The two fears we all have when finally deciding to buy equipment are: it is going to collect dust by not being used and/or we overpaid and could have saved some money with a different option. Considering how saturated the market is with equipment (plus the amount of educational content on training athletes being created every day), how could you not have those concerns? Both are totally valid and I am here to offer an affordable, versatile, and simple solution to level up your speed training.
COVID-19 was actually one of the best things to happen where I coach (weird as that sounds, with all things considered) because we had to be creative in multiple ways: how to keep athletes spaced apart and how to use equipment to give a high-quality speed stimulus, all while keeping it simple enough to minimize the amount of touching/cleaning necessary. We had a bunch of the very thick (2.5-inch wide) super bands in our weight room not being used, so we decided to loop them together. This allowed us to keep athletes apart while providing resistance during our acceleration training.
We realized how versatile these double bands were and created more and more drills as time went on, while also utilizing equipment we already had. And, odds are, you just might have some of these super bands collecting dust in your weight room as well…
It’s always worth reiterating that you get what you pay for, but there is inevitably context to add to these kinds of decisions: the size of the operating budget, overall number of athletes being trained, universality of equipment, and so on. For example, a Run Rocket is over $2,000. Would you rather have 1 Run Rocket or 32 sets of double bands? This article is going to explain how—for only $62—you can get an extremely versatile and effective piece of equipment for your speed training. I’ll also give examples of the variety of drills you can perform using these double bands.
I’m not sponsored by EliteFTS, these are just the bands we use. The “strong bands” are only $31 on their website.
Video 1. Get faster for only $60.
For this section, we’ll split the drills into two categories:
- In-place drills
- Moving drills
1. In-Place Drills
These types of drills are valuable because they simplify learning something complex—like sprinting—while removing the forward locomotion component. The other half of the band can be anchored by another athlete standing still or by tying it around an immovable object, like a rack or wall hook.In-place drills are valuable because they simplify learning something complex while removing the forward locomotion component, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
In-Place A-Series (A-March, A-Skip, A-Run). In my opinion, this is the best combination of simple and effective when teaching the A-series. First, it is straightforward. The athlete stays in the same spot so they do not have to worry about horizontal speed. Second, it is self-organizing. There is only a small area underneath the athlete’s hips that they can strike to keep their balance and give them a small forward push to stay in the same spot/not move backwards. Third, the resistance is at the hips. Breaking at the hips is one of the biggest flaws in sprinting posture.
So, in order to do these drills well, the athlete will need to keep their hips in a good position (and it is pretty obvious whether they are doing so). No matter which drill it is, you can coach as little as “stay in the same spot, keep good posture, and hit your A-position every step for 10 steps,” then see how your athletes do.
Video 2. Double-banded in-place A-run with 10+ youth and middle school athletes.
Banded 1-Steps (Forward and Crossover). In speed training, when you want to work on something, you need to exaggerate it. The 1-step is an awesome drill for feeling that big, forward, exaggerated, explosive first step. The increasing resistance as the athlete stretches the double band out has two benefits:
- It teaches the athlete to really finish the step through triple extension.
- It slows them down so the landing is less impactful.
Additionally, when performed out of a lateral stance, it can be used to help train the crossover “steal start” for baserunning and the start of a 60-yard dash for baseball players.
Video 3. Double-banded 1-steps with athletes acting as the anchor.
Banded Broad Jumps (Double Leg and Single Leg). Broad jumps are a great way to bridge the gap between traditional explosive exercises (usually aimed at improving the vertical jump) and sprinting. Learning how to drop the shins and create a forward shin angle, combined with an explosive triple extension against resistance, is an effective regression from sprinting itself to help with horizontal explosiveness.Broad jumps are a great way to bridge the gap between traditional explosive exercises and sprinting, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
Lateral Bound and Lateral “Quick to Stick.” Providing resistance and challenging explosiveness in the frontal plane can be a little trickier than doing so in the sagittal plane. A lateral bound (think about it like a resisted skater jump) teaches the athlete how to organize the body and be fast through a lateral shin angle. This is a common movement pattern in most change-of-direction and agility skills. The lateral “quick to stick” overloads the eccentric component with the band pulling the athlete in, being very similar to the eccentric demands of cutting.
Video 4. Double-banded lateral bound (first 2 reps) and lateral quick to stick (last 2 reps) with the bands anchored to a rack.
Wall Mechanics Drills. Wall drills are foundational for multiple reasons: they’re simple, not moving, and take the arms out of the equation. Examples include the wall load-and-lift and wall switches. However, along the same lines, they can become mastered relatively easily. As no athlete is above foundational sprint drills, putting a band around the athlete’s hips is a simple progression to provide a continued challenge. This can also be used as a specific intervention if your athlete is having issues breaking posture at the hips when sprinting.
2. Moving Drills
These types of drills are valuable building blocks for sprinting by slowing the athletes down enough to focus on mechanics while allowing for high outputs and efforts.
Moving A-Series (A-March, A-Skip, A-Run). This is the next progression of the A-series (obviously), slowing the athlete down enough to focus on mechanics but adding in the challenge of moving forward. Cue them to “move forwards, keep your posture, and hit your A-position on every step”—then see how your athletes do.
Video 5. Double-banded moving A-run for 5 yards.
Heavy Low Marching. I think this is one of the most unique uses of the double bands and one of the most difficult to perform with any other piece of equipment. Think about this like super horizontal A-marching. The combination of providing enough resistance to get an aggressively forward and horizontal shin angle while also moving forward is such a powerful teaching tool for acceleration.Heavy low marching is one of the most unique uses of the double bands and one of the most difficult to perform with any other piece of equipment, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
Video 6. Double-banded heavy low marching for 10 yards.
Sprints. Depending on how you coach it, you can get a variety of resistances based on how hard the “anchor” (the athlete in the other band) resists the athlete sprinting. I coach:
- “Light resistance,” where the anchor is moving forward at a light jog pace, partially being pulled by the sprinter but still providing some resistance.
- “Medium resistance,” where the anchor is moving forward at a fast walking pace, but they are controlling the pace with their resistance.
- “Heavy resistance,” where the anchor is only moving forward at a slow walking pace.
Video 7. Double-banded sprint for 10 yards with 40+ athletes.
Resisted-Release Sprints. Variable resistance (or resistance that changes intensity throughout the rep), can be very difficult to achieve without specific equipment. However, with a person providing the resistance as the anchor, they can intentionally decrease the amount of resistance they are providing as the rep progresses. Bands work by providing more resistance as they’re stretched, so a moving anchor actually allows you to do the exact opposite, providing a unique stimulus.Bands work by providing more resistance as they’re stretched, so a moving anchor actually allows you to do the exact opposite, providing a unique stimulus, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
Video 8. Double-banded resist-release with A-run for 3 seconds into a sprint with decreasing resistance.
Shuffling. Again, resisting a movement in the frontal plane is traditionally harder to do than resisting sprinting. However, the double bands provide a great solution with the moving anchor providing resistance while the athlete performs max effort shuffling.
6 Key Benefits of Double-Band Drills
1. Quality of resistance. The double bands are great for providing smooth horizontal resistance, because the stretch of the bands mitigates some of the perturbations in the sprinting cycle. Contrarily, think about how jerky and rough a sled can be during sprinting due to friction halting the sled with the rhythmic pattern of sprinting. Also, putting two bands together as opposed to one gives a high amount of stretch/resistance for a variety of drills and stimuli.
2. Cost-effective. As with everything, there are inexpensive, medium-priced, and expensive options. Speed training equipment can get up to around $20,000—like for a 1080 Sprint, which I am fortunate to have where I coach. And I must say, I use the double bands and 1080 Sprint equally: they both do very different things (as you do get what you pay for), but both are valuable for speed training.
This could be even cheaper if you use just one band instead of two. However, the resistance would be given by an athlete holding the band as opposed to the band being around their hips. This would increase the risk of an athlete getting hurt if they accidentally let go of the band or if it were to slip. Double bands are both safer and more versatile than just one.Double bands are both safer and more versatile than just one, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
3. More athletes involved. This is also another concern of many coaches when using equipment: the equipment becomes a bottleneck, which increases the number of athletes standing around and waiting. Regardless of whether you are doing in-place drills or moving drills, the double bands need to be anchored to something to provide resistance. Therefore, half your athletes will be doing the drill while the other half are acting as the anchor. It’s a win-win: athlete engagement is increased while minimizing downtime.
Additionally, this provides an opportunity to give some autonomy to your athletes. If they slack when providing resistance, are not smooth when being a moving anchor, or anything else along those lines, it ruins the rep for the athlete performing the drill. Saying something like “help your partner get better right now” or “be a good teammate” usually gets the anchors’ focus.
4. Portability. Bands are light and foldable—you can toss them over your shoulder, put them in your trunk, put them in a big plastic bin, or move them in whatever preferred method of transportation.
5. Minimal space needed. I know what you might be thinking: “Matt, what a thorough and well-done article, but all I have for space is a full weight room.” Perfect, you can do all the in-place drills. If it is fair to assume that a rack with a bunch of weights on it will not move, so you can tie the bands around a rack to be the anchor. Additionally, the moving drills are usually only done 5, 10, or occasionally 15 yards at a time.
6. Durability. As COVID-19 (spring 2020) was the inspiration for the double bands, we have now been using them non-stop for almost 3 years. These double bands have seen every variation of these drills, whether during sunshine or rain, for 100+ high school athletes or explosive professional athletes, or anything in between. Not once have the bands snapped or broken. Now, with that being said, some of the outer layers have started to peel…but some wear is to be expected with any equipment receiving consistent use. And as with any piece of equipment, you should check the status of the bands periodically to make sure they are safe to use.As with any piece of equipment, you should check the status of the bands periodically to make sure they are safe to use, says @CoachBigToe. Click To Tweet
Cons (or, Con)
There are not too many cons, but there is one big one: getting the bands apart is almost IMPOSSIBLE. It is rubber that has been stretched against rubber and it is tight.
Where I coach, these bands are used exclusively for our speed training, so it is not an issue. But if you plan on going back and forth between single- and double-band use, it might not be the most efficient use of your time (and sanity) trying to get these apart.
Three Twenties Well-Spent
Now, I am not one to judge how you spend your money, but what used to get me nine Chipotle burritos (now more like five) can get you one set of double bands. I am no rocket scientist, but two sets of double bands are the same price as a year of Spotify Premium AND it is only a one-time cost. So, you tell me, would you rather save up for ¼ of a 1080 Sprint or get an entire high school football program (140 athletes) doing speed training at the same time?
The double bands are one of the most cost-effective and versatile pieces of equipment you can buy to take your speed training to the next level. There are a variety of drills both in-place (which are great for teaching, especially in a limited on space) as well as moving (which are great for combining mechanics and high-effort outputs). You should make sure something like this makes the most sense for you before deciding to buy, but three years later, my double bands aren’t collecting dust and are helping my athletes get better.
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