CHAOS Interview: How to Get Faster!

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(Note: This article consists of an interview conducted by grrlAthlete.com, a website that is no longer online.)

Robert dos Remedios and Jim Liston are two strength coaches that are burning up the strength and conditioning world with their new protocol of speed-agility training called CHAOS training.

GA: Robert, what is CHAOS training and how does it differ from traditional drills?

Robert dos Remedios: CHAOS training is a concept that Jim Liston, MEd., CSCS (Strength and Conditioning coach for the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy) and I came up with as a means to develop what we consider TRUE sport-speed.

Basically, CHAOS training entails the use of primarily “open” agility and quickness drills as opposed to the traditional “closed” drills. For those who are not familiar with open drills, I am talking about an athlete having to react, decelerate, and accelerate (in various movement patterns) when cued through either audible or visual stimulus.

We feel that, often times, coaches get a false sense of ability when assessing speed with the “traditional” drills (3 cone, pro agility, T-Test etc.). These are highly trainable drills and outstanding performances can often be attributed an athlete’s “mastering” of the movement pattern. We feel that the term “CHAOS” sums up what true sport is all about.

We always hear about the importance of being able to put on the brakes (decelerate), what about ones’ ability to put on the brakes when he or she doesn’t know WHEN they will have to decelerate? By training in this chaotic, reactive manner, we put the athlete as close to sport demands as possible.

GA: That’s very cool. Why CHAOS?

Robert dos Remedios: We have developed an acronym that can help in progression to CHAOS:

Conscious to subconscious

Teaching progression should be constantly “coached” (stopping, body position, optimal angles, plant foot, etc.) and the athlete should be aware of the learning process. Over time, the athlete will begin to feel that these chaotic patterns are merely a part of his/her sport performance and the actual ‘thinking’ of body position, etc. will in essence become a part of their subconscious (second nature).

Have unpredictability

The key to developing true sport-speed is the variable of unpredictability. Basic agility drills, while they can help develop body awareness and quickness specific to the individual drill, do not address the nature of sport and their decision-making demands.

Active to reactive

Progression should start with set agility patterns and slowly progress to reactive movements. Consider the implications of learning how to STOP and how strength and technique play a major role in an athlete’s reactive ability.

Open drills

This is the key to the CHAOS concept. Athletes are put “on the spot” and forced to not only move fast but also to now have to factor in reaction time due the processing of visual or auditory cues. Over time, due to their effectiveness, you will find that most of your drills will ultimately become more ‘open’ in nature.

Slow to fast

You cannot just throw athletes into the fire and demand that they process and react to chaotic patterns with lightning fast speed. Start with more simple open drills and keep increasing the difficulty based on your athlete’s progress. You must walk before you can run!

GA: Can you give an example of how you would use CHAOS training when working with a female soccer team?

Robert dos Remedios:Sure, Jim Liston works almost exclusively with soccer athletes so I have gained a ton of insight from him in regard to making my CHAOS drills specific to soccer speed needs.

As with all our sport teams, I make sure that we are “ready” for the added demands of reactive-style speed training. Many injuries are attributed to deceleration phase, so we build strength and technique by making using a deceleration progression of jumps/hops and “stick” landings (similar to a gymnast finish but remaining in a bent knee position).

We start by working sprint and backpedal (linear) reactive drills and then move into slide/shuffle/carioca (lateral) reactive drills. At this point we can start to incorporate crossover runs into the mix…we also use drills where we will have 3-4 defenders reacting (sprinting, crossover running, backpedaling) based on their reactions to an offensive player with a ball.

GA: Can you do the same for basketball?

Robert dos Remedios: Definitely! I try to make my basketball and volleyball player’s drills a bit shorter (within the confines of their respective courts). We use the same progression of jump/hop and “sticks” and many of the same movement patterns.

I tend to use more “rabbit” or “mirror”-style drills with these athletes and really work on patterns that are limited to 3-5 steps in any direction. Basically, lots of stop-n-go movements in a limited space!

GA: How do you train your female athletes to avoid ACL injury? Do you work in and out of the weight room on injury prevention?

Robert dos Remedios: The ACL should be a concern for ALL of us working with female athletes. I try to immediately assess out athlete’s strengths and weaknesses by doing basic jumps and landings.

Many times, I can give a few technique cues to them and they will immediately change their form. You would be amazed at how effective the cue “bend your knees” can be! Many of the female athletes that I see just don’t feel comfortable bending the knees.

I also look for things like excessive internal rotation prior to jumps and during landings (“caving in at the knees”). A real eye-opener is the amount of medial movement I sometimes see (at the knee) during single leg landings.

By the way, open drills are tremendous at placing greater stress on the ACL, this is a GOOD thing! In the weight room we try to address the same knee patterns during squats, lunges, etc. We try to strengthen through a proper or more sound movement pattern.

One more thing that we do is train in the sand. I have talked with numerous athletic trainers and physical therapists who have expressed the concern that all the ankle braces, tape/wraps, high cut shoes, etc. may possibly be taking away the role of the ankle during many “braking” movements. The thought behind this is that all the proprioceptors about the ankle are basically shut off due to the casting effect of these ankle braces/shoes thus placing more stress on the knee joint.

Makes sense to me, so once a week I try to get our girls barefooted in the sand and do the drills we normally do on the field or the court.

GA: Finally, what type of pre-game or pre-practice warm-up do you recommend?

Robert dos Remedios: Chaotic drills! If we are getting ready to perform almost entirely reactive-style movements what better way to get the body, especially including the central nervous system, ready to perform than open drills? In fact, I have always said that for years I have witnessed coaches using open drills during pre-game warm-ups yet they would rarely use them as a training tool…go figure!

GA: Thanks for the wonderful insight into CHAOS training?

Robert dos Remedios: Thanks! Your readers can visit the Cougar Strength website for more info. I will be placing some CHAOS drill video on the individual sport pages very soon!

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