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Strength & Conditioning Gym Brisbane - Group Fitness Classes & Personal Training - ATHLETIX

COD 2 1 scaled - Strength & Conditioning Gym Brisbane - Group Fitness Classes & Personal Training - ATHLETIX

Smashing your speed tests but struggling to see the transfer during the chaos of the game?

Do not worry you are not alone: most of the complaints we hear during our first meeting with new athletes, gravitates towards that area.

Hopefully this post will answer a few questions and explain in a digestible manner (for parents, athletes or sports coaches) some elements of the speed for team sports that are often overlooked.

Good practitioners know that being fast on the field requires more than just being quick: some other elements to consider are ability to scan the surrounding environment, a good timing and perception of what is happening and might happen, so that one can change direction fast, get out of the way or get to a position quicker than others.

However, there is another element playing a crucial role in speed and change of direction performance: the deceleration, which can be defined as the ability to absorb efficiently the eccentric forces, due the momentum of one’s body mass slowing down.

In simple terms…. the faster you go (and/or the heavier you are), the more effort you need to make your body slow down to almost a complete stop.



When it comes to performance on the field, change of direction speed (COD-S) appears to be more important than the linear speed (LS) (1), in fact being fast on the field is not just about your top speed or how quickly you run on a straight line, but rather about your ability to stop, change speeds and directions quicker than others.

Stopping, slowing down, and changing speeds is mostly about force absorption and production.

These forces act through the athlete’s musculoskeletal system.

Flexibility (range of motion), Strength (eccentric strength), Power (Rate of Force Development) – which combined gives us Reactive Strength – play a big role for a safe and effective change of direction.

A recent article (2) in SPORTSMITH – one of the most popular websites in the S&C industry, cites how in English Premier League there are in average 600 changes of direction (COD) per game between 0-90 degrees, six hundred!!! … and around 100 between 90-180 degrees. Furthermore, another article (3) shows that in American Football there far more high-intensity-deceleration (up to 6 times body weight) than accelerations.

Strength and Conditioning coaches stress everyone on the importance of getting stronger (whatever the age), for both injury prevention and performance.

This is relevant for all team sports, on courts and field.

Strength training is indeed a major part of this puzzle that is physical performance.

Personally, I think that not exposing (young) field/court sports athletes to appropriate strength training is madness and there is more need of education on this front.



Being stronger not only helps producing more force into the ground, but also (with the appropriate training) absorbing forces, giving more resilience to the soft tissues, hence helping in force dissipation and ground impact forces on the joints involved.

A good balance between producing and absorbing forces will be key!

A recent study (4) observed the different change of direction angles, dividing the COD into Velocity based and Force based ones:

COD - Strength & Conditioning Gym Brisbane - Group Fitness Classes & Personal Training - ATHLETIX


Picture 1 (5)

The study concluded that to improve COD performance at smaller angles (<90°) training exercises should be performed at a high velocity, since those cuts require high peak muscle activation. Therefore, plyometric exercises such as hurdle jumps and drop jumps are suggested as training methods.

For larger angles (>90°), high force is the determining factor, in which greater hip- and knee joint flexion is required, exercises such as squat variations with lower eccentric utilization are therefore suggested.

Eccentric training to develop braking capabilities might be more applicable for developing CODs of greater angles (>45°) and approaching distances due to greater braking requirements.


DECELERATION: Measurement and program integration

According to a recent study (6), the Drop jump (a) performance is highly associated with max horizontal deceleration in team sport athletes.

This means that players with higher Reactive Strength Index (RSI) in the drop jump showed superior horizontal deceleration abilities. (For more info on the study read the appendix (b) at the end!)

Having VALD Force Plates at Athletix is such an advantage for our coaches: we can measure those eccentric forces and RSI, during any landing tasks, identifying strength and weakness for each individual athlete, improve the relevant qualities involved in good deceleration and providing more rationale to individual programming.

Adopting a systematic approach, integrating strength training with COD performance (for both professional and young athletes) is the way to go to ensure long term adaptations.

Strength training can truly be the differential separating the fast athletes from the rest.

Following a periodized program can enhance opportunities to develop qualities outside of the gym! It is crucial to match your gym training with the Speed and Change of Direction work done on the field so that you/your athletes can make the most of the sessions.

At Athletix we follow a simple framework (see below table) that I am happy to share, so that can give you a rationale in what type of work is sustainable and efficient for the gains you want in the game.

The framework shows sequential phases, based on the strength block athletes are in.

Note: If you are reading this from your mobile turn your phone in landscape mode to see the full table.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4


Hypertrophy / Low amplitude Eccentric Strength (Max) Strength Power Power – Speed


Linear Mechanic Short Sprint – Heavy Sled Long Sprint – Light Sled Unresisted/Resisted/Hill Sprints
Lateral Mechanic Lateral Heavy sled – short Lateral Light Sled Sprint – Long Unresisted/banded lateral Sprints


Linear Bilateral – short and slow Linear Bilateral long and fast Split stop short and fast Split stop long and fast
Linear Split Stop on the spot Linear Split stop short and slow Lateral Decel/Stop short – slow Lateral decel/Stop long-fast


Cutting (trunk/COM position) mechanic at different angles Large angles cutting (>90) Medium angles cutting (90-45 deg) Small angles cutting (<45 deg)


Finally, when it comes to exercise selection, a few examples (in no particular order) are included in our INSTAGRAM post, for both technical and strength development:

  • Spot Shuffles – create the right cutting mechanic and body position when approaching a hard change of direction, reducing forces on the planting leg.
  • Drop to stop – in this exercise (Video 1) the athlete learns to catch themselves focusing on the split leg position, the force absorption, and the weight distribution. add complexity to the deceleration task by adding appropriate external loading (Bands, Balls, Aqua bags), before integrating unloaded light jogs, run or sprint at increasing distances.
  • Decelerated Front and Lateral Step downs (Video 2) – focusing on the eccentric portion of the movement (the way down) and controlling the decelerations, using appropriate joint and torso angle. Add complexity using different loading strategies or adding the box height and or adding some kind of external load.
  • Skate hops (Video 3) This exercise helps with force absorption and production, supporting change of direction capabilities and helps eliminate lower-body imbalances, It can be progressed by adding a forward hop/jump after the lateral hops so to teach the re-distribution of forces, as well as the external loading discussed in the previous exercises.



  1. Smajla D, Kozinc Ž, Šarabon N. Associations between lower limb eccentric muscle capability and change of direction speed in basketball and tennis players. PeerJ. 2022 May 23;10:e13439.
  2. Bloomfield, J., Polman, R. & O’Donoghue P. Physical demands of different positions in FA Premier League soccer. J Sport Sci. 2007;32:143–4.
  3. Harper DJ, Carling C, Kiely J. high intensity acceleration and deceleration demands in elite team sports competitive match play: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Sport Med. 2019;49:1923–47.
  4. Falch HN, Rædergård HG, van den Tillaar R. Effect of approach distance and change of direction angles upon step and joint kinematics, peak muscle activation, and change of direction performance. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living. 2020 Oct 30;2:594567.
  5. Nygaard Falch H, Guldteig Rædergård H, van den Tillaar R. Effect of different physical training forms on change of direction ability: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine-open. 2019 Dec;5:1-37.
  6. Harper DJ, Cohen DD, Rhodes D, Carling C, Kiely J. Drop jump neuromuscular performance qualities associated with maximal horizontal deceleration ability in team sport athletes. European Journal of Sport Science. 2022 Jul 3;22(7):1005-16

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(a) For those who are not familiar with the Drop Jump (DJ), the test involves dropping off a box of set height, land and take off as quick as possible. It makes sense that if one is good at absorbing and re-using the forces generated by their own body falling from a set height, they will also be good at decelerating.

(b)Another not surprising fact from the study is that the bigger the box height showed the more differences between good and bad “decelerators”; 40cm was the minimum height to show substantial differences. Interestingly, the same study showed how concentric mean force (extending the knee to push the body off the ground) had the largest effect size difference between the good and bad deceleration group.



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