Develop First Step Explosion With Jumps

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Jake Ballard Jumps

Through the years, team sports have become more competitive and intense, and players have been forced to become better all-around athletes. You have to be able to move fast and change direction no matter what position or sport you play.

Since most team sports are chaotic—meaning you have to change direction frequently—an explosive first step is critical. By improving your first step mechanics, you can ensure that you stay one step ahead of the competition every time you have to accelerate.

Most athletes drive off with either their front or back foot. However, two legs are better than one. Try jumping as far as you can with one leg. Then try both legs. You'll find that when you drive off with two legs, you jump further. Using both legs in your first step delivers greater force and allows you to move faster.

Using both legs in your first step isn't limited to moving straight ahead. Team sport athletes need to be able to move quickly in all directions, and driving into your first step with both legs will get you moving faster quicker.

Developing this skill takes a lot of practice to make it second nature. The drills below will help you ease into the transition from practice to game-time speed.

Standing Long Jumps

  • In quarter-squat position, push hips back and lean forward on balls of feet
  • Jump as far as possible, extending hips and body in 45-degree angle
  • Land softly, reset and repeat

Two-Point Standing Long Jumps
This mimics driving from a starting position and splits the feet to make it feel more like a sprint start. For the sets/reps (see chart below), be sure to perform reps on each side, alternating the forward foot.

  • Assume two-point staggered stance, making sure weight is distributed over both feet
  • Push hard to jump as far as possible
  • Try to achieve a 45-degree angle

Lateral Long Jumps
For the sets/reps (see chart below), be sure to perform reps on each side.

  • Start in athletic position and jump laterally as far as possible
  • Jump with both feet to ensure maximum leg drive and distance
  • Land softly, reset and repeat in both directions

90-Degree Lateral Jumps
For the sets/reps (see chart below), be sure to perform reps on each side.

  • Assume athletic position
  • Drive off with both legs and use hips to rotate body 90 degrees
  • Jump as far as possible
  • Land softly in either athletic or two-point base position

These drills can be progressed into both Linear and Lateral Starts using Standing Long Jumps as the initial drive phase in the first step.

Linear and Lateral Starts Workouts
During your sprint/movement workouts, these jump variations can be used to help you use the double-leg drive in your starts.

Linear Starts

Start Variation Sets/Reps/Rest
Standing Long Jumps 4x5 with 2 min. rest
Two-Point Standing Long Jumps 5x3 each foot with 2 min. rest
Sprint Starts 10x1 with 1 min. rest


Lateral Starts

Start Variation Sets/Reps/Rest
Lateral Standing Long Jumps 2x5 each side with 2 min. rest
Lateral 90-Degree Long Jumps 3x3 each side with 2 min. rest
Lateral Starts 5x1 each side with 1 min. rest



Brandon McGill is the sports performance director at Velocity Sports Performance, where he served as head nutritionist and strength and speed coach for the 2010 NFL Combine class. Previously, he worked for the Scottish Institute of Sport, coaching Paralympic silver medalist Libby Clegg and British Olympic field hockey player Stephen Dick. He has also worked with professional volleyball, baseball and soccer athletes. McGill holds a master's degree in strength and conditioning, is accredited with the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association, and holds a level one British Weightlifting coaching certification.

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