Velocity Sports Performance, an industry-leading network of training centers for athletes, is now part of STACK. Together we are dedicated to making athletes faster, stronger and better through both our media content and in-person training at our nearly 40 facilities nationwide. Read on to see how we help athletes from high school to the pros, including one of our latest success stories: Jadeveon Clowney, the #1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.
Jadeveon Clowney's Pre-Draft Training
To secure his spot as the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney needed to do three things: improve his lateral movement, increase his level of conditioning and show that his work ethic was unimpeachable.
With just six weeks to accomplish all three, Clowney turned to Jed Hartigan, owner and director of Velocity Charlotte in North Carolina.
Clowney delivered an outstanding performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.53-second 40-Yard-Dash—a scorching time for a 266-pounder. But some scouts and GMs questioned his ability to move side-to-side and his willingness to put in the effort to get into peak shape. Hartigan developed a plan to put those questions to rest at Clowney's Pro Day.
"We knew coaches would be trying to break Jadeveon physically, so our goal was to get him into phenomenal shape so he wouldn't even break a sweat out there," Hartigan says.
Hartigan says Clowney was enthusiastic, focused, and ready to work. The athlete spent three or more hours per day at Velocity Charlotte, with up to an hour and twenty minutes of that time dedicated to intense training, including conditioning exercises like Med Ball Slams, Sled Pulls and Hill Runs.
But Hartigan's plan didn't just call for hard work. He placed an equal emphasis on recovery and injury prevention. Each training session included up to an hour of active release techniques (ART). Hartigan also had Clowney perform yoga for 30 to 40 minutes three times a week. The focus on recovery helped Clowney stay healthy amid the grueling workouts.
"We were training him pretty hard. Jadeveon could have kept going and going, and he usually wanted to—he was extremely motivated," Hartigan says. "We had to make sure he didn't run himself into the ground."
To improve Clowney's lateral movement, Hartigan focused on the athlete's stride length. He noticed that the 6-foot-5 defensive end took the type of strides one would expect a man of that height to take—big ones. But it's easier to get knocked off balance—by, say, a pulling guard on a trap play—when you take long strides. So Hartigan had Clowney work on taking shorter, choppier steps, which simulatanously made him faster and more balanced.
"He improved his lateral speed a ton," Hartigan said. "Pound for pound, he's the fastest guy I've ever seen. Guys that big should not be able to move that fast."
After four weeks of tough training, Hartigan turned down the heat during the last two weeks and had Clowney focus on recovery and position-specific work. That allowed Clowney to recharge for his big performance. And when he took the field at South Carolina's Pro Day, his performance blew people away. "Phenomenal," "never before seen" and "wow" were all used to describe it.
The rest is history, as they say. The Houston Texans drafted Clowney with the #1 pick. Hartigan says the best part of working with Clowney was seeing the myths people had been spreading about the athlete fall to pieces.
"You can't always listen to what the media says, and don't judge people by what you hear," Hartigan says. "Jadeveon Clowney was a delight to work with, came here focused and wanted to work. And the results showed it."
Inside a Breakthrough
Velocity Sports Performance in Norwood, Massachusetts helped high school athlete Richie Whelan get stronger, leaner and faster. The key to his big breakthrough? Learning to breathe better.
"Breathing affects posture," says Velocity sports performance coach Jason Aguiar, who's been working with Whelan since the athlete was a sophomore. "If you aren't breathing correctly, it puts your whole body in poor alignment, causing muscles not to fire" when you lift.
During the first two weeks of training, Aguiar had Whelan focus solely on breathing. The fundamentals-first approach paid off once he started putting heavier weights on the barbell.
"When you know how to put your body in the right spot, breathe through the belly and engage the core, it adds 10 pounds to what you can lift," Whelan says. "After learning the proper technique, my lifts felt better, and I felt stronger doing them."
Whelan is entering his senior year at Norwood High School, and considering continuing his football career at Holy Cross, Merrimack or Rhode Island, among others.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock