How To Get Faster For Football - Part II by Steve Morris

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In part I of How to Get Faster for Football, I told you 4 ways you can start getting faster on the football field immediately. It has become one of our most popular articles ever. Obviously, guys are hungry for real, honest, “this works” kind of football speed training info. The emails have been coming in fast and furious, with about 90% of them being positive.

But, alas, we still have the 10% hater factor.

 

 

hater_free_zone-12536

 

Well, to be fair, they were more winers than haters. Guys crying that I took away their favorite gimmicks and replaced them with hard work. Switch out a parachute for a gut-busting Deadlift? How dare I do such an atrocicity!

 

For those of you who missed part I, I’ll give you a quick recap…

  • If you’re more into running around cones than working hard to build your football speed, please get the hell off of this site…now…gone? Good. For those who actually want to get faster for football…

 

  • Train the hamstrings hard
  • Train for speed in the weightroom
  • Build Starting Strength
  • Be flexible in the right spots

 

 

Now, in Part II, I’ll address some of the excellent questions you guys had, expand on the points from the first article and let you in on even more “secrets” of getting faster for football.

 

 

1. Always Apply Maximum Force to the Bar

 

 

This is where most guys get lost. Many an expert has confused the slow moving bar that they see during a max-out and think that this, in fact, makes one slow.

This is only true if you are intending to move the bar slowly. As any top Powerlifter will tell you, if you aren’t actively trying to move the bar, no matter how heavy, as quickly as possible, you will fail. The same is true for football speed training.

The classic example goes like this:

If you can Squat 300lbs, and I load the bar to 135 and tell you to lift it as fast as possible, you’ll do it with so much force that you actually come off the ground. It’s almost like a jump.

 

Now, if I put 300 on the bar and told you to do the same, you would appear to be moving very slowly. But, t0he fact that you are trying to move the bar quickly is what counts. The Central Nervous System (CNS) reads this signal as a necessity…

  • Heavy Weight + A body trying to move quickly = CNS saying Oh, shit, this guy is insane, we better move this weight fast before he kills us!

 

 

I once had a coach challenge this theory (I didn’t invent it, it was discovered decades ago). He felt that heavy weights are moved slowly and it doesn’t matter how fast you try to move it. So, I told him to take his max squat and try to intentionally move slowly. Yea, he got buried.

When you teach the CNS to move fast, it will make you fast. Football game-speed requires you to be able to move fast in all directions so you better train your brain to do so.

When you do this for every exercise, every rep, the brain learns it. It now knows that it’s expected to tell the muscles to move with maximum force all the time.

Dave Tate said it best: “Warm up sets should feel like maxes (because of how much force is applied) and maxes should feel like warm up sets [because of how much force is applied]“

 

In short; heavy weights, high speeds = faster for football.

 

 

2. Use Basic Plyometrics for Increased Football Speed

 

 

Please do not leave this page and go buy $10,000 worth of fancy plyo equipment. Start with the basics.

Plyos are excellent for teaching football speed because of their ability to build explosiveness. This site is called Explosive Football Training for a reason! We want to be fast and explosive…we want the ability to turn on the jets in a slit second. This is where most “speed training” programs fall flat. They worry so much about getting the perfect start on your 40, they ignore the ability to use your speed in an actually football game.

Even if you’ve only been to one practice, you know that you don’t have time to get into the perfect position on the field. Things are moving 90-mph out there & you often need to go from a dead-stop to an all out sprint in less than 1/2 a second. This is what plyometrics can teach you.

 

 

  

Plyometrics. by definition are exercises that allow the muscles to reach maximum strength in the shortest amount of time possible. Re-read that and think of it’s applications to football speed training!

 

Add these movements to your football strength program and watch your speed and explosiveness…well, explode!
 
 
But, don’t go crazy. Use the first group as part of your warm-up.

When ready, add ONE of the second group for 2 – 3 sets of 5 jumps. Use them either right before heavy strength training for the legs or before you start your actual speed/sprinting work.

 

That’s it. That’s all you need, especially in the beginning.

 

   

 

3. Train the Hamstrings Dynamically

 

 

In part I we talked about “training the hamstrings like your life depended on it.” You must train your hams hard and heavy. But, for maximum football speed, you also need to train them dynamically. We need to train the hamstrings fast and explosively.

Exercises like Kettlebell Swings are excellent for teaching this.

 

As are explosive One-Leg Band Leg Curls.

 

And Sandbag-Band Swings:

 

The Olympic Lift Variations and even Deadlifts, when you apply max force to the bar, can train the hamstrings dynamically.

  • The key is to always use the hams and glutes to move the weight as quickly as possible.

 

 

When you sprint or jump, your hamstrings are responsible for producing amazing amounts of force. If you neglect this you’ll be slow and have pulled hamstrings. And, if you’ve been neglecting them, they will need to be worked even harder to catch up to the more powerful Quads.

It’s best to put an explosive hamstring movement in after a heavy leg movement. So, after you get done with some ME Deadlifts, grab a Kettlebell or two and start swinging hard. Or, wait till the end of your session, set up a band and do some explosive leg curls. The 1-Leg Band Explosive Leg Curl is the best way I’ve found to prevent hamstring pulls in guys who are prone to them. The fact that the band continues to increase in resistance as you get closer to the hardest part of the movements strengthens the hams all the way through a full range of motion, very similar to sprinting.

 

4. Learning Accelleration & Reactive Ability

 

In the wold of Football Training we hear the words agility and quickness training so
much that it becomes nauseating. Why?

 

Well, most agility training programs suck…they’re set up by those with lame training products to sell (hurdles, cones,parachutes) and a lack of understanding of just what agility and quickness is!

Running around like a headless chicken through cones will not make you more agile or quicker. First of all, let’s start to define those two qualities as Reactive Ability (RA). The primary role of RA is to produce a very high speed movement that doesn’t encounter a large resistance or require great strength, power, or energy consumption.


This is why some great athletes seem to glide across the ground – they make agility look effortless

RA is a function of speed-strength. Most people tend to ignore half of that definition. We must train the strength portion or there is no speed-strength. Without the strength training part, plyos and speed training become useless.

 
 
Reactive Ability is displayed when your muscles and tendons react to force and are stretched just before doing something explosive. When training for football agility we have to focus on training your reactive ability.


And, when training your RA, you must keep several points in mind:

  • The speed of the pre-stretch is key
  • More Speed of pre-stretch (eccentric) = More Force Produced
  • Luckily, this aspect of strength is highly trainable

 

One of the best ways to train this ability is through Box Jumping…yup, we’re back to the combination of strength training and plyometrics.

Plyometrics, or Plyos grew out of what was simply known as “jump training” in Eastern Europe/Soviet Russia. Because the commies were just plain dominating damn-near every sport, the West began to obsess over what they were doing to set them apart.

Drugs, of course, were the first reason. But, after that fell through, they turned their attention to plyos. This is where things went wrong. Most football programs began to use a plyometric training program that would be too complicated for the Russian track team.

We don’t need that.

We need to focus on basic plyometric movements ranging from the lowest:

 

  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Bounding
  • Basic Long Jump
  • Basic Vertical Jump

 

To the more advanced:

 

  • Box Jumps
  • Lateral Box Jumps
  • Multiple Box Jumps
  • Seated Box Jump
  • Depth Jumps (eventually – not for beginners)

 

I hate to drag out something from your science text book, but most training failure could be cured if more people remembered Newton’s Second Law and it’s application to football, football training and weight training in general – Force = Mass x Acceleration.

It’s so simple, yet most ignore this. If you’ve ever wondered why Safeties typically hit the hardest despite not being as big as a DE or a LB, you just got your answer. While their mass (weight/size) is not as great as a D-end, their acceleration (how fast they move) is much, much greater, thus producing more force (hitting power).

 

 

 

hard football hit

 

The problem is, most programs only increase the mass (amount of weight used), or sadly,
the number of reps (bodybuilding style training). Acceleration is often completely
ignored. Dynamic Training trains acceleration, especially when done with bands and
chains, but this can still leave some explosiveness on the table.

So, the solution is to train heavy with Max Effort, train for speed with Dynamic Effort and to train for speed/acceleration/reactive ability with plyometrics. No parachute needed.

 

5. Increase Footspeed with Jumprope

 
I’ll keep this one really short. Go to Wal-Mart, fork over $7, and increase your footspeed by about 300% in a week.
 
 
Too good to be true? Hardly.
 

While most compaines want you to buy speed ladders and L-Shaped cone drills and dot-drills, the good old Jump Rope reigns supreme for increasing foot speed. Everyone on the field could use faster feet, especially lineman.

It may not be complicated or high-tech, but the Jump Rope accomplishes exactly what is required for more speed:

  • It makes you move your feet and legs realllly fast against the resistance of your own bodyweight in a chaotic pattern.

This works especially well if you have a partner yell out which type of jump is next (2-feet, 1-foot, lateral hops, double jump, etc)

 

The single best decision I ever made in my football career was to start every session off with Jump Rope. 2 – 4 sets of 25 – 50 reps is all you need, especially you bigger guys. If you can get a 300lb lineman to gain the ability to rapidly jump on one foot while a rope swings undeneath, you have a lineman who can move his ass on the field.

 

6. Training Beginners

 

One of the best questions from part I of How to Get Faster for Football came from Coach Mike Kozak. Coach asked,

 

Hey Steve,
 
 
Do you do any agility work with your athletes?
 
I train a lot of high school players, and to be honest most of them are not efficient movers when it comes to stopping, cutting, reacting ect.  
Not questioning your program, just seeking more information. Thanks.

I read a lot of your stuff and really like your honest and simple approach to football training. I just read your most recent post on EFS about 3 speed myths. I agree with your opinion about cone agility drills only bringing about improvement in running around cones – or something like that I get the idea.  

How do you teach reaction speed, deceleration, acceleration, ect?

Great questions. Coach Mike’s point about beginner athletes is a great one. You’ve no doubt by this point learned of my disdain for cone drills, etc. But, if you are a young player who moves like Frankenstien or, you coach guys like this, what do you do?

 

Well, there are 3 things you do in this situation.
  1. Continue to get them stronger in the weightroom
  2. Do basic (and I mean basic) agility/cone drills
  3. Play games

 

There’s over 100 articles about football strength training on this site, so no need to cover #1 very much. But, am I being a hypo on #2?

No. I said from the start that “past the beginning stages, cone drills are worthless.” But, here we are talking about the beginning stages. See, when you first start as an athlete, unless you’re a natural, you need to do some basic movements to teach the brain to tell the muscles what the hell they’re supposed to be doing.

 

In this situation, having a young guy do a basic Box Drill (or 4-corner drill) will do well in teaching the body basic movements. As will low-end plyos like High Knees, Butt-Kicks, Bounding, etc.
Now, number 3 is where the magic happens.
The question is when do you stop using this stuff? There’s no hard-and-fast answer. As a coach, you’ll know when a guy is moving better. If you’re a player, film everything and really pay attention to the fluidity of your movements.
 
 
If you’re in doubt, have your young guys start with the basic plyos as part of the warm-up. Add shuffles, lunges, and very basic cone drills like the Box Drill, or simply weaving in and out of the cones. When you notice your guys are moving better, move on to more advanced plyos and continue to get them stronger.
 
 
You can and should use the low level movements as a warm-up. Although past the beginning stages they lose value to improve speed and agility, they are useful as a way to prepare the body for work and to re-enforce proper movement patters.

Submitted by DMorgan on Tue, 12/29/2009 - 9:46pm.

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