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SotonFencer
-18th March 2011, 14:13
Anyone include this in their regime? Do any Coaches use it in classes regularly? Rhys -do you have any thoughts? Does anyone know what sort of SAQ drills they use in the academy training?

*Speed, Agility, Quickness.

S&C Guy
-18th March 2011, 21:36
OK, yes i have some thoughts on this subject, really glad its been asked!

First of all, cards on the table, i have at one point in my career been 'qualified' as a SAQ Coach. Looking back i really don't know what this means, which i'll explain later!

So, SAQ. As you said this stands for Speed, Agility Quickness and it is a brand name not a form of training. SAQ is a company that began, with the purpose of selling equipment and educational resources aimed at improving the named physical qualities. It sold Ladders, Bungee chords and other related items as well as books explaining how to use these items and they ran courses to 'qualify' someone to use the equipment. Their goal was first and foremost to sell equipment, not make people faster or more agile. When i went on the course they spent more time showing us the brochure of equipment than teaching us things and then explaining about other courses we could sign up for. The 'qualification' only lasted for one year for some strange reason and then the idea was you were meant to redo the course to become requalified! Ridiculous!
They also have a lot of research backing up the use of their equipment. The studies have athletes go through ladders or over hurdles in various directions timed, then they train the athlete on the ladders and hurdles for a couple of weeks and finally run them through the original test again. The athletes go quicker second time round and therefore the equipment must work (In theory, again i will explain in a minute!)

Now the reason i give you this background story is to help explain the marketing machine that is SAQ.
In sport moving quickly or with great agility is about some basic principles, how much Force you can put into the ground and the technique you use to do it. Force is about strength training which i hope you are all starting to include in your training! Technique is, in theory what SAQ helps with. However how many sportsmen at the olympics, or world cups for football, or rugby etc, run like people who are going through ladders or over hurdles. This is even more important to consider when thinking about fencing footwork!!!

But they have done studies showing speed improvements with the equipment you might say?!? Those studies demonstrated that by training with the equipment you can get better at going over the equipment, it is a learned effect that has made you better at going through ladders or over hurdles, not an improvement in a motor skill related to sport that can be exhibited on the pitch or piste. Using an example, learning to perform handbrake turns is fun and looks cool, but in reality it doesn’t make you better at driving, its just entertaining!

So onto my actual recommendation, instead of just blabbering on! In my coaching i have not used a ladder or hurdle in about 5 years! I'm not saying i will never use them, they do have uses, however the athletes i work with do not need or haven't needed them so far! As i said, speed and agility are about 2 things, technique and force ouput (this includes power and rate of force development). To get quicker you should focus on getting stronger, improve your plyometric ability and then improve your fencing footwork technique. If your knee caves in or you lean forward during fights, you are losing the ability to exhibit force, these are technique issues. If your technique is perfect, but when you perform an attacking lunge, the opponent can wave to the crowd and adjust his mask in the time it takes you to get there then you should focus on increasing the force you can put into the ground to get your body moving!

From an agility point of view, agility means the athletes ability to change direction. In fencing this may happen if you attack and then have to back track suddenly after missing your attack. To do this you have to decelerate the forward movement and then accelerate in the opposite direction. Deceleration means absorbing energy which can be huge due to gravity, bodyweight and the pace of the current attack. Acceleration means getting your body mass going again from a (all be it brief) static position. Guess what deceleration and acceleration require, Force going into the ground, hence strength training is required!

I'll leave it there as this has become a short novel as usual. If you have specifc questions about my response though fire them over! This is a contentious topic for many and I don’t expect everyone agrees with me so again feel free to question me if you are not sure on some of my points!

Remember, a = F/m (acceleration = Force / mass) . Mass or body weight will not change much, but Force output can be increased, thereby increasing acceleration. S&C coaches don’t know everything, but Sir Isaac Newton is tough to argue with. Fast feet without large force output will not result in a fast athlete!

Rhys

SotonFencer
-22nd March 2011, 17:46
Thanks for your reply Rhys. As always; informative and interesting.

I thought SAQ was just a name for generic agility training...

I completely understand where you are coming from - More strength = More power. But isnít power using strength at speed? I feel that there could be a form of training somewhere between strength training and technical training that allows you to train to use that strength QUICKER. Like CESH has commented on in a previous post - doing other sports i.e. Basketball or badminton is one way. Would a form of specific agility training for fencing be also be beneficial? It seems that they do some for the academy fencers?

Does anyone have any ideas for this specific type of agility training or is it really a waste of time for casual (not elite) fencers?

P.S. I will save my questions about plyometrics for another post!

S&C Guy
-22nd March 2011, 22:33
Well if you want to fire in a question about plyometrics go for it because that would be my recomendation, and i will try not to go off on any tangents here!! Here goes...

Power is strength at speed and this, is the essence of sports performance. It is vitally important, but without a base of strength no Power can come. In a lot of exercises and movements maximum power occurs around 50-70% of max strength, eg. if an athlete can squat 100kg, max power will occur when squatting 50-70kg. Then move this onto say a rugby field, if i have to tackle a 90kg Outside Centre and i want to hit him as hard as i can, then i need to be squatting 130-180kg. Now if i want to tackle a heavier forward with max power i need to be even stronger. Hopefully this demonstrates the importance of basic strength training for beginners.

Now plyometrics are nearly as important for several reasons. They teach your body to be exhibit force rapidly and skillfully. They help you to use your bodies natural elasticity (your tendons) for some movement rather than constantly using muscular force. This means you expend less energy for your movement, eg. studies have found runners with good plyometric ability recieve 60% of the energy they put into the ground back due to the elasticity of the achillies tendon. Finally plyometics help prevent the protective mechanisms of the body from kicking in when they feel you are in danger. If you have ever jumped out of a tree or off a wall and tried to keep your legs straight (if you haven't please don't try this now!) you'll notice your body automatically makes your legs go limp, this is your body preventing you from hurting your muscles or joints. This can be prevented through training but you have to take it slow and build up to it untill your strength and plyometric ability are good enough.

Plyometrics can be dangerous and are often done wrong so be careful. It is important to start at the beginning, with short jumps and sticking the landing on a flat surface and built from there (i spent 2 weeks on this phase with some GB Pentathletes which shows you how slow you should go!). The basics are on our Academy framework on the website, with jump and stick, ankling, continuous jumps, side shuffling etc. I've seen videos of the Italian fencers doing some incredibly advanced plyos, however i can assure you, they started with a basic jump and stick!

Ok there is an intro/overview of some of my thoughts. Again any questions or thoughts based on what i've written here shoot them over! Hopefully i have stayed more on topic this time! Ha!

Rhys