June 24 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Every strength and conditioning coach, every fitness coach, every speed coach, and every personal trainer has their own ‘killer drill’. The drill is designed to take everything a player has, to drain them completely, so that when competition arises an athlete will know just how far they can push themselves. It essentially teaches the athletes how manage their energy, and in turn, how to direct every bit of it to the task at hand.
As a swim coach, where along with focusing on an athlete’s mechanics, I have to focus on improving their speed and overall fitness, I have one of these drills. I call them ‘killer lengths’. The lengths can vary in number and difficulty pending of course on the age and level of the athletes, but they are molded around a certain system. In my case swimmers are given a certain amount of time to complete a length of the pool and an exercise, where the amount of time decrements with each length, and the exercises increase in intensity. Depending on the level of the athletes, there may added exercises if length and exercise is not completed in the allotted time.
For example, a swimmer may be given 40 seconds to complete one length of the pool and 20 push ups (on the first length), then 35 seconds and 25 stomach crunches on the second length, so on and so forth. The drill does in deed push each athlete to the limit, forcing them to dig deeper and deeper to complete the drill. Showing them their limits, until of course - there limits grow. Of course a good trainer will also know how far to ‘push’.
So where am I going with this? Simple. The 49ers strength and conditioning coaches, headed by Jerry Attaway have their own series of drills designed to push an athlete to lengths they never thought possible. Their primary drill to do this, involves a series of sprinting exercise in deep sand. Along with improving cardiovascular endurance, the sand forces muscles to work harder and emphasizes the importance of flexibility.
“The sand that is - that’s just to grind you at the end of the workout.” said Attaway when explaining some of his strength and conditioning techniques.
So while most of the physical training that goes on in the 49ers camp is position specific, everyone is involved in the sand workouts. Being in optimal shape is crucial for any athlete. It keeps them healthy, prevents injury, and obviously benefits the body by increasing cardiovascular and muscular strength and endurance, along with improving overall flexibility.
Attaway’s sand drills are the ultimate test of a player’s physical capabilities, but of course they also help teach athletes how to push themselves beyond the edge, and leave it all out on the field.