Last Updated on January 7, 2009 by Jimson Lee
This article was guest blogged by Joe Heiler PT, CSCS, a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine and orthopedics.
What is the best way to increase speed for football?
This means getting to full speed in as little time as possible. Football requires short intense bursts of speed, and the most successful are those that can get to top speed quickly. Remember Barry Sanders? Not the fastest guy on the field but nobody accelerated better which is why he was so hard to bring down.
Teaching acceleration however can be tricky. It requires the athlete to apply more force into the ground during push-off to achieve a longer stride and cover more ground. Explaining this concept to any athlete, especially the younger ones, just gets them thinking too much. This is where simple hurdle drills can make it infinitely easier by making technique improvements more automatic.
The hurdles used for these drills are only 6 and 12 inches in height but spaced properly will force a greater stride length. Athletes should be instructed to push-off harder versus reaching to get over the hurdles. Proper spacing will also force the athlete to stay lower and get more forward lean to put the hips and legs at a greater mechanical advantage to push. It also forces a more powerful arm swing.
By adding a plyometric component to these drills, athletes will also learn how to land correctly. Just by timing them through the drills, they learn quickly how to land properly with good body control because it significantly improves their times. Landing hard with stiff legs will slow them down, versus a soft, quiet landing that results in greater acceleration and decreased times.
Here are four drills guaranteed to improve acceleration:
1) Hurdle Starts – these are ten yard sprints using 1 to 3 hurdles (6″ height). Space the hurdles far enough apart that the athlete has push hard to get over each one. Use one hurdle initially to improve the first step and eliminate stutter stepping, then progress to three. Start from a standing position or from a three point.
2) 12″ Hurdle Jump to Sprint over 2 hurdles – jump off two feet over a 12″ hurdle, land on two and then accelerate over the next two hurdles for a total of 10 yards. Again, hurdles should be spaced progressively further apart to force more push off.
3) 12″ Hurdle Jump to Sprint Laterally over 2 hurdles – same idea as #2, but move the hurdles to the side to force a cut then sprint. Start with the hurdles at a 45 degree angle to the 12″ hurdles, progress to a 90 degree cut.
4) Single Leg Hurdle Hops to Sprint – set up three six inch hurdles equal distance apart. Hop over each hurdle using the same leg, then sprint 10 yards. Start by having the athlete stick the landing in a single leg squat position between the first two hurdles to force good landing technique. As they land over the third hurdle, immediately push off the landing leg into the sprint portion of the drill. Progress by speeding up the hops between the hurdles.
Tips for Success
- Hurdles must be properly spaced to force the athlete to push harder. If too far apart they will try to reach to get over them. The difference between pushing and reaching is obvious to see for both the coach and the athlete.
- Do these drills by position or with kids of similar ability. Skill players tend to be faster off the line and can handle more spacing between the hurdles. The larger athletes tend to need less spacing, too much will cause stutter steps.
- Be creative. There are a number of ways to alter these drills to make them more challenging. Incorporate different jumps or change up the direction of the sprints. Have your lineman pull over them, throw to the receivers during the jump and then accelerate over the hurdles, etc.
- Just so you know it works, time the 10 yard dash without the hurdles. Add 3 hurdles properly spaced and run again. Times will drop immediately in most cases. Some kids will need a few reps to learn but all my athletes improve within three trials.
Joe Heiler PT, CSCS is a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine and orthopedics in Traverse City, Michigan. As a certified strength and conditioning specialist he has worked with athletes at all levels improving speed, power, and strength. Check out more great articles, exercise videos, audio interviews, and more from top physical therapists, athletic trainers, and sports performance coaches at http://www.sportsrehabexpert.com