• Nonlinear Speed Kills, Right?
    How to develop sport-specific agility training to ensure safe and effective change of direction (COD)
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  • Nonlinear speedChange of Direction

    Change of direction (COD) is a major factor in many sports and sporting events. 

    It is important to develop these attributes with each athlete in order to aid in the process of improving performance during game situations. The same application is utilized with nonlinear speed training as with linear speed training but the nonlinear training involves an increased amount of change of direction. 

    With nonlinear speed development, it is important to determine the movement specifics of the different COD associated with the sport, or activity. Attempting to mimic these movement patterns will allow for a more specific training session that can target nonlinear speed development.

    These training sessions typically take place over shorter distances and at very high intensities. These shorter distances allow for a more sport-specific speed training session. Table 1 is an example of how nonlinear speed development can be trained.

    Objective  Number of Reps   Distance Covered   Number of Cuts  Rest Period  Intensity  Volume 
    Nonlinear speed development 10 20 m 3 Full Recovery 100% 200 m
    m = meters 
    * Cuts at 5m, 10m, 15m; finishes at 20m 
    Table 1. Nonlinear Speed Development Protocol  


    Practical Application 

    This example allows for nonlinear speed to be trained over a short distance with multiple changes of direction (shuttles at 5 m). As shown in Table 1, full recovery needs to be taken between each repetition in order to maintain the quality of repetitions. Using this same example, a coach can prescribe the same number of repetitions and the same volume with a different number of cuts. The total distance covered can still be 20 m but the distance of the shuttles can set at 10 m. 

    So, this 10-m shuttle would involve one cut, down and back for a total of 20 m. Coaches can adjust the distance covered between two fixed points (or shuttle distance) in order to target greater or lesser amounts of COD. The variance in COD will likely depend on the athlete’s sport. For example, a football wide receiver may be more likely to make cuts at 10 m, while a basketball guard is more likely to cut at 5 m. As with any other type of training, nonlinear speed and COD ability should always relate back to sport-specific movements.

  • Kevin Cronin

    About the Author:

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW has worked with Collegiate, Olympic, and Professional level athletes over the last three years, working with All-Americans, All-Conference selections, NCAA National Champions, National Champions, and World Champions. Kevin has worked at Stanford University and the University of Texas as a volunteer Strength and Conditioning Coach. He currently serves as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Colorado College.

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  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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