The Playmaker Project

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Ryan Flaherty’s reputation as one of the most tech-savvy trainers at the highest level of professional sports—a soft-spoken metrics whiz who once pocketed $2,000 off Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for correctly predicting the quarterback’s 40-yard dash time down to a tenth of a second.

When the owner of Prolific Athletes and Nike speed consultant, based in Carlsbad, CA, isn’t training the NCAA’s top football prospects for the NFL Combine—the league’s yearly pre-draft data fest measuring all things strength, speed, jumping, and agility—Flaherty is drawing up quant-based workout programs for tennis superstar Serena Williams, Bayern Munich midfielder Mario Götze (who scored the deciding goal for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final), USA Rugby speedster Carlin Isles, and countless Major League Baseball players and USA Track & Field Olympic athletes. This is the guy who once told a reporter that, when he watches athletes play, he “sees in numbers” only, as if he looks past their flesh and directly into their biological machinery.

Flaherty is obsessed with quantitative analysis and his workout philosophy and training process are so disarmingly simple and effective, it’s hard to believe.

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Over several years of refining his approach to helping star athletes build power, explosiveness, and speed, he has developed a proprietary formula that yields a single crucial metric that informs everything he does.

He calls it the “Force Number.”

With that one piece of data, he says, he can predict with 99% accuracy “any athlete’s 40-yard dash, vertical leap, even a 10K run time.” What’s more, improving an athlete’s number is not only possible, it’s also largely accomplished with the help of a single hardcore power lift. (More on that later.)

So if you’re an aspiring professional athlete looking to take your body to the next level—and, say, sprint like Henry Ruggs, jump like Julio Jones, or explode off the line like Jadeveon Clowney—you pay Flaherty upward of $20,000 for one of 12 spots at his camp to learn your figure and improve it.

Yes, it sounds pretty cool, like some crazy stuff straight out of Star Wars. But unlike that metaphysical force, Flaherty’s number actually exists.

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Flaherty high knee, butt kickers over to the starting line and turns and paces out 11 yards, repositioning a bright orange cone.

“When I’m watching [the 40-yard dash at] the combine, the only thing I’m watching is this 11-yard line,” Flaherty says.

“Based on where your step is at that line, I know your time.”

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If a football player wants to run a blazing 40—clocking in at 4.5 seconds or less—Flaherty says, his seventh step needs to land at or past that 11-yard line.

Step counts, Flaherty has learned through thousands of hours of research, are an incredibly reliable indicator of race results.

When you adjust for height, he says, the athlete who takes the fewest steps during any race will win because longer strides indicate an athlete is generating more force per step than his competitors.

Your first ten yards are the most crucial in a Winning forty-yard dash. This is the segment where you will generate all your power and momentum to build toward your top-end speed.

YOU WANT YOUR 40 YARD DASH TO LOOK LIKE THIS

0 to 9 yards: Six Strides.

10 to 20 yards: Four Strides.

20 to 30 yards: Four Strides.

30 to 40 yards: Four Strides.

Total Strides = 18

Throughout a race, that extra distance per stride compounds.

In a 100-meter sprint, it could mean the difference of a step or two at the finish line; in a marathon, with about 20,000 strides taken, that extra three inches per step puts a runner a full mile ahead of his previous pace—exactly what Flaherty observed in 2014 after training pro distance runner Meb Keflezighi, who won the Boston Marathon just two weeks shy of his 39th birthday.

“These guys are focusing so much on the start, they’re tensing up, which shortens the steps,” Flaherty tells me. “If they relax and focus on long, powerful strides, they’ll start running faster.”

Speed Secrets. 3 Tips to Sprint Faster using Relaxation.

Sure enough, the times start falling immediately, even though the athletes aren’t trying as hard. Many clock their fastest times of the day.

“Speed is all about how much force you create. The two main factors in speed are stride frequency and stride length, and both are products of how much force your body creates with the ground. So if I can improve the amount of force an athlete creates on every step, in turn I’m going to greatly affect his or her speed.”  Flaherty says.

And the surefire way to create more ground force, he says, is to attack one power lift really, really hard.

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Flaherty’s long journey to becoming an elite trainer began when he was a young athlete growing up in Los Angeles, which is where he discovered that speed is something that can be taught.

As a kid he was strong, coordinated, athletic. There was only one problem: He was Slloowww…

At age 10, he started working with a track and field coach who improved his form and stride, he quickly found himself the fastest kid on every team he played for.

“Even at that age it was obvious that speed is a skill,” he says.

No matter what skill you want to learn, the pattern is always the same: See the whole thing. Break it down to its simplest elements. Put it back together. Repeat.

“Most people think it’s just something you’re born with, but it’s actually something you can learn, something you can train. I was the product of that.”

Flaherty attended Utah State University on a football scholarship, playing wide receiver. His athletic career ended there, derailed by chronic ACL injuries. He moved to San Diego, where he earned an undergraduate kinesiology degree with a master’s in biomechanics from San Diego State University.

He started training and observing local track athletes and became obsessed with the question of what makes one athlete faster than another.

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“I noticed that very few of the trainers I’d worked with collected much data,” he says. “A lot of them were just applying philosophy. But when I asked, ‘What are the results you’re getting; what are the average improvements?’ they didn’t know. It was, ‘We’re getting a few tenths off the 40-yard dash, some improvement on the vertical, and the bench press is going up.’

I realized that if I wanted to separate myself, to have accountability for the programming I was doing, I was going to keep data on every athlete.”
We want to look at data with a Flashlight not a Hammer!

“Men lie, Women lie, numbers don’t” Floyd Mayweather

In those years Flaherty spent untold hours accumulating data on elite sprinters, using high-tech video-analysis software and a sophisticated and obscenely expensive piece of equipment called a “force-plate treadmill” (essentially a treadmill that also measures ground forces).

“At first I thought that running was all biomechanical,” he says, “but it wasn’t until I started looking into all this data from every race that I realized it always came back to peak ground force—I can take someone and make him the most perfect biomechanical sprinter in the world, but if he doesn’t have a very good strength-to-weight ratio he’s not going to go anywhere.”

That ratio is the basis for his Force Number.

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Flaherty originally discovered this during a 2005 study of sprinters running on a force-plate treadmill. To explain, he shows me a series of slides on his computer illustrating the study data:

The athletes, marked A through H, are ranked first by peak ground force generated, then by body weight, then again by the relationship between the two. (Mathematically speaking, that’s the Force Number: your peak ground force divided by your weight.)

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It should be noted that the highest Force Number doesn’t come from the athlete with the highest peak ground force, but the athlete with the highest peak ground force relative to his body weight. It’s an important distinction, and one he notes when showing me the next slide, which compares each athlete’s Force Number with his 100-meter sprint time.  The correlation is, to be sure, perfect. The sprinter with the highest force number has the fastest time, the next-highest force number aligns with the next-fastest time, and so on, all the way down the line. He has since tested his force theory on more than 6,500 athletes and consistently found, with 99% accuracy, that the larger the Force Number, the stronger the athlete is, the faster he can run, and the higher he can jump.

Once Flaherty had discovered his metric, he found that it was difficult to calculate on a larger scale, given the methods he was using at the time. A force-plate treadmill is big and expensive.

You can’t exactly check it on a plane or buy it in bulk.

So he went looking for a universally available lift as a substitute for determining peak ground force.

“I took the data I had from the force-plate treadmill and started correlating it with various exercises,” he says. “It wasn’t correlating to the squat, it wasn’t correlating to the front squat, it wasn’t correlating to the power clean or the leg press either.”

The answer, ultimately, was the hex-bar deadlift.

The hex-bar or sometimes called “trap-bar” deadlift, it gets its name from the hexagonal-shaped bar the lifter steps into, effectively allowing him to center himself over the weights (see above).

Unlike a traditional straight-bar deadlift, a lift using the uniquely shaped hex-bar takes pressure off the lifter’s spine, lower back, and hamstrings.

Also, because of the more balanced range of motion, out of every lift in the gym, it’s the one on which your body can lift the most weight. (Yes, even more than a squat.) Because the hex bar is so efficient, every rep utilizes 90% of skeletal muscle.

These are the same muscles you rely on to run, jump high, and explode upward, fighting gravity.

When he ran the numbers, Flaherty found that the Force Number calculated from a one-rep max for the hex-bar deadlift yielded the exact same correlation as the ratio derived from force-plate treadmill numbers.

He also discovered that the bigger your hex-bar deadlift, the bigger your Force Number.

In other words: Congrats! You just got Faster. (For the record, Jamaican sprinter and reigning world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, holds the highest Force Number ever recorded: 3.9.)

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In 2014, Flaherty used the hex-bar deadlift to skyrocket Manziel’s combine numbers. Manziel arrived at Flaherty’s camp with a maximum hex lift of 530 pounds, a vertical leap of 27.5 inches, and a 5.09-second 40-yard dash.

Weighing 201 pounds, his Force Number was 2.39. After two months of Flaherty’s deadlift program,

Manziel had packed on eight pounds of muscle—and could lift 680 pounds for a Force Number of 3.2. Official combine stats recorded Manziel with a 31.5-inch vertical leap and a 4.68-second 40-yard dash, an improvement of about 0.4 seconds.

Manziel also increased his 40 time by taking a phat line of cocaine before running his 40, the power of stimulants baby.  Just kidding Johnny, you would never do that.

“I can work 90% of skeletal muscle with just one exercise,” he says. “That negates a lot of other exercises you incorporate for diversity. I can add 15 pounds of muscle to your quads, your glutes, your hamstrings through single-leg body-weight exercises and make you stronger in all those other lifts. So if I can do that, do you even need to do snatches?”

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Albert Einstein.

“For athletes, it’s really easy because they have a number,” Flaherty says. “Like, ‘My strength-to-weight ratio needs to be 3.2 for me to run a 4.5-second 40 for the rest of my life.’ Marcus Mariota does the hex-bar deadlift programming one day a week to maintain his number. But he’s also doing the Oakland Raiders weight-room program, which is nothing like mine, but it all works perfectly.

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“There’s a unifying aspect to this,” he continues. “Whether you’re a football player looking to run a fast 40 or just an everyday athlete looking to be more efficient in distance runs or get through your workouts easier. When your Force Number improves, almost any athletic endeavor improves, and at the same rate.”

So know that you know the Secret Equation how Fast can you run?

How high can you get that Force number?

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YOUR LIMITS BEGIN WHERE VISION ENDS

Limits begin where vision ends. You have to see yourself as a no-limits person. For years, breaking the four-minute mile was thought to be physically impossible. Then in 1954 Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4. Over the next two years, fifty other runners broke the barrier. Why? They had an image. In Bannister they had a model for success.

Those who truly evolve are the ones who leap off of life’s cliffs. Their world is not one of haves and have-nots, and it’s not one of potential. It’s one of hustle, ambition, and endless determination.

Although we’re all familiar with the fact that Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile it’s always amazing to me to be reminded that a) the world was *certain* that it was literally (!) physically impossible to do so; so his audacity in going for it and then succeeding is simply awesome and b) as soon as he proved it could be done, FIFTY other people broke the four minute mark in the next two years. Think about that.

Impossible. Can’t do it. Therefore, no one does it.

Oh, wait. It can be done. It’s been done. Suddenly, fifty people crush it almost immediately. Nothing changed in our physical biology. No bionic shoes or legs. Our MINDS changed. And bam.

The impossible was suddenly possible…

“Limits begin where vision ends.”

I believe 100% I can get my Force Number to 4 boi!

Ask yourself this question: “Can I reach a Force number of 4? Then change your question and ask how can I reach a Force number of 4?
At first glance, the questions Can I? and How can I? appear to be very similar.

However, the reality is that they are worlds apart in terms of results.

Can I? is a question filled with hesitation and doubt. It is a question that imposes limitations.

If that is the question you regularly ask yourself, you’re undermining your efforts before you even begin.

How many people could have accomplished much in life but failed to try because they doubted and answered no to the question ‘Can I?’

When you ask yourself, ‘How can I?’ you give yourself a fighting chance to achieve something.

The most common reason people don’t overcome the odds is that they don’t challenge them enough. They don’t test their limits. They don’t push their capacity. How can I? assumes there is a way. You just need to find it.

So, instead of asking yourself “Can I reach a Force number of 4? Ask yourself the question how can I reach a Force number of 4?
You got this!

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#1 Easy Nutrition Tip to lower Body Fat and Improve your Relative Strength
ELIMINATE SUGAR/FLOUR VEGETABLE OIL

I have been prioritizing nutrition in my life for 13+ years. I am consistently experimenting and consistently trying out new eating strategies to improve sports performance.

What do I believe right now?

We all have different bodies, and we all respond to foods differently. I don’t think there is such a thing as the “Best” diet.

But!

All nutritionists will agree that sugar, vegetable oil, and processed oil are not good for you. They cause inflammation, and excess body fat rooted in an unbalanced Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio.

I challenge you over the next 6 weeks to Eliminate sugar, flour, and vegetable oils. The 3 Simple Rules of Sports Nutrition.  How to Transform your Body and Energy Levels in just 21 days.

If you do this, I GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL BE AN ABSOLUTE GAME CHANGER!

While both Omega-6 and Omega-3 are considered essential fatty acids, meaning our body cannot make them, the Omega-6 pathway is well recognized as being the more inflammatory pathway.  

The ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats are commonly imbalanced in the western diet and this leads to an increase in inflammation.

Historically for thousands of years the O-6 to O-3 was most often 3:1 or 2:1. Today, due to the consumption of vegetable oils (i.e. corn, safflower, and sunflower) high in Omega-6, the ratio is often 15:1 and higher!!!

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This ratio messes with your speed and size adaptation.

Excess Omega-6 ramps up metabolic disfunction. Not good! Omega imbalance is why older people commonly develop metabolic inflexibility leading to health conditions like Type-2 diabetes and obesity.

When cells are clogged with the wrong ratio of fatty acids they become inflamed. When they become inflamed they spin off a lot of free radicals which further increase resistance and inflammation. This turns into a negativity loop inside the body and one of the best ways to get out of the loop is to consume less Omega 6’s i.e. vegetable and seed oils.

These oils contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are unstable, and break down rapidly when exposed to chemical stress. Ever heard of varnish?

t’s what carpenters use to finish wood. Varnish is made from vegetable oils, including soy and linseed (which is rich in omega-3, like canola), because these oils are chiefly composed of PUFAs. PUFAs react with oxygen in the air to help polymerize the varnish into a nice hard coating that helps preserve the wood.  Maybe try olive oil instead,
Why is Olive Oil good for you?

Varnish is good for your floors, but not so good for your brain, your arteries or mitochondria.

A little bit of PUFA is not a problem for us, we need some.

And when we get PUFA from whole foods like sunflower, chia or flax seeds, it’s well protected by antioxidants nature builds into the seed.

These protectants get stripped away during the industrial scale refining of sunflower and the other vegetable oils, and that’s just the beginning of the problems with vegetable oils.

The refining process not only strips away antioxidants, it makes PUFAs toxic by exposing them to heat, pressure, metals and bleaching agents.

This chemically alters the molecules into a wide variety of potent toxins with long names like 4-hydroxynonanal and 4-hydroxyhexanol, aldehydes, and others. These molecules are toxic because they promote free-radical reactions that damage our cellular machinery including mitochondria, enzymes, hormone receptors, and DNA.

Years of consuming these high-PUFA seed oils has a consequence that almost nobody is talking about just yet. Our body has no choice but to store the extra PUFA in our body fat, and that means that over decades the concentration of PUFA in our body fat gradually rises. Back in the early 1900s our body fat PUFA percentage was 2-4. Today it’s 10-30%. This makes our body fat prone to inflammation and has disastrous consequences for our overall health and ability to fuel our cells.

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3 SELF DISCIPLINE STRATEGIES YOU CAN APPLY OVER THE NEXT 6 WEEKS TO ELIMINATE SUGAR, FLOUR, AND VEGETABLE OIL.

1) RAISE YOUR STANDARDS: Understand that as an Athlete, your body is your vehicle to success on the field/court. I love using

the F-1 Racecar analogy. The more you take care of your body, the better the race car you have going into the race. The Best race car doesn’t necessarily Win every F-1 race, but you are maximizing your probability for success. Does that make sense?

In my experience, many players slip when it comes to their nutrition because they are surrounded by friends and family who are eating whatever. The bottom line is, you have a different set of goals. Raise your Standards.

 You want to raise your standards by becoming a nutritional samurai. 2) MAKE THE DECISION: Make the Decision that for the next 6 weeks, you are going to Eliminate sugar, flour, and vegetable oil. That’s it, no fear of missing out, no regret about having to skip dessert (Bonus: There are thousands of Incredible desserts you can make for yourself that use healthier sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit and as a sugar replacement).

It’s only 6 weeks, run the entire experiment and collect the data. Be like Flaherty who is is obsessed with quantitative analysis and his workout philosophy and training process are so disarmingly simple and effective, it’s hard to believe.

My guess is that once you see how fast you are moving when it’s Game time and you see your abs. popping you will not be feeling the FOMO.

To illustrate this point, I love sharing a Peyton Manning story. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning found himself a few years ago without a team when the Indianapolis Colts released him after fourteen seasons.

For the first time in his career, Manning had to find a team to play for. He auditioned for San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals, and several other teams before signing a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos. Manning said this about his choice:

‘The decision was hard. … I had to pick one [team]. I wanted to go to all of ‘em at one point. But, like the other decisions I made in the past, I decided to make it and not look back. To go from now and make it the right decision. I have to go to work to make it the right decision.’ 

Rather than see his fate as linked to forces outside his control, Manning demonstrates a different view—through hard work, he can make the decision a success.

This sense of agency gives him a powerful asset to drive the outcome he wants. If he fails, it will be despite his absolute best efforts to succeed.

Manning was faced with a tough decision. He made it. Then, rather than wonder whether or not he made the “right” decision, he went to WORK TO MAKE SURE it was the right decision.

He, of course, ended up winning a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

That’s a really big distinction.

Manning was faced with a tough decision. He made it. Then, rather than wonder whether or not he made the “right” decision, he went to WORK TO MAKE SURE it was the right decision.

I challenge you to Make the Decision and do this program Exactly as outlined.

That’s a really big distinction. Made any big decisions lately? How would you show up if your sole priority was working hard to prove you made the right decision rather than leaking energy worrying about whether or not it was the right one? Remember: The word “decide” comes from the Latin de cire which literally means TO CUT. Here’s to cutting off other options and hustling to prove ourselves right

How would you show up if your sole priority was working hard to prove you made the right decision rather than leaking energy worrying about whether or not it was the right one?

Remember the word “decide” comes from the Latin de cire, which literally means TO CUT. Here’s to cutting off sugar, flour, and vegetable and hustling to prove yourself right.

I believe in your Greatness! Because Your Potential is Truly Unknowable.

3) SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE COMPETITION. Remember the inspiring quote from former NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” Very few high-level team sport athletes are committing to eliminate sugar, flour, and vegetable oil from their diet.

Do this, see the results, and separate yourself from the competition.

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The bottom line is this, now is the time. In order to achieve a certain level of success, you must first find a certain level of motivation.

It’s the one thing I can’t give you in this e-mail.

I can teach you everything else, but I can’t teach that desire.

Whatever your fears or blocks are, you need to find a motivation bigger than them.

I can’t determine the thing most important to you that will keep that fire burning when you have those moments of doubt.

Once you have that, I can help you. If you don’t have it, I can only match what you bring. Commitment = desire + action. The bigger the desire, the better the results.

Every dream you imagine, everything you see and hear and feel in your sleep, that’s not a fantasy, that’s your deep instinct telling you it can all be real. Follow those visions and dreams and desires, and believe what you know.

Only you can turn those dreams into reality. Never stop until you do.

The greatest battles you will ever fight are with yourself, and you must always be your toughest opponent.

Always demand more of yourself than others demand of you. Be honest with yourself, and you’ll be able to meet every challenge with confidence and the deep belief that you are prepared for anything.

Life can be complicated; the truth is not. I truly believe I have zero limitations. You should believe the same about yourself. Listen to your instincts.

They’re telling you the truth. I want the satisfaction of knowing that every move I make, every thought, every idea, every action takes me further than anyone else has ever gone and makes me better at what I do than anyone else in the world. That’s what drives me.

Whatever drives you, let it take you where you want to be. Everything you want can be yours.

Unshackle those fears. Stop talking about what you *could* be if you just did this or that. Finish it.

Become it.

Today is the Day!

Coach Jackson
Coach Jackson
Master’s Degrees in Education (Specializing in the Work of Abraham Maslow and Human Potential) and an MBA in International Leadership and Coaching. He is a N.A.S.E certified Speed and Explosion Specialist and Optimize Coach.
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