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If you want to improve speed on the football field, you have to train smart. Fine-tune your sprint mechanics, work to maintain better body positions at faster speeds and increase lower-body power to build a faster and more explosive football athlete.
In mechanical terms: Improve the hardware and update the software.
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Here are three drills that build acceleration and quicker sprints. Incorporate them into your weekly training sessions and reap the rewards of faster top speeds and quicker starts.
1. Hill sprints and sled pushes
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These build lower-body power for better speed and acceleration, by developing an aggressive forward lean during sprints and working the muscles that are responsible for hip extension.
The exercises help athletes improve their horsepower in each stride by making each step more powerful and explosive. Sprinting on an incline helps athletes correct over-striding, while improving stride frequency, which is critical to overall acceleration.
While sled pushes require special equipment, a nearby hill is absolutely free.
2. Reactive start drills
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It’s often said that the 40-yard dash is won within the first 10 yards. This illustrates the importance of hitting a higher speed at a faster rate. It can be a game-changer.
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Reactive start drills are a way to train quick reactions and reach top speeds faster.
To make these drills count, practice starts from varied positions – lying down, kneeling, half-kneeling, etc. – to challenge athletes to move quickly and efficiently into sprint form.
Alternating the stance lets you identify bad habits or positions. You can also mix up the auditory or visual cues to signal a sprint start, to infinitely increase an athlete’s progressive capabilities.
Athletes can practice accelerative starts in succession with jumps, bounds and medicine-ball throws to help improve hip extension mechanics and power. These drills transfer directly to better on-field quickness and acceleration.
3. Core anti-rotation drills
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An athlete with weak core strength is like a soldier trying to fire a cannon while riding in a canoe. You can have all the strength in the world, but if you can't effectively transfer that strength through the body and into the ground, you won't be fast – and you risk injury.
You can improve core strength that specifically relates to sprint ability through anti-rotation drills, which includes resist rotation – usually from a band or cable pulley – while maintaining a neutral spinal position.
Pallof presses and isometric anti-rotation holds are done with bands and a sturdy anchor point. Vary the stance to increase or decrease the difficulty. These also make a great warmup prior to sprint workouts.
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You won't improve sprint speed and acceleration only through technical or strength work. You must address it from a holistic standpoint and improve it with thousands of perfect repetitions, which you perform with a specific intent.
Similarly, avoiding habits that detract from proper development are just as important. A bad night’s sleep, poor nutrition or neglecting full recovery from injury can all take away positive adaptations.
Be strategic with your training, utilize these three speed drills and you'll be a whole new athlete.
Jace Derwin is the lead sport performance specialist at Volt Athletics.
This is an updated version of a blog that originally published Feb. 22, 2016