Besides being two of the most electrifying athletes in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson and Reggie Bush share something else—uncanny acceleration. They can reach top-end speed faster than anyone in the league. Helping Tomlinson and Bush take their scoring weapon to lethal limits is Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10, San Diego, Calif.
“The majority of our training with our football guys is acceleration,” Durkin says. “Great if someone has flat-out speed, but if he can’t burst and doesn’t have the quickness or power to explode, he’ll never reach his top-end speed. It’s very important to train a football player so he’s fast, quick, powerful and able to cut—all within five to 10 yards. That’s where it’s at in football.”
Along with overspeed bungees and bullet belts, Durkin’s athletes sprint while pulling weighted sleds to develop their bursts. “Sled drags are awesome,” he says. “Bursting from the start, then digging and chopping for 20 to 30 yards is a great drill to improve acceleration.”
Here, Durkin explains the speed training plan he uses with LT and Reggie to help them develop their game-changing bursts.
I use sled drags twice a week on leg strength training days as one of the exercises. We perform them toward the beginning of the workout, following the dynamic warm-up.
As a rule of thumb, use 50 to 70 percent of your body weight on the sled. I find that two or three 45-pound plates are average, but start at 50 percent of your weight. If your form breaks down, drop weight. If it’s so light that you can stand straight up and run, add more.
Start in the stance you start from during a game, because that’s where you’ll burst from. If you play from a three-point stance, then start in a three-point. This will give you the most effective transfer from the training to your on-field performance.
Sets, Reps and Rest
Run 20 to 30 yards per rep and rest 2-3 minutes between sled drags. If you use short rest periods, lactic acid will build up quickly, and you’ll get sick. Start with 4 reps and build to 8. Also, do contrast training. So if you run 4 sled drags, run one or two sprints—between drags or when you’re finished—without the sled so you feel that burst.
Forward and Backward
Run sled drags forward and backward. Forward is the best way to maximize acceleration, but going backward will balance train your calves, hamstrings and lower back, and work your quads in a screaming fashion. If you do 8 drags, run 4 forward and 4 backward.
Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to toes with a 45-degree body angle. Keep your foot contact behind your hips instead of under them.