Speed Drills with Northwestern Softball | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Speed Drills with Northwestern Softball

September 1, 2005 | Featured in the September 2005 Issue

Must See Softball Videos

Find out how to force your opponents to make errors by being lightning-fast

By: Josh Staph

Burning down the basepaths propelled the 2005 Northwestern University softball team to the second best record in school history: 42-18. The Lady Wildcats' lightning-fast speed also helped them steal 59 bases in 69 attempts and advance in the NCAA tournament.

These notable feats resulted from Jason Pullara's softball-specific speed development program, which mimics how speed and acceleration are used on the diamond. Because softball fields are smaller than baseball fields, softball players don't often reach top speed running the bases. Thus Pullara, Northwestern's assistant director of strength and conditioning, trained his players to achieve short, powerful bursts of acceleration. The team translated this training into diamond domination.

Speed can change the game's dynamic, Pullara says. "It puts a lot of pressure on the defense. There are a lot more errors when a defense sees speed on the field. They start rushing plays and making bad throws."

 

Resistance Training

Pullara relies on resisted running with elastic bungee cords to improve running strength, power and stride length. The improvements that result help softball players become better base runners. "The resistance forces the players' muscles to work harder," he explains.. "When the resistance is removed, it transfers into faster times from first to second and second to third base."

 

Resisted Sprints

  • Attach a bungee cord to yourself and a partner, who is standing behind you
  • Start in base running stance so the cord has tension
  • Turn and sprint while your partner runs behind you resisting at a constant rate the entire length

Use a 5:1 rest-to-work ratio; e.g., if it takes you 6 seconds to complete the sprint, rest for 30 seconds.

Pullara uses the following progression to get the most from the drill:

Week 1: 4 x 20 yards
Week 2: 6 x 20 yards
Week 3: 4 x 30 yards
Week 4: 6 x 30 yards
Week 5: 6 x 40 yards
Week 6: 8 x 40 yards

 

Overspeed Training

Overspeed training also improves linear speed, because muscles fire faster than they would without assistance. "We like to focus on this to train the neurological system to fire more quickly and increase stride frequency," Pullara says.

 

Assisted Sprints

The drill's execution is the same as resisted sprints except your partner runs in front of you, providing a constant rate of pull over the entire length of the sprint. Use the same reps and recovery as the resisted sprints, but Pullara recommends keeping the distance between 20 and 30 yards throughout the cycle.

 

Change of Direction Training

According to Pullara, change of direction is one of the most important aspects of speed for a softball player. "The first step is where most of your time is made or lost in softball," he says. "We try to make the players react with minimal negative movements, so everything is moving in the right direction for the first step. This carries over to softball, because you can get to the ball a step quicker and make the play easier."

 

Pro Agility with Ball Roll
Pullara uses this drill to improve change of direction speed and acceleration over a short distance.

  • Get in fielding stance facing a partner, with cones 5 yards to your left and right
  • Have your partner roll a ball to one of the cones
  • Without taking a false step, react by turning and sprinting 5 yards to the cone
  • Field the ball and touch the ground at the base of the cone
  • Have your partner roll another ball to the other cone
  • Turn and sprint 10 yards to that cone
  • Again, field the ball and touch the ground at the base of the cone
  • Turn and sprint back to starting position

The Wildcats perform 6-8 reps of this drill with a 5:1 rest-to-work ratio.

 

Acceleration Training

"This training mimics the type of acceleration needed to run down a fly ball or get to a ground ball," Pullara says..

 

Speed Ladder and Burst
The Wildcats further improve softball-specific acceleration by adding speed development to foot work drills on the standard speed ladder.

  • Perform specified drill through a speed ladder with a partner standing at the end
  • Have your partner throw a ball over your shoulder or roll it past you upon completion of the ladder drill
  • Accelerate after the ball to catch or field it

Perform 16-20 reps with a 5:1 rest-to-work ratio.

 

Plyometric Training

Pullara includes small doses of plyometrics in the softball team's speed workouts to improve explosive power. He has the women perform 3 sets of 6-10 reps of plyos.

 

Coaching Point: Go for maximum height and spend as little time as possible between jumps.

Split Squat Jumps

  • Start with your legs in split jump position
  • Squat down, then jump as high as possible
  • Switch your back leg to the front position and front leg to the back quickly in mid-air
  • Begin the next jump immediately upon landing

Box Drops

  • Stand at the edge of a 12" x 24" box
  • Step off the box and land on both feet
  • Jump for maximum height immediately upon landing

Coaching Point: After a few weeks of doing Box Drops, jump for maximum distance instead of height.

Related Exercises

Assisted Sprints
Box Drops
Resisted Sprints Pro Agility with Ball Roll Speed Ladder and Burst
Josh Staph
- Josh Staph is the Senior Vice President, Content at STACK Media and joined the company shortly after it was founded in 2005. He graduated from...
Josh Staph
- Josh Staph is the Senior Vice President, Content at STACK Media and joined the company shortly after it was founded in 2005. He graduated from...

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: Duke University Views: 70,557
Path to the Pros 2015: The Journey Begins Views: 19,026
Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 78,399
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Track Sprints

10 Reasons Why You're Not Getting Faster

Make Quick and Powerful Cuts Like Adrian Peterson

Build Game-Breaking Speed With This Exercise

Lengthen Your Stride for Maximum Speed

8 Speed Workout Tips to Get Faster

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Treadmill Challenge

Get More Explosive Off the Line of Scrimmage Like DeSean Jackson

Acceleration Drills to Increase Speed

3 Speed Workouts to Improve Your Top-End Sprints

Rev Up Your Sprint Training With These Complexes

Get Faster With 'The .10 Second Difference' From EXOS

How to Safely Decelerate Faster

How to Improve Your Basketball Quickness in 5 Minutes

Burn Your Competition with This Sprint Workout

Here's Why Andre Williams' Breakout Performance Was No Fluke

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Ladder Drills

The Secret to Tom Brady's Newfound Speed

Improve Your Football 40 Time During the Season

Improve Your Footwork to Improve Football Agility

How to Train for Speed in Cold Weather

3 Box Drills That Develop True Game Speed

Get the Most Out of Foam Rolling

Improve Your Baseball Speed With This On-Field Workout

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Multidirectional Run

5 Essential Cross Country Workouts Explained

Increase Your Lacrosse Speed With Multi-Directional Exercises

8 Positions to Lower Your 40-Yard-Dash Time

12-Week Off-Season Baseball Speed Workout

The 5 Elements of a Successful Speed Training Program

Skipping Drills: The Missing Link From Your Speed Workouts

The Speed Drill That Set Up DeSean Jackson's 64-Yard Touchdown

3 Speed Training Essentials You Must Develop to Get Faster

Build Strength for Baseball and Softball Speed

Linear Speed Drills to Improve Athleticism

Sprint Faster With Speed Demons

3 Speed Drills to Help You Sprint Faster and Lower Your 40 Time

3 Simple Tips to Improve Your 40-Yard Dash

Stability Training Can Improve Your Agility and Range of Motion

STACK Challenge: 300-Yard Shuttle

The Off-Season Baseball Speed and Agility Workout Program

Ditch the Sprints. Here's How to Build True Sports Speed

Soccer Speed and Agility Drills for Women

How to Build First-Step Quickness for Baseball and Softball

Previewing the Fastest Draft Prospects of the 2015 NFL Combine

Get Faster With the Ultimate Stair Workout

4 Powerful Band Agility Drills

Speed Plyometrics to Help You Run Faster