So I recently made a series on my YouTube Channel labeled Top 10 Acceleration Drills and I think it provided athletes with a plethora of new exercises to add to their training arsenal.
What I wanted to do here was provide in writing a little more about each movement and give my thoughts as to why each one is important and a little why I placed them in this order.
At the last spot I placed the Falling Sprint, it is essentially a technique where we place an athete on a line and allow them to react off their own athleticism. I’ve used this exercise in the past just to see how athletic a new prospect might be. If they panic quickly and begin sprinting it tells me a lot about their reaction and recovering capabilities. If they allow themselves to drop drastically and smoothly recover I immediately think… “Stud”. This drill can be used with beginner athletes and advanced as the level of performance increases.
Next we have the Ground Starts, this also is a very good acceleration drill teaching the athlete to take the right angles when firing off. It does not have the reaction component like the Falling Start, but it can easily be added by instructing the athlete to fire off a cadence. I like this one a tad bit more than the Falling, simply because from my experience it teaches the athlete how to create the mechanical advantage and forward body lean coming off the ground.
Partner Release sprints are amazing for breaking down the acceleration phase of the sprint. It is very similar to the Falling where it is a “top down” movement (as opposed to ground – “bottom up”) and this is where most athletes need to generate acceleration in competiton. Simply meaning they accelerate from a standing position typically rather than off the ground. Then as you can see we have the athlete in a controlled state, applying force into the ground while being held up by a partner as this motor pattern is happening we then release them allowing them to continue the same fashion on their own. Breaking it down physically how it should feel while driving out.
Jump Back Starts are an amazing tool teaching acceleration. Similar to the Falling Start but having the athlete react soon as their feet hit the ground in a staggered stance. When they jump back not only is the goal to obtain a forward shin angle but also to teach the athlete to explode out utilizing the power of both legs when reacting to the ground.
Next is the Kick Up Start, it is essentially very similar as the Jump Back. The reason why I like it just a tad more is that we are exploding out from the ground, again promoting a “more-positive” shin angle which gets the athlete driving back into the ground longer.
Jumping is next on the list and quite honestly I can make a case for it to be #1. Anytime you increase your explosive capacity you are training your body to translate that to any level of competition when accelerating. I think you guys all know my stance on jumping, simply because I train it so much and attribute so much of it to my 1.49 10 yard dash.
Resisted Sprints hit the list at #4 because they are as classic as Coke. Since the people have been training for speed they have been pulling some kind of load. The reason why I like it in particular is not just the fact of the resistance, but also because the angle it forces the body into. Anytime you push or pull a load you force the body into “acceleration form” where you are driving force back into the ground. Think about it, try pushing a sled while standing straight up or dragging one without that intial forward lean.
I can’t say enough about Ball Drops. I learned about these in 9th grade reading a muscle mag and learning about a guy named Tom Shaw, who trained elite athletes. He used Ball Drops on big name guys and I was hooked simply because that. Now that I administer this exercise, I see the reaction benefits. The athlete must react off the coach and catch it before it bounces twice. The athlete must immediately begin to dig his feet into the ground propelling himself forward teaching proper form and an easy form of competiton.
I see many coaches administering Wall Sprints because it seemed to explode onto the performance scene but in my opinion I’m not sure if it’s always utilized properly. You see these can be an amazing tool but very quickly it can cause an athlete to form faulty movment patterns when done wrong. What I’m looking for here is for the athlete to “claw” down and back at the ground as opposed to “stab”. It sounds simple but the muscle activation involved can sometimes confuse the athlete. An easy way to detect if you are performing this correctly is if you feel a little more activation in the hamstrings.
Topping the list is the Hurdle Start. Ideally perfecting any basic start is essential for athletes to learn whether they want it to translate to the field or in a combine setting. Adding the hurdle helps me cue the athlete to clear and then “claw” back towards the hurdle so we keep applying force back into the ground as opposed to stepping and allowing the shin to get vetical too soon causing the athlete to stand straight up.
There is a brief look into my mind in what I see as the most effective exercises when teaching an athlete to accelerate. I hope along with the videos it can help you not only coach but perform each of them.