Speed Training with the Baltimore Ravens

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Part of creating those two inches of separation comes from Friday's combination of strength training and football speed proficiency through skill-based conditioning. "We work to get our guys stronger in the weight room. And as they become more proficient in their technique and position skills, they become more explosive," he says. "Strength training helps them get more push off the ground for longer strides, and mastering their skills makes them neurologically more efficient so they can function at a higher level."

On the strength side, Friday incorporates exercises like Squats, Leg Presses, Sit-Ups and Reverse Hypers, which target the glutes, hamstrings, quads, abdominals and lower back to improve pushoff and to maintain balance between opposing muscle groups. With regard to conditioning, Friday has created a program that allows his players to reach their highest speed potential. "You have to be conditioned to complete a task at a high speed," he says "Whether it's a 100-meter sprint or a play in a football game, conditioning tremendously affects your speed. Even in the NFL, there are guys whose conditioning levels keep them from reaching their speed potential."

Friday's conditioning plan consists of three phases. "To optimize speed potential and reduce the chance of injury, a conditioning plan must follow a progression that allows the players to adapt physiologically to the demands of football," Friday says. "That's why our program has three phases; each helps the players adapt to a different demand."

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With so few inches separating the best from the rest in the NFL, tiny improvements go a long way. Jeff Friday has made many tiny improvements in the Ravens' speed over the past nine seasons. "The measure of an athlete's speed is his time over 40 yards, or 1,440 inches," Friday says. "When we can improve an athlete's stride length a mere two inches, his 40 time drops a tenth of a second, from 4.7 to 4.6. Those two inches gain three feet over 40 yards."

Part of creating those two inches of separation comes from Friday's combination of strength training and football speed proficiency through skill-based conditioning. "We work to get our guys stronger in the weight room. And as they become more proficient in their technique and position skills, they become more explosive," he says. "Strength training helps them get more push off the ground for longer strides, and mastering their skills makes them neurologically more efficient so they can function at a higher level."

On the strength side, Friday incorporates exercises like Squats, Leg Presses, Sit-Ups and Reverse Hypers, which target the glutes, hamstrings, quads, abdominals and lower back to improve pushoff and to maintain balance between opposing muscle groups. With regard to conditioning, Friday has created a program that allows his players to reach their highest speed potential. "You have to be conditioned to complete a task at a high speed," he says "Whether it's a 100-meter sprint or a play in a football game, conditioning tremendously affects your speed. Even in the NFL, there are guys whose conditioning levels keep them from reaching their speed potential."

Friday's conditioning plan consists of three phases. "To optimize speed potential and reduce the chance of injury, a conditioning plan must follow a progression that allows the players to adapt physiologically to the demands of football," Friday says. "That's why our program has three phases; each helps the players adapt to a different demand."

The Ravens—particularly the defense and its point-scoring ability—churned through the '06 NFL season to tally the best record in the AFC, 13-3. The team's success and playoff berth were derived from the combination of speed, intensity and ferocity, which in turn resulted from their peak physical conditioning.

Following are the three phases and corresponding workouts through which each Raven progresses to reach his maximum speed potential. Perform a 20-minute warm-up before each workout, then unlock your speed.

Phase 1
8 Weeks

Energy-Specific Training

Early in the off-season, before Phase 1 even begins, the Ravens spend time increasing their conditioning levels by performing 440-, 330- and 220-yard sprints. Then, eight weeks before they report to their camps in May, the players begin Phase 1, cutting their sprints down to distances closer to those run in a football game. Friday says, "We use this phase to condition the proper energy system used in football. Research indicates that the average NFL play lasts 5.05 seconds, and the average time between plays is 38.46 seconds. We try to work with this same work-to-rest interval during this phase."

Week 1

Reps/Distance/Recovery: 10x110/walk-back recovery; 10xHalf-Gassers [width of field]/ 60 sec rest
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Week 2

Reps/Distance/Recovery: 10x110/walk-back recovery; 10xHalf-Gassers [width of field]/45 sec rest
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Week 3

Reps/Distance/Recovery: 5x100; 5x80; 5x60/walk-back recovery
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Week 4

Reps/Distance/Recovery: 6x80; 6x60; 6x40/walk-back recovery
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Week 5-8

Perform change-of-direction drills, then perform one of the two sprint workouts below.

Sets/Reps/Distance: 2x8-10/40 yards
Recovery: Walk-back recovery between reps; 3-minute recovery between sets
Frequency: 2-3 times per week or
Sets/Reps/Distance: 2x16/20 yards
Recovery: Walk-back recovery between reps; 2½-minute recovery between sets
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Phase 2
4 Weeks

Position-Specific Training

This period, which emphasizes football patterns, begins when the players come together for mini camp in May. "This is all about getting into true football shape," Friday says. "During this period, our players focus on position-specific patterns that they will be expected to execute in a game. This training develops technique, as well as specific conditioning."

Sprint Workout

Sets/Reps: 3x10
Distance: Varies. See patterns below.
Recovery: 0-35 seconds between reps; 2½ minutes between sets
Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Position Patterns

Perform directional patterns to both sides. Jog back to start position; then either go right away or rest 35 seconds. It's obviously harder to go without rest, but Friday notes that some of his players like to hit it right away. You decide how hard to make it!

WR—post, corner, run block, hook, fade

RB—swing pass, toss sweep, hand off, seam route

QB —3-step drop, 5-step drop, rollout, tuck and run

OL—pull, shuffle and sprint, run block, pass set, drive sled for 5 yards

DL—bull rush, spin move, downfield pursuit angle

LB/DB —angled pass drops, shuffle and break on ball, turn and cover deep route

Phase 3

This phase is out of Friday's control, because it happens during game play in training camp. The point is to get the team ready for the real demands of playing. "During this phase, we get our players in hitting shape," Friday says. "And that can only be done through playing the game. You need the actual game to get you in shape. You see guys get tired in the first couple of preseason games, because it usually takes them two to three games to get in shape."

The players adapt to the specific demands of the game, including carrying about 15 pounds of equipment for several hours. According to Friday, the Ravens increase their speed potential in game situations by improving their ability "to recognize or read situations, select the correct solution and then execute it."


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: FOOTBALL | WORKOUTS | RECOVERY | SPRINT