Remember how quick and agile you were as a child? You ran flat out on the playground, darting and dodging the other kids in games of tag. You were having fun, but you were also building valuable sports skills.
Speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) are basic fundamentals for alpine sports performance, as well as the hallmarks of every top-notch athlete. It’s true, some people are born with a natural ability to move swiftly and weave with precision and grace. Everyone, though, has the potential to increase power and sharpen response time through training. That’s because the body learns by doing… including your body!
What is SAQ?
SAQ workouts consist of short, intense drills that require you to accelerate or decelerate quickly, while moving backward, forward or side-to-side. SAQ improves balance, power and neuromuscular firing patterns so that your movements become fast, dynamic and precise. You’ll notice improvements in your response time and your ability to change direction lightning fast—as in skiing, snowboarding, or ice-skating.
Do You Need SAQ?
If you do alpine sports, or if like to play golf, tennis, or even table tennis, you’ll want to listen up. These and many other sports are explosive—and explosive sports must be trained explosively. Whether you are ripping down a mogul run, or skinny skiing across a snowfield, there is always a critical moment where you need extra power between the waist and the knees.
What’s more, SAQ training helps protect you from injury when you are trying new sports or adding new challenges to your routine. If you teach your muscles to fire contrary to what they are used to, you will prepare your tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints for the unexpected. SAQ will bulletproof you for the future, so you’ll be less likely to break. Oh, and did I mention SAQ is a whole lot of fun too?
Train Your Brain
SAQ training enhances spatial awareness and reinforces the movements and connectivity not only in your muscles, but in your brain too.
The central nervous system (CNS) sends messages to a muscle’s individual motor units to team up and recruit more muscle fiber –and that’s a good thing. The only thing to be cautious about is too much CNS activity, because when you go 90% or faster, it puts a tremendous amount of stress on your CNS and muscles, which makes you stronger, but which also can cause deep fatigue in your body. So make sure that you recover between SAQ workouts—it takes about 72-96 hours to recover.
Create a Schedule
Weeks 1-3 | Mind Your Movement Skills
Lace multi-directional movement patterns into your routine. These are fundamental skills that move you up, down, forward, backward, laterally, and diagonally—on flats, hills and stairs. Do them two or 3 times a week for three weeks, BEFORE moving onto SAQ drills.
Weeks 4+ | Time for SAQ!
Add SAQ drills 2-3 times per week (best to begin 6-8 weeks before hitting the slopes).
Four Corner Drill. Take four cones and make a square 10 yards apart, and place a ball in the middle. Run from the corner to the ball on the inside, back to the same corner, then up to the next corner. Repeat. Time yourself, or do the drill with a friend.
Big “T” Drill. Make a “T” as big as you’d like with cones; then, facing the “T” shuffle laterally to the right across the top of the “T,” when you get to the end, take a step forward, and shuffle left, to the middle, run forward to the bottom of the “T,” then, shuffle backward up, along the base of the “T,” and finish by shuffling left, back to the start. Repeat 5-10 times.
Zigzag Hops. Line cones up in a zigzag formation. Hop diagonally over the cones, up the line. Vary your hops—single leg, double leg, height, and distance—placing emphasis on landing softly and absorbing with your muscles.
Time / Reps
- Beginner/Intermediate: 30 seconds for each drill, with 30 second active recovery of walking (1-3 sets)
- Intermediate/Advanced: 30-60 seconds for each drill, with 30-60 second active recovery of walking or light jogging. (5-10 sets)
- Before you start your SAQ program, it’s important to have a solid athletic base of strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance and flexibility.
- Warm-up is a must. It takes a minimum of 10 minutes to properly warm up muscles, ligaments and joints. Try light jogging or spinning on a bike.
- Quality of shoes cannot be overemphasized. Be sure that your footwear fits well, is supportive and made for multi-directional movement.
- Quality of the movement is paramount. Maintain proper form and muscle control at all times.
- Less is more. Shorten the duration of your workouts to 20-30 minutes, with full recovery between sets.
- Remember–the emphasis is on going fast!