Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category



Acceleration – It’s not just the legs

When athletes think of acceleration they immediately think leg strength, but that is only a part of the Acceleration equation. Acceleration requires huge force production over a longer ground contact than at top speed, making maximal strength for bodyweight is critical. Stride frequency and stride length are slower and shorter in acceleration than at top speed. Upper body strength is also essential to great acceleration because improved arm strength and mechanics are more important to driving the athlete forward during the acceleration phase than at top speed.


Many athletes only think of acceleration in terms of running straight ahead for a short distance. In reality, acceleration can take place in any direction. In actual play, athletes accelerate forward, backward, sideways, and diagonally. Many think acceleration occurs only from a static start. On the contrary, acceleration can also take place from a moving start at any number of speeds. For instance, a player in motion may have to accelerate quickly or decelerate quickly on the field. Both of these are forms of acceleration, and both can be improved with proper training.

Here we are using forward acceleration from a static start as a common way to describe the muscles and biomechanics of the Acceleration.

There are a number of physical and technical characteristics that can lead to poor acceleration. The first and most important characteristic is relative body strength. How strong an athlete is for how much they weigh is directly proportional to how well they can accelerate. Since acceleration is an athlete overcoming their own inertia with the force they produce, the leaner (less body fat) and the stronger they are at that weight are predictors of how well they will accelerate.

To look at the situation generally, the major muscle difference between acceleration and top speed is that the quads are used more in acceleration, and the hamstrings and hip flexors are utilized more during top speed. The most important areas to strengthen for acceleration are the gluteal and quadriceps muscles, the calves and muscles of the upper body, especially the anterior deltoid. Maximal strength is important here because ground contact times are much longer during acceleration than at top speed. Since there is a greater amount of time to produce force, the more absolutely strong a muscle is, coupled with greater relative body strength, the better the acceleration. For acceleration training, more maximal weights can be used in exercises such as the squat, lunge walks, chin ups, pulls ups, calf raises, and step ups.

We know that acceleration has a longer ground contact, smaller stride length, less stride frequency, different technique and teaching cues and relies differently on the muscles of the body when compared to top speed. Since there are different muscle actions during acceleration and top speed, it is logical that there will be different cues used when teaching technique. For instance, for force production at foot contact, acceleration should be taught as a “pushing” motion.


For good acceleration, keep the center of gravity low and forward while trying to push out as long strides as possible. As a vast generalization, a forward body lean of 45 degrees is recommended. However, it is difficult for any athlete to learn to “lean forward”; genetically we’re programmed to keep our bodies from leaning forward and falling. (You fell, a large ferocious animal ate you – we learned!) Continuous practice of “falling starts” helps to overcome what we’re hard wired to not do, breaking those bad habits.

Falling start video

Driving arm action is also critical to proper acceleration. Your arms not only add power and speed but they are related to your legs and force propulsion. The faster your arms move, the faster your legs move.

When running, the elbow should generally be at a 90 degree angle, with the motion taking place in the shoulder, which drives the arms. The action is not at the elbow or the wrist, meaning that the 90 degree angle at the elbow joint remains constant throughout. Shoulders are forward facing in forward acceleration and face the direction you want to go in sideways acceleration. Hands are not clenched, but open with the palm facing inward and sideways. As your arm goes back your thumb should be parallel to where your back pocket would be, not much further (or you’re wasting energy and motion). The opposite arm should simultaneously be coming up so that you can see your thumb in front of your chin or nose. If the athlete can’t see the hand, the hand is in the wrong place; we don’t want the hand to cross midline – that misaligns the body.

The angle of your arm to your body (humerous to torso) is critical to the angle of the height of the knee on the opposite leg – and we want the knee to drive up. With your arms in the wrong position your hip will be out of position for maximum movement.



Common mistakes with Arm Action video:



Finally, the athlete should draw in breath right before the acceleration and hold it for the first few steps. This will allow for a Valsavla maneuver and a subsequent better opportunity for your nervous system to produce force.

Coach Dominic Casciato CSCS

Parisi Speed School Port Washington

Coach Dominic Casciato CSCS   Coach Dominic was NCAA Soccer All American, an Academic All American and a Strength and Conditioning All American as well as playing professional soccer in England. He has helped coach one of the most successful Men’s Soccer development programs in the United States and in late December 2013 his U16 team became the US Youth Soccer National League Champions and was the first team in tournament history to play 7 consecutive games without conceding a single goal. He is a Parisi Speed School Coach in Port Washington and a TFW Instructor.


We have some online coaching places coming up for anyone looking for a specific training program to maximise their performance.

Contact us @

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 16.34.09Duncan French video Presentations and PDF’s now available for download.


Strength and conditioning coaches and sports scientists need to stay on top of current practise with regards to research and applied methodology in all areas associated with the profession.

This workshop will bring together the presenters extensive experience and research background in the field of strength and power development to give the participant a thorough overview of the current research and application of basic to advanced strength and power methods and key planning considerations to support these methods. Duncan will also be shairng information from the up and coming 2013 UKSA  conference that he has worked massivley on throughout the last 9 months to bring the best and up to date content.

Duncan is currently lead Strength and Conditioning Coach for the North West region of the English Institute of Sport where he works with GB Taekwondo.He is also Chairman of the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA). Previous roles have included Head of S&C  for premiership football club Newcastle United, Lead S&C coach for GB Basketball and many other consultancy and academic roles within well regarded institutions.


  • Current research and application on periodisation and planning for strength and power
  • Power development key considerations and current research
  • Hypertrophy key considerations and current research
  • Application of strength and power training within high performance environments such as Premiership football and olympic sports.
  • Training for strength considerations including basic, intermediate and advanced methods both theory and application. Some of these methods include but are not limited to:
  • Cluster training theory and application
  • Occlusion training theory and application
  • Complex training and post activation potentiation (PAP)


High Performance Strength and Conditioning:  An applied perspective- A unique look at the presenters experience with S&C at the highest level of sport. It’s not an ideal scenario, Duncan works within a team and the application of our ‘ideal’ model of delivery. This practical session will illustrate some of these concepts.

Strength and power methods- Get under the bar! The participants will experiment with some of the methods outlined in the lectures and experience them for themselves.

What you will get in the download is the following 

  • Video footage of both Presentations that was presented on the day in the lecture room along with PDF’s.
  • Video footage of both floor practical presentations that was given in the gym
  • Lecture presentations PFD’s on nearly 6 hours of Video content available to download for only 49 euro.

You will also receive up to 30 extra PDF’s on training/nutrition/research cause we are feeling in a good mood.


frenchWith over 10 years experience as a strength and conditioning specialist, Duncan has a wealth of knowledge in the physical preparation of elite and high performance athletes.  He has coached athletes from a host of different sports at all levels, including professional sports, those competing to Olympic and World-class standards, NCAA athletes, and athletes affiliated to National Sports Institutes and Olympic Training Centres.

Duncan gained his Doctorate degree (PhD) in Exercise Physiology at the University of Connecticut, USA.  He has authored/co-authored over 40 scientific manuscripts and 5 book chapters in the fields of strength and conditioning and resistance exercise, and has presented work at scientific congresses and clinics throughout Europe, North America and Asia.  An editorial board member for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Duncan was a founder member of the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA).  He has sat on the Board of Directors for the UKSCA since 2008.

Duncan is a fully Accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach with the UKSCA, and hold Certified Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) status with Distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  He holds USA Weightlifting Club Coach certification, and is an accredited sports scientist for research and support with the British Association of Sport and Exercises Sciences (BASES)

For 7 years Duncan was a Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach with the English Institute of Sport.  In 2006, Duncan was the Strength and Conditioning Coach to the England Basketball Men’s and Women’s national teams that won Bronze medals at the XVIII Commonwealth Games.  Following this success, Duncan acted as the National Lead for Strength and Conditioning to Great Britain Basketball for 6 years.  Duncan currently acts as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach to Newcastle United FC in the English Premiership.

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