Speed is often talked about in two directions; in a straight line and side to side. Both are valuable in football but unfortunately, in most cases, they’re trained in different ways.
Studies have been done showing that straight line speed, linear, can be improved most through technical work and improving form while strength training and similar modalities do little to increase linear speed.
Side to side speed, or what we consider agility and quickness is trained a lot differently.
Football players are easily our most common clients in the summer and i began my career as a strength & conditioning coach for a football team. We’ve put together a few things to consider when trying to develop both speed and quickness.
1. A gigantic butt
The largest muscle in your body is in your butt. The Gluteus Maximus. This is important because the larger the muscle it is the stronger it is and the job of the Gluteus Maximus is what’s called hip extension and it’s a big part of sprinting and changing direction.
Both of those are important parts of football.
This comes back to the original point; a gigantic butt is one of the call signs of a sprinter. It doesn’t mean you’re a sprinter or have olympic athlete-speed but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If you google images of olympic sprinters there’s a commonality amongst them, they have gigantic butts.
So if you want to develop speed and power on the football field, work those glutes! Deadlifts (when done correctly), glute bridges, and thrusters are all great ways to develop those glutes.
2. Skip, jump and hop
Nick Winkleman used to be head of the NFL Combine prep arm of EXOS, in Phoenix Arizona before he left for being in charge of human performance & development for the Irish Rugby team.
EXOS has over 100 NFL prospects preparing for the NFL draft every year. During their time preparing for the combine they work to develop elite level 40 yd times and one of the most popular exercises and drills they use is a variety of skips and hops.
There’s a whole lot of science behind why this is the case and there really isn’t an easy way to explain it.
Simply put, the more you move by learning and doing different skills like skipping, jumping and hopping the faster you will become. This is almost purely due to the brains ability to use less energy telling the muscles how to move. What it comes down to is, efficiency.
3. Make some noise
When you’re running and jumping. There’s this guy, Newton…You might have heard of him. He came up with this law of the universe. It’s kind
of a big deal; “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
For guys getting to the second level on a run downfield is that you want each step to loud. The louder the better. When you make noise with each footstep that means you’re putting force into the ground and force into the ground means speed.
When you make every step a forceful strike into the ground you’ll make noise and as a result you’ll create force which produces speed.
Working to develop these 3 simple skills will go a long way to improving your speed and quickness on the football field.