete these movements should make up the bulk of the training time. For older more advanced athletes these building blocks should constantly revisited to ensure that advanced training methods are actually being realized on the field of play.

The following is just a small list of the endless options of movements available for the coach or athlete to explore. These movements are nothing fancy or new. They have their roots in classic Physical education, gymnastics, military training and track and field. In order to have some organization when planning training programs I try to group exercises in sequences and groups that seem to fit together.

Running Skills:

  • Mach Drills: A-B-C march/skip/run, gallop, multi- directional skipping
  • Form Running: Arm action drills, Wall Runs, High knee and Butt kick variations, backward runs
  • Agility running: shuffle, backpedal, carioca, skate actions, low box-Fast feet drills, agility ladder, crossover step skipping/running, cone drills, obstacle courses
  • Open Up Runs: Sprint to backpedal, backpedal to sprint, sprint to 360 spin, backpedal to 360 spin, S-runs, zigzag runs
  • Tempo Runs: strides of 50-100 yds w/short recovery
  • Endurance Runs: 150- 300 yd shuttle, 200 yd up and backs, 400Meter runs
  • Fartlek Trail Runs: Alternation of walking, jogging and running through wooded terrain.

General Strength/General Strength Circuits:

  • Bodyweight circuits: Multiple variations of squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, single leg and hip extension work done at varying speeds, intensities and tempos.
  • Postural: Remedial or corrective exercises targeted at any specific weakness, problem areas or for injury rehabilitation.
  • Medicine Ball circuits: various exercises usually done in circuit fashion at varying speeds and tempos. These can further be broken down into core circuits, power/multi throw circuits, strength circuits, and wall rebound circuits
  • Core Circuits: Planks, Side bridges, prone position lifts, reaches and rotations, supine position lifts, reaches and rotations.
  • Guerilla Circuits: Multi-directional bear crawls and crab walks, Inch worms, Spiderman crawls, lame dogs, Duck walks, low lunge walking
  • Iso-extreme/EQI: Extreme Joint angle/extenstion positions of lunge, wall squat, hanging pull-up, push-up, standing hamstring and single leg squat. Gravity assisted maximal voluntary contraction of the agonist muscles to lengthen the antagonist muscles.
  • Static-Dynamic Balance Circuits: Single leg balance hold/single leg hop and stick. Multi-planer single leg reaches/multi-planar single leg hops. 2-3point hand plank positions/1 arm multi-directional medicine ball throws. Bench Vaults, floor vaults. Various activities with eyes shut.
  • Sled work: pulling weighted sleds various distances and directions.

Jumps Skills:

  • Hops: Forward, sideways, backwards, rotationally, over hurdles, around cones, rope skipping
  • Double leg jumps: Broad jumps, vertical jumps, backwards broad jumps, lateral broad jumps, tuck jumps, pike jumps, butt kick jumps, hurdle jumps, 180* jumps, 360* jumps
  • Leaps and bounds: Skips for height, skips for distance, linear bounds, zig zag bounds, run and jumps


  • Rolling: Forward Rolls, side shoulder rolls, log rolls, crouch rolls, Butt rolls, bear crawl rolls, baby rolls
  • Calisthenics: Burpees variations, Jumping jacks, drum majors, mountain climbers, shuffle splits, hops, skips in place, toe touches to reach, 1 leg toe touches to reach, Torso twists, squat jumps

Other options:

  • Flexibility/Mobility circuits: using partners, bands, weights, hurdles
  • Yoga/Pilates Circuits
  • Jumping Rope
  • Boxing, Judo, MMA, Martial Arts
  • Quick Drills: various explosive movements combined together and done continuously.
  • Manual Resistance Circuits with partner
  • Gymnastic series: Parallel Bars, climbing ropes, still rings, horizontal bar, vault horse exercises.
  • Trampoline/Mini trampoline Exercises
  • Games: Tag, team tag, dodge ball, speed ball, runner and gunners, chase, kick the can

It’s easy to see that there exist endless variations available to the coach to keep training not only fresh but progressive. Getting big numbers is great, refining movement along with big weight room numbers is even better. With enough time and dedication the extra work will start to show itself soon enough. For the young athlete it knows that a solid base is being built for the big stuff later on. For the more advanced athlete it comes in the form of faster recovery, resistance to injury and fatigue. For the busy coach it’s nice to have planned exercise components in place so you are prepared for the inevitable ups and downs athletes go through throughout training cycles. Finally for the person looking for general all around good health and fitness, the above can fill in a lifetime of movement variations to keep one aging gracefully.

Good luck!