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Breaking good….not bad!

Speed training is something that is used in football S&C programs. One area that is often neglected in this process is not just a player’s ability to produce force and create speed but how well they decelerate.

Andrzejewski et.al. (2013) reported that 90% of 147 player’s sprints lasted under 5 seconds across 10 matches. 

This shows that the majority of quick movements from players are in fact acceleration or changes of direction. Players can gain advantages over these distances through improvements in technique but also by shrewd interventions within the rules of the game. Contact with another player may give you the vital few seconds needed to gain an advantage in certain situations. 

So where does deceleration come into this? 

Lets take our footballers and compare them to the car of a formula 1 driver. Both are highly skilled machines that are made up to perform explosive and quick movements. 

However if we were to take the car of Lewis Hamilton and remove the brakes there is no doubt it would be a matter of time before a crash occurred. Not only would the driver have doubts about increasing speed they would also lose control of the car once the car has to decelerate to change direction or avoid obstacles such as other cars. Even if they were to make it round the track it would be at a fraction of the time. 

Lets take this back to the pitch. 

Players who do not have brakes or are weak or poor in deceleration mechanics will be more likely to crash or in the case of football they will be at higher risk of injury. Even if injuries do not occur they will be losing out on valuable time if their mechanics and technique during deceleration is not efficient. The fact that 90% of football sprints last under 5 seconds show that players will be expected to decelerate a number of times throughout a game. 

The strength of the player and their technique are both aspects to consider when improving deceleration.

Strength
Players have to have sufficient strength to slow and stop their body when moving at speed. Eccentric strength or ‘motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening under load’ is where players have to be competent. They have to be able to absorb the force they have built during acceleration in order to slow and stop their body moving. 

Technique
Players have to learn to drop their centre of mass to enable their body to slow down. This also puts them in a good position to make their next move whether it be changing direction or re-accelerating. Players must be able to adopt the athletic position during deceleration.

In a football context it simply isn’t enough to have the ability to decelerate with perfect technique. The key to game transfer will be the ability to select the correct time and speed of deceleration based on game triggers. This will be vital in order to conserve precious energy stores and maximise the effectiveness of the movement. For example if a player is easily deceived due to inability to read signals given off by opponents then they will waste energy with needless changes of direction. Having the ability to effectively read football situations then rapidly execute technically perfect deceleration will truly develop your performance to an advanced level. 

Injury Prevention
Deceleration work will also reduce the chance of injury for players. Many non-contact injuries come from players stopping or changing direction. If players are strong enough and have good technique in these situations the chance of injury can be reduced.

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