The Need for Speed—Improving Sprinting Performance in Football Players

by Kenneth P. Clark, PhD, CSCS
NSCA Coach April 2019
Vol 5, Issue 4

Available to:
Members only

Acceleration and maximal velocity are two factors that are key for any position in football and can determine success in many situations out on the field. This article will review several aspects of sprint mechanics and training to enhance linear (straight-ahead) speed for football players.


It has been said many times that "football is a game of inches," and now more than ever, football is a game of speed. With recent rule changes that favor wide open offensive attacks, such as increased protection of quarterbacks and wide receivers, and the proliferation of spread offenses and nickel defenses from the high school level through the professional ranks, fast athletes are more valuable than ever. Therefore, coaches are increasingly searching for the best methods to improve the speed of their individual athletes and their entire team. This article will review several aspects of sprint mechanics and training to enhance linear (straight-ahead) speed for football players.

First, a needs analysis of football game speed will be covered, to serve as the foundation for speed training protocols. Second, an examination of both acceleration and maximal velocity sprinting will be reviewed, including a review of the underlying biomechanical factors, and effective methods to increase performance. Finally, strategies for implementing speed training will be discussed, so that the reader can apply the concepts being presented in this article (agility and fitness/conditioning will not be discussed, as those topics are outside the scope of this article).

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This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach »

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Kenneth P. Clark, PhD, CSCS

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Ken Clark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University, where he teaches classes in biomechanics and motor le ...

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