Summer speed sessions can be tricky. After finding the right balance of speed and strength workouts, you must plan carefully to maximize each speed session. [Hint: speed training is best done early in the week.]
Also, many athletes focus exclusively on enhancing their linear speed, when, in fact, that is only one piece of the speed puzzle. Another piece, one that's often overlooked, is lateral speed and quickness.
As he prepared for the NFL Combine last year, developing lateral speed and quickness were top training goals for San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews—so much so that he dedicated one full speed session a week to lateral speed work.
Speed specialist Sherman Armstrong, who coached Mathews, says, “We work on lateral quickness, because most of [his] movement is not in a linear plane of motion. [It's] in various directions.”
Mathews says the steady focus on improving lateral speed and agility helped him “get my breaks down and my footwork together."
You can’t argue with the results. Mathews blew up the NFL Combine, rose fast on league Draft boards, and became the 12th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft—after the Chargers traded up 16 spots to select him.
Check out the drills Mathews performed during his lateral speed workout with Armstrong prior to last year’s NFL Combine.
Lateral Movement Series
“The hips are the power source,” Armstrong says. “This reinforces the running mechanics [he needs] in order to improve [his] performance.”
Side Shuffle to Forward/Backward Lunge
Armstrong: “This drill is all about hip movement: how well can the athlete move his hips and get out of one position and to another. If you have great body position, you’re able to move more efficiently.”
T-Drill with Mini Hurdle
Armstrong: “T-Drill emphasizes lateral movement and change of direction. We have mini hurdles out to have them get their knees up, because now they’re a little tired, but they’ve still got to maintain some knee lift.”