Football-Specific Speed Drills
  • Football-Specific Speed Drills
    One common thread provides an advantage for all football players at any position: to be faster than the opponent. Incorporate these drills into your next speed session.
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    The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book, Developing Speed, a recent release in the NSCA’s Sport Performance Series with Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

    Dev Speed Book CoverFootball is a diverse sport played by a variety of athletes, whose ideal physical stature is largely dictated by the requirements of each position. However, one common thread provides an advantage for all football players at any position: to be faster than the opponent. It has been said that in football strength punishes, but speed kills. Speed training for football can be as complex or as simple as the coaching staff chooses to make it. It is not necessary to go out and spend a lot of money on specific equipment. Even though the requirements for playing speed depend on position, every athlete on the field can benefit from training to become faster.

    Lateral or Angled Quarter-Squat Push-off (Balance)
    Aim: To develop lateral first-step speed, lateral deceleration, and change of direction speed.

    Figure 1The athlete begins the drill in a quarter-squat position with the thighs just above parallel to the ground (Figure 1). The knees are bent, the hips are back, and the chest is up. The feet are slightly wider than hip width, giving the athlete a solid base. From the quarter-squat position, the athlete pushes off one leg (trail leg) and moves laterally, landing on the opposite foot (lead leg).

    This exercise can be performed using lateral or angled movements. On landing, the athlete sticks the landing and resumes the position of the lead leg to the quarter-squat position. The hips are back and even. Athletes may try to balance by moving the hips and trail leg, but they should try to limit this movement to improve balance and technique.

    Coaching Points
    • Athletes push laterally off of the whole foot with a focus on the ball of the foot to use the larger muscles of the quadriceps and glutes and minimize the absorption of force at the ankle.
    • The back is flat, chest up, and head in a neutral position with the eyes focused 5 – 10 yards ahead, not looking at the feet.
    • Athletes stick the landing and do not collapse or use an extra hop or step for balance.

    The difficulty can be increased by adding one or more 6-inch (15 cm) hurdles for the athlete to move over. Once the correct body position can be maintained, the athlete may progress to multiple-response repetitions (several actions performed repeatedly). These can initially be in the same direction and then varied to develop a change-of-direction response (for example, a sprint in the opposite or an angled direction, a turn and run, and a backpedal). Reaction and recognition can be introduced by having the athlete move only when a visual or auditory command is given. As the athlete performs the movement, a coach may throw a reaction ball or tennis ball in front of the athlete, requiring reaction and pursuit.

    Falling Start
    Aim: To develop acceleration and first-step explosion.

    Figure 2The athlete begins in a tall standing position with the feet directly under the hips, chest up, head neutral, and eyes focused straight ahead. The athlete falls forward, maintaining a straight line with the hips forward (Figure 2). The athlete does not bend at the waist or hips and does not round the back. The athlete falls as far as possible before forcefully flexing the hip and knee of the drive leg to 90 degrees at both the knee and hip and drives the arms in the opposite positions from the legs (Figure 3). The drive leg continues into a first step by driving the hips forward explosively while maintaining the straight-line posture.

    This step is followed immediately by an explosive second step while maintaining the posture. The athlete does not perform the drill at full speed until mastering the correct form. The athlete performs the drill using the natural drive leg and then using the other leg. The athlete needs to be able to take an explosive first step with both legs.

    Figure 3Coaching Points
    • Keeping the body straight and tall, the athlete falls as far as possible before initiating the drive leg.
    • The chest is up throughout the movement, and there is no bend at the waist or rounding of the back.
    • Remind athletes to explosively drive the leg and drive the hips as far forward as possible.

    After athletes master the first two or three steps using proper technique, they can progress to a more explosive start and carry out the drill for 5 – 10 yards. They may also perform the drill on a slight uphill (2 – 3 degrees), slight downhill or a combination of uphill, downhill, and flat angles.

    Developing Speed features several other football-specific speed drills, along with drills focused on baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby, soccer, tennis, and track and field. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

  • Jeff Kipp

    About the Author:

    Jeff Kipp, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D

    Jeff Kipp currently serves as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at the University of Kansas. Kipp also served as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the United States Air Force Academy, as a Performance Coach at Velocity Sports Performance, as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Denver, and as a Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the football team at Colorado School of Mines. Kipp holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University and a Master of Science degree in Exercise Science from the University of Northern Colorado.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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      When showing "still photo's" of high speed skills, be sure to publish the correct skill examples.
      This young man is clearly over-extended. If that is the first step out of his fall, his foot should be back perpendicular to his chest. It ismore» unlikely that he can recover from that step to smoothly advance to his next step.«less

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      great drills for off-season speed training

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