Improve First-Step Quickness | STACK
X

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

Improve First-Step Quickness

November 1, 2010 | Featured in the November, 2010 Issue

Must See Speed Videos

One small but explosive first step equals one giant speed advantage over an opponent.

The ability to glide into top-end speed is a highly coveted skill. But unless you’re running a track meet or sprinting down an open field, you’ll rarely fire up the top-end burners in a competitive setting.

Your ability to reach top speed in the shortest amount of time is what’s most crucial. “If you don’t beat your guy within the first two steps, then you won’t beat him at all,” says Walter Norton Jr., former Boston Celtics strength coach and current director of training at the Institute of Performance & Fitness in Andover, Mass.

Norton’s charge holds true for most sports. Whether it’s a burst off the line of scrimmage or a redirection on the court, your first step can help you blaze past a defender on a pass route or beat your opponent to a loose ball.

The size of a playing field and the speed of play often prevent even the fastest athletes from reaching full speed. “Within three to four steps, an athlete has to decide whether to slow down or keep running in another direction,” Norton says.

How do you reach top speed at a faster rate over a short distance? Develop first-step quickness. The key is to train explosive movements that force you to rapidly accelerate from a start position into a full-speed movement as quickly and as powerfully as possible.

Those first powerful steps happen when you produce maximal force into the ground to overcome inertia. “The quicker you can apply force into the ground, the harder you can accelerate on the first step,” says UCLA football strength and conditioning coach John Krasinski.

After training yourself to get up to speed and blow by opponents in a few, powerful steps, you might get that rare chance to fly down the sideline and into the end zone at top speed.

Develop first-step quickness and acceleration by performing these three exercises, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Box Drop With Sprint

  • Assume athletic stance on top of plyo box
  • Step forward off box and land softly on ground with knees slightly bent
  • Immediately decelerate from landing and explode into sprint

Sets/Distance: 6x20 yards
Coaching Points: Keep body under control upon landing // Work for limited ground reaction time between landing and exploding into sprint // Adhere to proper sprint mechanics

Loaded Starts

  • Assume push-up position with body in straight line
  • Place one foot under hips and press ball of foot into ground
  • With weight loaded on front leg, explode out into sprint for specified distance

Sets/Distance: 3x20 yards each leg
Coaching Points: Keep hips below shoulders when driving out // Explode into sprint as quickly as possible // Maintain forward lean throughout sprint

Non-Countermovement Box Jump

  • Assume athletic quarter-squat position with arms at sides
  • Without lowering further into squat or cocking arms back, drive through ground to explode up onto box
  • Step down slowly and return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x6
Coaching Points: Don’t lower into squat or use backward arm movement to load jump // Land softly on box with knees bent

Speed First

Train speed early in the week and early in your workout, when your muscles are fully recovered and free from fatigue, and when your body is capable of performing at its highest level. You need to train fast to get fast.

Watch videos of basketball drills, tips and exercises from top athletes, coaches and experts.

Related Exercises

Non-Countermovement Box Jump
Box Drop With Sprint
Loaded Starts
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Must See
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,176,242
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 16,154,763
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,168,742

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: Duke University Views: 217,694
Eastbay: It Begins Now Views: 70,986
Path to the Pros 2015: Training Days Views: 118,412
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

Acceleration Drills to Increase Speed

Acceleration speed is everything in sports. It's the difference between making the play and not making the play. Knowing the proper acceleration...

How to Train for Speed in Cold Weather

Get Faster With the Ultimate Stair Workout

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

12-Week Off-Season Baseball Speed Workout

Sprint Faster With Speed Demons

The 5 Elements of a Successful Speed Training Program

Speed Plyometrics to Help You Run Faster

How to Safely Decelerate Faster

5 Essential Cross Country Workouts Explained

The Off-Season Baseball Speed and Agility Workout Program

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Track Sprints

Lengthen Your Stride for Maximum Speed

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

3 Box Drills That Develop True Game Speed

Get the Most Out of Foam Rolling

Skipping Drills: The Missing Link From Your Speed Workouts

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

4 Powerful Band Agility Drills

Burn Your Competition with This Sprint Workout

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Treadmill Challenge

3 Speed Workouts to Improve Your Top-End Sprints

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Ladder Drills

Get More Explosive Off the Line of Scrimmage Like DeSean Jackson

The Secret to Tom Brady's Newfound Speed

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

How to Improve Your Basketball Quickness in 5 Minutes

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Multidirectional Run

Linear Speed Drills to Improve Athleticism

Improve Your Football 40 Time During the Season

Improve Your Footwork to Improve Football Agility

Make Quick and Powerful Cuts Like Adrian Peterson

8 Positions to Lower Your 40-Yard-Dash Time

Soccer Speed and Agility Drills for Women

3 Speed Training Essentials You Must Develop to Get Faster

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

STACK Challenge: 300-Yard Shuttle

Stability Training Can Improve Your Agility and Range of Motion

3 Simple Tips to Improve Your 40-Yard Dash

8 Speed Workout Tips to Get Faster

10 Reasons Why You're Not Getting Faster

Increase Your Lacrosse Speed With Multi-Directional Exercises

Previewing the Fastest Draft Prospects of the 2015 NFL Combine

Build Strength for Baseball and Softball Speed

Improve Your Baseball Speed With This On-Field Workout

Build Game-Breaking Speed With This Exercise

Rev Up Your Sprint Training With These Complexes

How to Build First-Step Quickness for Baseball and Softball