“Being able to start, stop and change direction quickly is important on the soccer field,” says Todd Hedrick, strength and conditioning coach for the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Wake Forest University. The Demon Deacons work their acceleration and deceleration skills twice a week throughout the year using Hedrick’s M Drill. Use it to condition or as a dynamic warm-up.
M Drill (see diagram for set up)
• Start at Cone 1; sprint to Cone 2
• Cut off left foot; sprint to Cone 3
• Cut off right foot; sprint to Cone 4
• Cut off left foot; sprint to Cone 5; repeat drill opposite way
Reps/rest: Go through the drill twice each way with a 30-second rest between reps.
Start on your back or stomach. When you get up from lying on your back, you’re forced to acclimate yourself to the drill. Beginning on your stomach helps you accelerate into the run using your whole body.
Perform barefoot. This works your balance and coordination, because you have to concentrate on keeping your feet under your hips to avoid sliding.
Make sure you’re not standing straight up. Maintain solid running form and concentrate on not letting your arms move across your body.
As you approach the cone, decrease your stride length and pat your feet quickly to slow down. This forces you to drop your hips and allows you to change direction effectively.
Change of Direction
When performing the drill, always cut off your outside leg, and make sure to cut past the cones. If you plant your foot too quickly in front of the cone, you won’t give yourself enough time to decelerate. Don’t lean into the cone; this places unnecessary pressure on your knee and ankle joints. Accelerate off your planted leg to the next cone.
Photo: Getty Images/Martin Rose