We in the athletic world would all agree in the importance of great effort to achieve success. One thing we don’t always take into account is the effect of adverse effort. What do I mean by adverse effort? To run faster, jump higher, throw harder, hit harder, etc., we have to recruit more muscle fibers that directly or indirectly create the desired movement, but we must also relax the muscle fibers that restrict or counter the movement we desire. What happens in the sports world all too often, is that athletes are eager to please their coaches with great effort, and to show that they are giving their all, they tighten almost every muscle and run with a lot of wasted and counterproductive muscle recruitment.

While this achieves the goal of “giving 110%”, it fails to produce the maximum potential speed. I’ve learned over the years that the fastest athletes usually don’t look like they are giving 110% when they run. This is because they are not. They are giving 100%. The extra 10% is the counterproductive effort that actually slows an athlete down. I found this out personally with the Falcons in 2001 when we drafted Michael Vick.

During practice, when he didn’t find an open receiver before the pressure got to him, he would take off to run, and it looked to me like he was just “cruising” at about 75%. I just figured that he and the coaches didn’t think it necessary for him to go all out running during a scramble in practice. Later that season, I was out on a short route against the Dolphins when he got pressured and took off down the field towards me. I turned up the field; straining 110% to go and block the safety when suddenly Mike just “jogged” right by me! I realized then, that even when it looked like he wasn’t trying, he was merely being super efficient and truly maximizing his speed with focused effort.

Don’t get me wrong, the only reason I was able to play 11 years in the NFL was because I gave all I had pretty near all of the time. I’ve learned, however, that a big part of getting faster and more powerful as an athlete is learning to relax every muscle that is not immediately called for to produce the desired movement. To maximize our athletic performance, we need to practice the skill of speed by focusing our effort to 100% of right muscles at the right time and 0% of the wrong muscles at the wrong time. If you are giving 110%, you most likely are about 10% slower than you should be.