Most strength coaches have their “go to” speed training drills they use for training all athletes for speed and they will have some more sports specific drills, as well as, some new ones they are trying out. These drills are intended to improve the athlete’s foot quickness, acceleration ability and power. You will find them packaged in a program by itself, as a warm up for a conditioning program or blended into a program. I will just address the drills we use in our general speed program, as we have athletes in all sports performing these drills.
As with all of our programs we encourage the athlete to perform soft tissue work in the form of a massage stick, foam roller and, if time permits, the vibration platform, prior to a dynamic warm-up sequence. So, after a World’s Greatest Stretch, backward lunge reach, moving side lunges, hip-openers and some cocky walks, we do some light 20 yard running with “high” knees, side shuffles, carioca for a more proper warm-up.
Speed training drills emphasizing foot quickness are a plenty. Though we use the ladders in every workout, I will leave that discussion to another time. Our basic package is done in a circuit fashion.
Two Inch Runs: Though sometimes done in a twenty-yard straight line, for the circuit, we will perform in a 5yd box. Athlete begins in an athletic stance with arms bent 90/90. The athlete will attempt to perform as many rapid foot reactions off the ground as possible. While slowly moving arms forward and back in running action, they will move forward, side, back and the other side completing the box. Make sure athlete picks up feet as opposed to sliding along ground.
Box Taps In: Athlete straddles a four to six inch box and will quickly step up onto the box alternating feet, in an up, up, down, down pattern. Lead right foot one time left foot another, trying to achieve as many contacts as possible in a 10-15 second period.
Box Taps Out: Athlete stands between two 4 to 6 inch boxes and will quickly step up on the box outside each foot alternating feet in an up, up, down, down pattern. Lead right foot one time left foot another, trying to achieve as many contacts as possible in a 10-15 second period.
BOSU Taps: Run a line of 4 to 5 BOSU balls touching end to end. Athlete moves sideways back and forth over balls making each foot contact on each ball, while moving as quickly as possible, maintaining position on top of balls for sets of 5 to 10. Additional benefits of balance and ankle proprioception can be achieved.
To address acceleration, consider the following drills. (Note: Check upper body mechanics, slight forward lean and arm cycle. If not getting proper action, seat athlete on ground to arm swing cycle (90/90, hips to lips)).
Snap Downs Side: This one drill we use to teach the backside triple extension. Set up five 8 inch barriers two feet apart. Begin by moving through the barriers with a skipping action sideways. Each foot strikes between each barrier, encouraging ball of foot ground contact. Cue tall and extension through ankle, knee and hip.
Snap Downs Forward: Once they establish a rhythm side skipping, you can face them forward to the row of barriers and off to the side. Outside leg will remain stiff and inside leg will be lifting and snapping over each barrier and into the ground. You will cue “punch” the ground with your inside foot and “punch” the air with their inside hand.
Tall and Fall Sprints: These may be performed without mini-hurdles or barriers, but we like to incorporate them to encourage the initial knee lift and stride length. Set up four hurdles in a row at graduating distances, usually starting at 3 to 4 feet based on athlete height or practice strides. Athlete begins standing behind first hurdle 6-8 inches, rises up on tip toes, leans forward to fall, maintaining a straight line body position. Either the right or left foot will be directed to step over hurdle to start sprint. Observe athlete for knee up toe up lead leg position, knee driving straight ahead and ball of foot strike directly under hip. Continue over each hurdle the same, sprinting 10 yards.
Once you feel the athlete has a pretty good grasp of the running mechanic and is accelerating by properly applying force into the ground, you should progress to low level power type drills with heavier loading and more force. Still using just body weight, but add load from jumps.
Box Step-Offs: With the athlete standing on an 8-12 inch elevated platform, box, step, bench etc. they will step down, leading with one foot, but make ground contact with both. At ground contact, the step foot will become the lead sprint foot, as the athlete quickly transfer to sprint forward. Perform 6-10 reps, alternating step-off foot.
Mini-hurdle Jumps to Sprint: Pretty self-explanatory as the athlete will two-foot jump through a series of hurdles/barriers. Upon landing over the last hurdle, they will take off in a short sprint. The ability to properly jump and land evenly with both feet while maintaining proper posture will prove important. Start with 3-4 hurdles and perform 6-10 reps, alternating take-off foot.
Of course there are many more speed training drills out there and most being used effectively. I have presented just a few of the basic ones I will use to start an athlete on a program. Progression can be made to all of these and other speed drills are brought in for variety and/or more sports specific transfer.