By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
Lee Taft is one of the top athletic movement specialists in the world. Over the last 25 years, he has devoted the majority of his career to training multi-directional speed to all ages and abilities. He runs Lee Taft Athletic Consulting out of Greenwood, Ind.
Taft offers six exercises to help football players improve their speed.
Medicine Ball Side-Throw Progression
- Standing Side-Throw: The athlete will face sideways to the wall (10 to 12 feet away) in an athletic stance with the ball at chest height and the elbows out. Use the backside leg to drive the hips forward, and take a small step toward the wall with the lead leg. Drive the ball into the wall, keeping the back elbow up so the shoulder doesn’t get injured.
- Forward Shuffle Side-Throw: The athlete will back away from the wall (6 to 8 feet). The exercise will be performed the same as the standing side throw, but the emphasis changes to lateral speed. The athlete will shuffle one to two times while staying in a good stance and then driving off the back foot and transferring the speed into the throw.
- Backward Shuffle Side Throw: Now the athlete will shuffle away from the wall. Start the athlete only six to eight feet from the wall. The athlete will shuffle aggressively one to two times away from the wall and plant aggressively to throw the ball. Do two to four sets (3-5 reps) on each side.
- One-Arm, One-Leg Tubing Row: This is a great speed exercise because it focuses on both deceleration and acceleration. The initial position has the athlete squatting on one leg and resisting the pulling action of the tubing. Then the athlete quickly stands and pulls on the tubing while driving the knee up. Do two to four sets (5-8 reps) per side.
Reactive Shuffles and Crossovers
- The athlete will get into a loaded athletic stance and be prepared to shuffle or crossover and react to the coach’s point.
- This type of exercise is great for athletic speed development because the athlete must randomly react.
- Do two to three sets (3-5 reps).
Resisted Power Skips
This exercises increases force production and extension of the hips. Do three to six reps for 20 meters each.
- The athlete must learn to drive hard to move the resistance of the tubing, yet maintain good posture for acceleration.
- The athlete will learn to coordinate the arms and the legs during this exercise.
- The biggest benefit is that more muscle fiber gets recruited when attempting to power skip.
Pure Acceleration Starts
To increase the mechanics and efficiency of accelerating from various starts, you must practice them. Do two to three different stances (3-4 reps each).
- Use falling starts, get-ups, box starts, parallel stance starts, and many other variations.
- The goal is to be consistent with leg and arm action as well as acceleration posture.
- If the athlete has breaks in his form, address them quickly.
- There is not enough time to think about the cut. Encourage the athlete to do what comes natural and correct mistakes.
- The athlete must learn to make the cut by re-directing the cutting foot outside the width of the body. You do not want the athlete to purposely drop low with the hips if the cut must be quick.
- If the cut is sharp and the athlete must come back, then the hips may lower slightly – but only enough to control the center of mass.
- The key to cutting is to create separation for an offensive player and to close the gap for a defender. Choose two or three of the following cuts (3 to 6 reps): speed cuts, sharp cuts, rehearsed cuts, random cuts, jump stop cuts, spin cuts.
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