Seed Philosophy

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The Seed Of Speed Philosophy
by Mick Clegg

The Thoughts Behind The Methodology to Attain Speed, Strength, Endurance and Flexibility

The talk will be based on the history of my experience with young athletes – up to top line professionals and I will hopefully illustrate the importance of understanding where SPEED is an essential ingredient for most sports people. I have owned a gym for 29 years and in that time I specialised in training children (my own being the most important). As a non-athlete myself I never really looked at sports skill for each sport, because I felt coaches in that sport would always have more experience and the OBSERVING EYE than myself. Having an internal gym I was first interested in strength, then realised using overload training principle, how easy that it was to nurture, along with it endurance and flexibility – ALL very important aspects of most sports, but what interested me most was SPEED. The reason why is that you cannot create speed with overload training in the same way as Strength, Endurance, Flexibility it was more in line with watching good coaches develop skills; which to me always came down to a principle.

Skill under pressure
Skill in a game!

So we have speed (training) – speed under pressure (youth – reserves games) Speed in a premiership game. Sounds simple, but sadly not that simple. So I watched my sons and their friends for years, mainly in football – athletics – weightlifting and boxing. I had teams in my gym for each. Michael was a small footballer, lacking the skill development of other players (he was over looked) So I worked on his SPEED with certain exercise over a period of time which created an opportunity to Attain SPEED, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility and even High level skill. From very basic exercises I developed a principle that was used many times to develop young Athletes above the USUAL capacity of other Athletes “NOT” doing my work! There was a moment in time where Michael and Steven were taken on by Manchester United and brother Mark became British Weightlifting Champion with Records to his credit.

Let’s Move on…….
Mick Clegg at the Carrington Training GroundMick Clegg at the Carrington Training GroundIn1998 Brian Kidd, the then assistant to Sir Alex phoned me at the gym and asked me to come to Manchester United and teach his players the weightlifting and plyometric type exercises Michael and Steven were renowned for having done, I asked Brian at the time who would I be coaching – He replied “MY FIRST TEAM PLAYERS” – well what an opportunity for just an ordinary gym coach hey? I said to Brian even though this was my big opportunity, that the type of training I have used on the lads was designed for young growing athletes not seasoned pro’s some in their 30’s (Michael, Bruce, Palister etc.). Brian assured me he will take responsibility and not to worry. I refused and he put the phone down on me! End of my big chance! Well a while after Brian left Manu and became Manager of Blackburn Rovers, he took with him Dave Fever who was his head physio. In the meantime a young physio who had worked with Michael and Steven then became Head Physio for Sir Alex (Rob Swire).

United went on to win the treble that year with Steve McClaren as his assistant and they opened a New Training Centre at Carrington.I was asked in February 2000 to train the youth team with my methods by Rob Swire, Head Physio for Manu and be interviewed by the coaching staff, (1) I did that role until the summer. Then with the ACL injury to Roy Keane, Rob asked me to help him in coaching Roy to do some important leg exercises which he believed wouMick Clegg while working at Manchester UnitedMick Clegg while working at Manchester Unitedld help him rehab correctly. Myself and Roy hit it off well because I was a boxing coach, and he used to box so we put some techniques in to his performance training. From working with Roy lots of other players wanted me to train them and Steve McClaren asked me to come part of the first team staff. I still maintained my work with the youth team also the reserve team and even some school boy’s players – A massive opportunity to direct the right type of training to the right level of development.

The Interview
In the year 2000 I was asked a question by 13 of Manchester United coaching staff, the question was could gym work increase the ability of a footballer to be more effective on the football pitch and by what percentage could that be, in a professional football player and in what manner would that be recognised? As the years have gone by I can state that Paul Scholes using specific boxing and cone reaction type training has enhanced his reactive abilities on the pitch.

Ryan Giggs increase  in strength, enhanced by his gym strength routines, has helped him enormously over the last 10 years.

Gary Neville a measurable increase in his endurance capacity.

Roy Keane has enjoyed considerable injury rehab training. Plus the addition of boxing for his mental and physical approach to his work.

David Beckham’s overall fitness is that gave him the name of the fittest player overall.

All these players enjoyed increase capacity through gym training but every player has always got that big question on his mind can a player become faster? Can a player acquire more pace? My answer to the staff at the time, was that I believe that it would be possible that a first team player if previously was not using the gym on a regular basis could increase his abilities by up to 3% which I think the above names of players that is easy to see but there was a greater question….. But what about speed or pace?

Workings of the brainI have always been fascinated with the Brain and it capabilities and complexities. In much of my research I was always listening to Why Athletes do things or have done things more than the things they did, it was their “reasoning through “, that seemed to create a pathway of thought, that preceded action, that ultimately “Created” what they desired. So, I looked more closely at where speed really came from and it occurred to me that it didn’t come from ankles, calves, thighs, hips or the heart. It originated in the Brain and before long I coined a phrase the “SEED OF SPEED” to help me ask questions to determine where this seed could be found. 

Myself and Michael met a brain specialist Dr Joe Dispensa in Chicago at a conference as we were looking at who was the fastest in Baseball the “batsman or the Pitcher” and he (Joe) had many things to show us that led me to look at the world of the very very small “quantum physics.

”Brain “Cognition” appealed to me and its creative brother RAPID COGNITION even more so. (I love the rapids, have you ever watched that seamless flow of excited water streaming down to its destination...............Effortless.)

Speed is an effortless flow of trained applied knowledge, skill honed from the recognition of patterns in the brain.


I worked with Ronaldo for 5 years. he came as an 18 year old, without a great deal of senior experience.  He became the most dedicated footballer I have ever met over those 5 years.  He did all the training prescribed by football coaches, the manager, the fitness coach and the gym coach, but he also did something much more…..?   
After every training session out on the pitch, he did his own running, running with the ball, running with the ball crossing, running with the ball shooting and running with the ball passing. The great thing that CR realized is that to really train successfully, there must be a good percentage of your skill and speed training done with no pressure.  He made sure that he rehearsed every move without any pressure on his own; he then practiced every move in training on the practice pitch.Ultimately when he practiced and got everything right he would then try his new formed skill in the big stadium in the big game. (Skill, skill under pressure, skill in the game). And became the world’s best player.

Rudd Van Nistelrooy
Rudd scored almost exclusively in the 18 yards box.  His speed and reaction in the box was second to none.  He came to Manu after an ACL operation and I was privy to the types of training he’d been doing prior to being at United, his main concerns were his action, re-action and speed; which he had trained previously and we had carried on exclusively even before a big game until he left for Real Madrid.
Now here is a summary of the types of exercises I have used and still use to improve pace, speed and re-active abilities in youth and up to first team level in football.

Speed, power, agilitySpeed, power, agilityThe Exercises:-
Power Clean
Snatch Balance
Jerk behind neck
High Pull
High Jumps
Running on the spot
Start position
Boxing exercises
Running techniques “Flat Back”

Different runs, direction, distances with their exercises we are not looking for max strength, endurance, Flexibility or speed we are looking for seamless flow that is effortless reaching the destination desired through creative minds.

The biggest problem in professional football that reduces the player’s ability to become his best or fastest is his inability to recognise the need for focused concentration on ALL Aspects of his training but especially his work on SKILL FOOTBALL AND SPEED.

If there is a lack of concentration the feedback from and to the brain leaves a neural weakness that does not ignite the desired cognitive abilities of the Athlete.

There are 3 main technologies that I have used to hone the necessary concentration in development of the brains neural capacities to increase the optimum pathways necessary –




Achieving Real Speed Gains

The Speed-Cognitive Principle

Brain - Central Nervous System - FootBrain - Central Nervous System - FootSpeed is always initiated through cognitive processes, it depends on sufficient mental resources being activated that then distribute the necessary nervous and muscular responses across many physical body parts at the same time.  Substantial speed gains must come from a training approach that hones this synchronous coordination of cognition and muscular activity.  

Speed then improves from cognitive processing increasing the efficiency across the whole physical system.  This allows higher ratios of muscular exertion because the body has learned to accurately position the skeletal frame at each moment for optimal force. 

Everyday practical influence of the brain improving faster physical motion is seen with a simple exercise such as standing up from a floor position. This is sensory experience involving factors such as perception, proprioception and balance from the vestibular (ear) system.  When worked on repetitively the brain becomes wired to engage these processes more accurately.   

To achieve higher and higher speeds the brain must know the best position to work from and to, and then through rapid cognition excite impulses to the physical system on shorter timescales to meet continual force demands. This principle is true not only for performance, but also for specific training drills: to operate beyond normal thresholds the activity itself must become an innate process to the whole physical system.
The body in motionThe body in motionProgressive Speed Training Methodology

To do this effectively across many customized exercises, we need to first train the brain to accurately understand each exercise form without unnecessary sensory complexity such as extra weight or too much speed before a foundation of coordination is properly established.  

Then through closely monitored gradation, perfect form is built upon with small increases in speed or weight lifted towards a progressive overload.  The body’s conditioning towards the training action can then be controlled through a basis of cognitive and physical stimulus rather than simply increasing force.   

Most exercises can be used for controlled strength gains to aid injury prevention (as does improved movement coordination), and at the same time work on reaction, then speed, which makes the exercises multi-functional.
The overload training principle is achieved for mental resources as well as the body, and an effective methodology means a cognitive assimilation of the exercises themselves should be the foundation on which speed and strength exertions are applied.  Once proficiency is established, we can then insert the other complex stimuli with much greater effect than rushing towards power through extra weight.  Progress with younger and more adaptable athletes with be more much substantial longer term with this approach.

Physical Excellence through Mental Focus

In the academy we need to recognise the very important fact that total concentration on an exercise is of absolute importance; merely going through a programme of exercises under set weights is ultimately not enough to excel.    

We need to strip down each carefully designed exercise we do, teach players to concentrate and know it perfectly through their combined sensory systems, and then utilise full cognitive-physical effectiveness to yield unprecedented gains in speed for all areas of football performance.


Ryan GiggsRyan Giggs


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