Daniel Harris speeds to another level in six sessions with the Cannonball

The challenge for me, Clint Youlden, along with Daniel, is to re-program his body to be more coordinated, run faster and more efficiently. This will give him greater speed and agility as well as enable him to run out the game better and faster. In order to do this, we will have to go into the weight room and address any muscle or posture imbalances that his prior 8 years of football ‘expert training’ have given him. Usually with footballers there is an extreme lack of middle back strength and stability caused by an overemphasis on shoulder and chest work. This, combined with the almost complete absence of back training, makes it basically impossible for them to reach their athletic potential on the field. This posture and stability is one of the main factors in all efficient movement and successful sports performance. It’s vital in running to transfer direct forces from the ground to the player’s centre of mass, eliminates or minimises hip and shoulder rotation, injuries, prolongs playing career and makes every action smooth and fluent.

So as the weeks go by, I’ll keep a monitored journal of the training progress of Daniel and the changes I see in him and his performance. Also, I’ll comment on what I identify as weaknesses, how we are improving those weaknesses and the general rise in his ability and confidence in himself as we go.

The goals are to undo the bad posture; restore muscle balance; increase running speed and endurance – by technique and efficiency; improve kicking accuracy and distance through increases in body and limb coordination; and above all else… improve his ability to be a consistent high-performing footballer.

Week 1 – 29/09/2009

Pre test 50m @ 6.53sec

Daniel has very low middle back posture as predicted. His elbows stay beside his body rather than going backward behind him during the running stride. The arms need to go backward because it’s reflective of the shoulder blades being in the right position. If they aren’t in the correct position (abducted) the arms will not track forward to back and will follow a cross body motion. This cross body motion rotates the shoulders and subsequently rotates the hips in the opposite direction, resulting in slow movement and wasted forces while running.

Daniel’s lack of core stability comes from his brain not activating his back and core while his arms and legs are trying to move. This causes him, and most other footballers, to swing their thighs around and up to gain knee-lift. This, however, causes too much hip rotation and those forces must be matched by the opposite shoulder forces to balance the body out. Unfortunately, due to Daniel’s lack of shoulder flexibility and upper back strength, he has to compensate by swinging the entire side of his body to balance the hip forces and results in enormous body swing, inefficient technique, lack of power and low running speed.

Further technique flaws come from this middle back posture by not holding the shoulder blades in tight for stability. Daniel’s tendency to swing his knees forward rather than pull them up towards his body, caused by weak hip flexor muscles and poor range of motion, forces him to stand upright too early and kill acceleration mechanics.

Most of his problems stem from the entire middle back not being strong enough to support good running posture and stay solid while having relaxed shoulders. This should gradually be overcome and improved as the weeks go on by executing the Cannonball Speed Method training drill.

The Cannonball Speed Method training drill will dramatically improve this inability and activate his middle back to correct his movement posture. It will also improve his shoulder flexibility by the dynamic actions and rotate his humerus bones back towards their neutral position. The CSU drill will also develop his range of hip motion and teach his brain to activate the vital hip-flexor muscles powerfully while keeping his hips square and minimising rotation. It will also teach him to activate his entire set of back muscles to keep a solid core while keeping his legs and arms relaxed and free for powerful movements.

Next week I’ll get him into the weight room to show him where his body is lacking balance and how it is affecting his ability to run and move powerfully and efficiently.

Week 2 – 06/10/2009

Time = No time recorded

Daniel complained of sore calves- this, I explained to him, is the response to the faster contraction speed being placed on the calves from the track compared to the grass. This trains the muscles to contract faster with the same power and improves speed.

His middle back was also sore which highlights his lack of strength there and is an indication that we are working it properly in the sessions.

Hip flexors were a little tender and should cause a little bit extra range of motion over the coming weeks. This increased range of motion helps increase the knee lift while keeping the upper body at a lower angle to maximise acceleration technique.

A slight improvement in running technique was seen. I can see that the new technique makes flash appearances in between the old technique. This shows me that his body is re-writing itself to become more efficient from the Cannonball Speed Method training drill and it’s transferring to the actual running technique quite quickly.

I got Daniel to concentrate on this middle back with some bent-over positions with a straight back and making him relax his arms. This gives the desired posture of a rigid back and loose arms to drive backwards during running. He seemed to make big improvements straight away by just knowing what it was supposed to feel like.

We went to the weight room to assess some imbalances in his muscles. I was pretty appalled to see the discrepancies between Daniels muscles groups and how it has been allowed to get this far without being addressed. For an elite athlete he is very strong in the shoulders and arms, but average in chest, and woeful in back. Also, he has never been taught how to squat properly. His experience has been in partial squats with poor technique and bar position, so all these exercise techniques had to be fixed. I explained to him the proper technique points and he responded really well. His lack of middle back strength made it difficult to do the squats but it only took him a few repetitions to get the correct form and this will improve out of site in the coming weeks.

His shoulder strength is fine, doing 20 reps at 45kg. Bent over rows, he only did 10 reps on 40kg (working on proper form and the fact that he was too weak to do the required figure of 20 reps at 80kg. A pretty big indicator that his back needs a lot of work and is the main reason behind his lack of posture while playing and running, He’s probably out about 80%. Chest wasn’t bad at 12 reps on 75kg so that’s off about 8 reps. I had to move his hands in on the bar to create a more efficient lever system. If someone holds the bar too wide, the rotate their arms inward which further destroys back posture and gives the athlete rounded shoulders. This is the fastest way to a torn shoulder and bad running technique. Something the experts failed to pick up after 8 years!

All other things are fine so we’ll keep working on technique for the next coming weeks and focussing on technique.

Week 3 – 13/10/2009

Time = 6.48

I’ve seen a big improvement in Daniel’s technique this week compared to last. He is gradually getting the technique and knee lift on the Speed Method drills and generating a little more force. He mentioned that it felt easier running and keeping up with the stride frequency.

He fell off a bit late in the session because he is improving in technique and those improvements are placing more stress on him, which is ideal for progress.

Still, little things remain, like the shoulder flexibility. However the body position has come from directly upright to slightly angled forward. This is a good indicator that he is pulling his knees back to create the knee-lift and not swinging them forward.

The weights session was a little better too. He got the squat technique straight away this week and his form is improving on the bent-over rows. We went up a little on the rows, 5kg because form is most important at this point. We’ll go up again next week and try to get him to 80kg as fast as possible.

I’ve suggested he remain doing 16 reps, which was his max today, until we can bring everything into balance and then he can go up from there.

Week 4 – 20/10/2009

Time = 6.38

Daniel seems more and more comfortable doing the CSM drills and is gradually improving his posture. We still need to focus on keeping the shoulders square and driving back with the elbows instead of the entire arm, but the lack of middle back strength is the limiter in this technique flaw.

He always remarks he is sore in the middle back after the running and the weights, which is good. He seems to have decent hip mobility but has trouble holding that desired pelvic tilt which his lower back muscles while both legs are contracting forcefully.

So his range of motion is good in the hips but he lacks the strength to maintain the correct position. The squats and CSM training drill are gradually addressing this problem.

His middle back is obviously my main area of focus for Daniel. I’ve given him a few drills to go away and do everyday to help free up his back and improve flexibility and technique. We’ll see how it goes after his trip away.

The weights session was positive too. I got him up to the desired weight of 80kg on the rows. Although he could only do 2 reps at a time, it’s more important for progress and balance that he lifts the weight- he did 16 total reps.

He still struggles on squats a bit due to his upper back flexibility, but just asking him to concentrate on squeezing his shoulder blades together helps a lot. This is an area where big improvements will be seen.

Week 5 –

Off on Holidays

Doing the warm-up CSM training drill (as a warm up) every second day

Week 6 – 5/11/09

Time = 6.34

Speed Method Drills are starting to look really good. His posture is a lot more compact and has a lot more stability to his body. He was away for the last 2 weeks and did the warm-up training drill every second day so that has made a nice difference and a big speed increase from week 1.

He is noticeably faster than when he started, displaying a better acceleration position and accelerating for longer because of it. He still lacks a bit of power once up and running but that looks like it’s due to a slight lack of knee lift and timing.

There is still the upper back stability and posture issue but I’m hoping that will change over the next few months from the gym work. I need him to concentrate on staying on the spot doing the drills, and even moving forward a little to help the posture and technique. This will be a main focus over the coming weeks.

Above all, great progress and even remarked that it was the easiest he’s felt running. He has gained almost a 3% improvement in just 5 sessions! Quite remarkable really when even the very best athletes can only improve 10% over their entire lifetime!

About Clint Youlden

Clint Youlden is a High Performance Sports Scientist that specializes in the biomechanics/coaching and training of speed and is also the inventor (and patent holder) of a training method that simultaneously increases all aspects of athletic performance. He deals with skill acquisition, training, nutrition, supplementation, and recovery of athletes. You can contact him on 0402 498 798 or at [email protected]


  1. John Butler says

    This is a great insight for those of us who couldn’t run out of sight on a foggy day Chris.

    Are you expecting a christmas card from the Roo fitness guys?

    What do you think Daniel’s propects are for tomorrow?


  2. Clint Youlden says

    First of all, Sorry to Daniel for not getting this up sooner. I sent it to Daff last Friday but he’s been away and Gigs has just put it up.

    I really wanted people to have the week to look over it and see the improvements Daniel has made and show the footy world that there really is a lot of room to improve in these “old” players.

    Now after reading this training log, most of you will understand why I get so pissed off that these great players are getting shown the door and there simply is no need. They are no where near their potential because their bodies aren’t even working as well as they should be.

    Not expecting a Christmas card from the Roo’s, but they do the best job they know how I suppose. My level and expectations just seem to be a little higher for an elite athlete.

    Daniel’s prospects for tomorrow… Hopefully someone gives him a chance to play again. He’s faster, more coordinated and should have better endurance now with plenty more to come. I just hope we all get a chance to see the difference next season.

    Daniel is running and feeling better than ever and it would be a bargain to pick a proven player who’s improved than take a big chance on an unproven one.

    The best of luck to him anyway.

  3. John Butler says

    Apologies for the name change Clint (a premature seniors moment).

    I gather you would think there are many more like Daniel, both looking for a club or languishing at a club presently.

    Do you think its an issue of resources, or a reluctance to build on existing knowledge?

    Are some clubs notably better than others to your knowledge?

    Given the resources that go into AFL nowadays, it seems a glaring omission.

  4. John, I think the answers to some of your questions can be found in Clint’s article from last week, which is here: http://footyalmanac.com.au/?p=6302

  5. Clint Youlden says

    I think Daniel actually got depressed when I showed him all the areas he’s lacking in. Players like him put their faith in the fitness and coaching staff to make them great athletes and great players and to discover that after 8 years his body is not even working well in the most basic ways must be devastating. I know I would be absolutely irate with rage.

    As for other teams I really can’t comment on them, I can only speculate, however watching players from most other teams run on the field it’s pretty obvious to me to see the muscle and postural imbalances aren’t isolated to just one team.

    The best advice I can give to any footballer is to seek out second and third opinions about all aspects of their performance, just like they would a doctor, and take some responsibility for their own career by doing some research.

    The best athletes in the world have their own personal performance staff, I doubt any world champion would only use the services of the team they played for. Maybe it’s not just the staff that needs to be more professional, maybe it’s the actual players that need to become more professional too, and put back into their careers so they can actually stay there longer…

  6. Pamela Sherpa says

    Another very interesting article Clint.
    What frustrates me the most is the frequency of injuries to players- in particular torn hamstrings. Why is this so in your opinion? Even cricketers are tearing hamstrings nowadays.

  7. The Cannonball says


    I won’t go into the complexities of how the hamstrings work because It’ll take forever but my opinion on why they get injured is mostly due to a few reasons…

    1. Hammy’s cross two joints (hip and knee) and most running activities cause these two joints to oppose each other. They sort of work against each other when running which causes high stress on them, a lot more than other muscles.
    2. Hammys fatigue very quickly because they are a fast-twitch muscle and typically when this muscle fatigues faster than the other muscles, the weakest link is the one that breaks first.
    3. Unspecific training (like most weights and novelty crap) causes the hamstrings to display contraction qualities that are totally different to the desired sport. So when the players actually get out there to play, their hamstrings are trained to contract slower and harder and in a different way than what the sport requires, so they tear. For example, heavy squats for a cricketer will make the hamstring strong and slow, but when he has to sprint between wickets, the hamstring only knows how to contact slow and when the player asks it to contract fast, it tears.
    4. Poor coordination will also cause problems. Because of the vital timing required to display proper hamstring contraction in running, any slight change in coordination can have two muscles contracting against each other and usually the hamstring loses because it is more fragile, resulting in a tear. This can be caused by fatigue as well.
    5. Too much volume of training. Adding to No.2, hammys fatigue faster than other muscles and even though the muscles in the rest of your body may be fully recovered, the hammys might need an extra day or two compared to the other muscles because of one or a combination of the other factors I’ve mentioned.

    These are pretty simple explainations, but they are the main causes of hammy problems that I see.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Pamela Sherpa says

    Thanks Clint. Check out my poem -written in jest and frustration back in 2003!

  9. Clint – thank you again for your fascinating insights. As a passionate North man, I am somewhat dismayed by the report and can only feel for Haro who was a fine servant of the club (and have a greater understanding of why Jesse Smith decided to leave).

    Brad Scott is apparently studying sports science, and a review of the Footy Dept during the season revealed some inadequacies in the medical/fitness areas, so hopefully the club is addressing the disturbing player management you highlight. But just for my piece of mind, do you know anything about Peter Mulkearns, formerly of St Kilda? (See here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/north-melbourne-set-to-close-fitness-gap/story-e6frf9jf-1225801668241)

  10. Hi Clint,

    What happens now that Daniel is going to the Gold Coast? Will you monitor his work? Or is Daniel putting his faith in his new club?

    I can tell you that North Melbourne people are slightly miffed by your article. They’re muttering about how much experience you have in footy.

    My understanding is that you don’t have much experience in footy at all. You don’t claim to be a footy expert; you work on strength and speed, and the results benefit footballers.

    Is that about right?

  11. Clint Youlden says

    I haven’t really spoken to Daniel about that but I will stay out of his training of course. He is contracted to GC so I would never attempt to give him any advice or programming without the consent of his team. I just prefer to stay out of it, and always have. It was really insightful working with him for a couple of months to gain an insight as to how elite footballers are trained. I’m sure Daniel can put his faith in his new club and we can assume they’ll do a great job unless we see otherwise.
    Well I hope I haven’t offended anyone at North melbourne, but I do hope I’ve made them question a few things, after all it’s about improving players… nothing else. I certainly don’t have anything against North or it’s staff and organisation and I’ve only commented on what I’ve seen in the players ability and where my standards are.
    I certainly don’t pretend to know anything about the game play of footy, that’s for sure, but I know a fair bit about skill acquisition, no matter the sport. I make people faster and more coordinated, regardless of what sport they play, and to do that, they need certain basic muscular abilities that should be present in ALL athletes. I don’t kick footballs at training, but I do change running technique focus to be footy specific, after all, I’m making footballers faster, not trying to produce sprinters!
    My goal is not to offend anyone, only to question. And if that questioning leads to changes in protocol that benefit the athletes, then I’ve done my job. I don’t get paid for this information. I merely put up the article to show people that Daniel was serious about playing on and hopefully get people talking about him. He has been given another chance and that was my only objective.

  12. Thanks Clint,

    Sounds fair and reasonable to me.

    I think it’s natural for any organisation that’s questioned to react.

    Often it takes someone from outside the usual realm to point out where improvements can be made.

  13. Rev Shinboner
    Peter Mulkearns has done the full circle – started at NM with Dennis Pagan and went with him to Carlton. He was sacrificed by Carlton before moving to StK. I have no idea how he is regarded, but he would have picked up some knowledge from the so-called guru David Misson at StK.

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