In the world of team sports, one attribute is prized above all others necessary to dominate the competition and to win. That attribute is acceleration.
Acceleration is often confused with speed, which is of value primarily to track and field athletes. Acceleration is the ability to reach top speed as quickly as possible, whereas speed connotes continuous speed. Acceleration means you will be able to win a race to a loose ball, blow past a defender or beat out a ground ball.
Below, I share five simple but effective methods you can use to improve your acceleration. When practiced consistently, they deliver amazing results in a short period of time.
Visualization allows you to mentally practice the proper execution of skills that improve acceleration, such as proper sprinting technique or reacting to a play. Visualization has two great advantages: one, you can do as much as you like without fatigue; and, two, with enough practice, you begin to train your body to perform in the way you've visualized.
Before a game or even while relaxing at home, imagine yourself in competition. Envision your feet powerfully and quickly driving your body forward. Think about how your body moves and feels when you're accelerating at top speed. Imagine the effort it takes to win a race or be the fastest player on the field. These thoughts help prepare your body to quickly recall how it must perform to accelerate at its full potential.
2. Wall Drill
This exercise emphasizes a high knee drive, which allows the legs to drive more forcefully into the ground for increased acceleration and overall speed.
- With your hands against a wall, hold your body at a 45-degree angle with your arms parallel to the ground
- Keep core and lower back tight with hips forward—you should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your ankle
- Raise right knee approximately to hip level and flex foot
- March in alternating fashion as quickly as possible
Sets/Reps: 1-3x10 seconds
3. Broad Jump
The Broad Jump closely mimics the powerful movement of accelerating from a standstill. You will explosively drive your legs into the ground to generate speed.
- Stand in a relaxed and ready position
- Use an exaggerated arm swing backward, then quickly swing arms forward
- Simultaneously explode with legs to jump and propel forward as far as possible
- Land with a stable base; absorb impact by allowing body to return to start position
4. Arm Swing Drill
Proper Arm Swings helps dictate your stride frequency, length and efficiency.
- Begin either kneeling or standing with chest upright and arms in a running position—one at shoulder level, the other near hip
- Drive arms straight forward and back with no side-to-side action
- Keep arms bent at 90-degree angle
Sets/Reps: 1-3x10-30 seconds
5. Sled Pushes
Sled Pushes are probably the easiest and fastest way to improve acceleration. They force the legs to develop maximum strength in as little time as possible, resulting in a powerful stride for improved acceleration.
- Load sled with 10 percent of bodyweight
- Start with hands on sled and body at 45-degree angle
- Begin sprinting by powerfully driving legs
- Push the sled as fast as possible
Sets/Reps: 3-6x10-20 yards
Jerry Babbage is a sports performance coach and personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Orlando, Fla. He works with athletes from numerous sports, including track and field, MMA, soccer, rowing, basketball, baseball and football. His performance articles are published on dragondoor.com and elitefts.com.
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