What exactly is “footwork”?

What exactly is “footwork”?

With summer rapidly approaching, I have a lot of new athletes contacting me to start training. One of their requests is to work on “footwork”.  After tons of research, I have yet to find the secret workout to this lacking issue. You can Youtube “footwork drills” and come up with about 3,360 videos. So what do all of these great trainers know that I don’t? When looking at the videos, I came up with one conclusion.  A “speed” ladder appears to be the secret tool. Most of the videos show an athlete doing about 20 drills back and forth, up and down a ladder. I have two concerns about this. One, footwork is an overused term that has very little function in sports. Second, “speed” ladders don’t make you fast. They only help with coordination and can be used as a conditioning tool. What does footwork have to do with sports? Of course, we have to be able to move quickly.  But how does running down a ladder, taking short choppy steps, relate to on-field play? Not only does a ladder have little function in mechanics, but it also neglects the principles and factors of speed and/or power. When we look to get faster or more powerful we must impose a force to the body such as resistance or weight. By doing ladder drills we are not only minimizing function in terms of short steps, but we are also lacking a full range of joint motions that we would activate in a plyometric jump or squat.

Unless you are training to become a better tap dancer, footwork is a term used for trainers who think quick feet mean a quick athlete.  This is just not true. An athlete becomes faster by performing more traditional training such as single
leg squats, split squats, box jumps and hurdle jumps which include ALL lower limb muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings and most importantly the glutes. Although doing Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats might not look as cool or make you look fast while doing them, they are far more beneficial and create a faster athlete, which in turn will make an athlete have “faster feet”.

The ladder has great benefits for proprioception training (balance), coordination and conditioning. But it should not be considered a “speed” ladder for footwork, as is suggested through those Youtube videos and some trainers.  With the ladder, the outcome is not always the goal.

Don’t get wrapped up in slang terms or fast schemes. Put the hard work in the weight room and you will reap the benefits when the season starts.

“Well, he said he was a Certified Trainer!”

“Well, he said he was a Certified Trainer!”

In the big money business of sports training, combines and camps, it seems like there are a lot of people out there who are calling themselves “trainers”.  So, as an athlete or a parent, how do you know if your trainer is good?

  • Did he go to college for Exercise Science?
  • How long has he trained athletes?
  • Did he participate in any internships?
  • Who has he trained?

As parents and athletes we are exposed to many choices, but we are not asking questions.

When we buy a car we look up Consumer Reports, dig through reviews and ask peoples suggestions. When we buy a house we check out the neighborhood and have a thorough inspection performed. But it seems with our children we just drop them off at the gym and assume the best. Aren’t our children our greatest investment? The best thing you can do is ask questions and dig deep into the trainers program.

A good trainer should have played at least high school level sports. This gives the trainer some insight to what the athlete is thinking and feeling. Though, keep in mind, just because the trainer played a sport in college or professionally does NOT make him a trainer. There are many facilities that advertise their trainer who played Division 1 sports or even played at the professional level, but they may not be qualified otherwise.  That’s great that they played at a high level but does he or she know about structure and programs. What happens when you have an athlete who has an injury or a dysfunction? If the trainer doesn’t have a proper anatomy and physiology education, how is he or she going to be able to know how the body moves, or tell a Physical Therapist what’s going on? Does your trainer know the difference between strained muscles compared to underutilized muscles? Does your trainer know what part of the body needs to be stable versus mobile or vice versa? Do they do any type of screening to look at current or future issues you might have? These are questions that only qualified trainer know answers to.

A good trainer should not only have an extensive background, but their program should be one of proper progressions and periodization’s. The structure should change from athlete to athlete because each person has different abilities and needs. A good trainer can point out and fix asymmetries, dysfunctions, bad movement patterns and potential injuries. A good trainer might sometimes not have a quick fix to an athlete’s 40 yard dash time, he or she might not get the athlete’s bench press max up in a week or two, but the training will get the athlete closer to their goals in a safe manner. As parents, we need to understand that a true trainer has a systematic program that goes through a series of tests and evaluations. These tests will help your athlete stay on the court or field longer with reduced risk of injury.

Although a good trainer cannot guarantee results or promise no injuries, your chances of injury go down and you are getting a lot better training for you money.

New to blogging

I began this blog as a forum for thoughts, ideas and insight into fitness, athletic performance and sports nutrition. Hopefully my writing is insightful, informative and thought provoking. Please post questions or commits. So sit back and let’s get ready, here goes nothing!