Change of direction training on the CNS intensive scale

When viewing the training of team sports through the lens of a CNS stress perspective, it is intriguing how we may classify change of direction. Note that I am not referring to things like agility ladders (which don’t seem to have much merit outside of perhaps being used in a warm-up) but rather 5-10-5’s (pro agility), the L-drill, or any other such agility drill.

Of course, it depends on the effort level and doing these drills at a submaximal speed (I believe this is often referred to as sport-specific metabolic conditioning or something of the like) would keep the CNS stress relatively low.

However, attempting these drills at max effort changes things. The way I see it is that over such short distances, the athletes obviously are not reaching anywhere near max speed nor are they accelerating in the same manner as in a linear acceleration because of the subsequent deceleration and direction change.

Based on this ALONE, it might be intuitive to classify the CNS stress similar to or maybe slightly less than speed endurance which would be a 2/2.5 on Charlie’s 4-point scale.

But of course, it is not so simple. I remember reading Charlie mention that speed change is highly stressful (I believe he was referring to easy-fast-easy drills). Given the nature of the change of direction drills in which forces must be rapidly developed, rapidly decelerated, completely redirected, and reaccelerated seems to indicate that these drills are highly stressful even though maximal speed or complete acceleration is never reached.

Therefore we might classify the CNS stress above speed endurance but perhaps slightly less than maximal speed so roughly a 1.5. The implications of this are that drills of this nature would most certainly be limited to high days and probably replace, rather than be in addition to, regular speed days. That is, in a team sport training program with 3 high days, Monday and Friday would include linear speed with Wednesday being change of direction and in a 2 high day program, Monday could be linear with Thursday being the multidirectional day.

This is my current understanding. Did Charlie ever talk specifically about this? What does the forum think?

Change of direction drills that are executed via relative short distance linear sprints <10meters before the direction changes are comparable to the CNS stress of very short acceleration sprints of the same/similar distance. However, as you referenced, the structural demands are much different. In this way, the muscle yielding work is magnified and certain connective tissues are stressed more significantly proportional to the magnitude of direction change (displacement of the vector).

In any regard, in a High/Low system the “agility” work will assuredly be performed on a High day and the question as to whether it may be performed in addition to or along with linear speed work is entirely a function of the volume of each.

From a pure intensive scale there are no conventionally performed agility drills that are remotely close to max velocity or speed endurance work because intensity is defined by force:velocity characteristics and in this way the velocities achieved in max V and speed endurance are fantastically greater than what is attainable in any typical agility drill.

The fastest sprinters in the world are operating at less than 45% of the max V at 10meters at less than 5.4m/s. These same sprinters are hitting +12m/s at max V around 70meters.

So while the structural stress of certain change of direction drills, performed at max intensity, are profound, their placement on the intensity scale, while factored as high in a high/low scheme, are no where close to that of max V and speed endurance.

Excellent points. I underestimated the intensity of speed endurance runs but it’s clear now that it goes back to the height/breadth tradeoff where speed endurance is a relatively lower peak (compared to max V) but with greater volume, thereby making the CNS impact very high.

With that said, would it then be logical, for team sport athletes, to replace change of direction training where the speed endurance work WOULD be for a track athlete? This effectively makes it easier to run 3 high days if agility is the middle day and no linear speed is done on that day. Then from that point, a gradual shift could occur to incorporate more change of direction on the other high days (with corresponding drop in linear speed volume) as the athletes make the necessary structural adaptations to handle such high forces.

I have unconventional views on “agility” training, along with sports technical/biomechanical skill development, that include a graduated/incremental increase in the intensity of movement over time in order to ensure mechanical optimization. In this way, the initial lower intensity method of execution that begins at the 50-60th percentile presents a great deal of flexibility with respect to its placement in the training week.

As far as conventional approaches, such as what you’ve outlined in your final paragraph, that is logical and a certain improvement upon the consecutive days of hard work that are found at nearly every program.

I can recall reading, and hearing Charlie at his seminar in Sydney, where Charlie suggested in limiting agility and change of direction work due to the excessive demands placed on the ligaments and tendons. It was suggested to work on Linear speed, and then the change of direction work would occur in the team training and the game situation.

Correct, however something Charlie may not have been fully aware of is the monumental lack of understanding of sport coaches to effectively structure sport practice, instruct/monitor the biomechanical advancement of not only specific sport skill but also all related/supportive movement.

Charlie as a track/sprint coach surely recognized the shortcomings of other track coaches be it in biomechanics recognition or workload planning; however, I’m not certain if he recognized the short comings of the Football, Rugby, Basketball, Hockey, Aussy Rules, Lacrosse, American football… coaches who usually have tactical knowledge but severely lack in biomechanics and planning/programming knowledge.

For this reason, Charlie’s position was to forego the change of direction demands and delay them until the athletes were under the supervision of sport coaches in training camps and allow sport practice to develop the requisite change of direction skills.

The reality, however, is that short of the sport coaching field receiving overnight enlightenment by way of what I’ve referred to as program management, the athletes require enhanced preparation prior to training camps in order to mitigate the disastrous nature of the training camp workloads.

Exactly correct Grooster.

It would be best to stick to what you think and what you have done and what your opinions are.
I don’t speak for Charlie.
I am here to give my experiences based on my entire athletic experiences before, during and after Charlie.
My job as I now see it is not to interpret anything Charlie said or thought or felt. Unless there is something I feel I know for sure.
I appreciate you trying to get into his head.
CHarlie was not God, he was prepared to be wrong if he was but when it came to what he did he was not wrong about much. He would be the first to tell you this.

It sounds to me you are looking to have someone tell you it’s okay to have 3 HI days per week. One issue with Team sports is the individual gets put into a group and the art and science of sport may be compromised.
I have commented on this before that Dick Vermeil told Charlie he was right about the speed development and all of his methods were sound ( I am paraphrasing here) but the reality is there is simply No possible way in the NFL to avoid having the players do the volume of plays and patterns that they had to do in order to perform them correctly.
This is one coach making one comment but it’s a good example of how program design and methods has to viewed according to the context.
I go back to the point of things you might be able to administer and control.
One of the NFL coaches that came here to work with CMF was saying it’s tough to get the players to do this but you have to try. I know one of the guys working with Charlie along the way had barrels and filled them with cold water with ice and made the athletes get into the barrels ( or tubs or pales or buckets or what ever you can find) after training.


But of course, it is not so simple. I remember reading Charlie mention that speed change is highly stressful (I believe he was referring to easy-fast-easy drills). Given the nature of the change of direction drills in which forces must be rapidly developed, rapidly decelerated, completely redirected, and reaccelerated seems to indicate that these drills are highly stressful even though maximal speed or complete acceleration is never reached.

When Charlie spoke about speed change being highly stressful I am not sure he was referring to EFE or FEF drills. He was also not speaking about the nature of change of direction drills to build speed because he would never train speed with agility drills or any change of direction drills.
When he spoke about speed change being highly stressful he was referring to within a run or race or repetition of a run. He was speaking about how running relaxed and smooth costs less to the entire system. You have your total output but you also have the other external costs of training. Charlie warned about the potential injury damage that can occur within a run or race if and when the athlete “tries” to accelerate.

Hello Angela, the point of what I wrote is that I heard and read Charlie state/write on more than one occasion, which is also what swogger referenced, that he was not a proponent of agility training and he suggested to “allow the game/practice to take care of the change of direction work”.

In ideological theory, this makes sense; however, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of team sport coaches are uneducated in the areas as of load management, running/movement mechanics, motor skill development, and more. For this reason, it is to the athletes detriment to not be prepared for change of direction work prior to camp periods. Trust that this is entirely based off of experience and observation and certainly not an attempt to get inside Charlie’s head.

Interesting. Thanks for the clarification, it appears I may have misinterpreted his reference to speed change. It certainly makes sense that a smooth run results in less stress than forcing a speed change. However, I wonder if the FEF/EFE can still be considered highly stressful due to the transitions (analogous to the idea that turning on a lightbulb takes more energy than keeping it on, whether or not that’s true).

James, I agree with your assessment of sport coaches. Perhaps it would be ideal for team sport athletes to focus solely on enhancing linear speed in the offseason and leave the COD to practice/training camp. In this way, resources would not have to be devoted to agility drills and a larger “speed reserve” could be developed. However, due to the demands placed upon the athletes in camp, by the inability of coaches to recognize the need for graded exposure, athletes must be “prepared to be prepared” so to speak, making such a plan unfeasible.

When speed change becomes very stressful is in a race when you see a sprinter prematurely ease off then have to drop the hammer again. This is different than an EFE or FEF drill in which the differential in speed change is quite moderate and largely predicated by volitional changes to arm action.

Indeed, the paradox exists due to the misdirected nature of training camps and most practices in general. In this way, it is not “prepare to be prepared” it is “prepare to be ill-prepared”

Excellent, I can see the difference now, thanks for clarifying. Well done with the “prepare to be ill-prepared”

I’m not sure you can have a COD ‘training’ debate in any form with out discussing vision, perception, anticipation (and first).
Unless it’s a discussion about combine-like events.