Improve Deceleration to Increase On-Field Performance

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Athletes today are well-versed in training, whether for speed, strength, power or agility. Yet, despite significant amounts of time spent training, many athletes [and their trainers] ignore drills and exercises that specifically target deceleration. This can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Deceleration is the process by which an athlete slows his or her movement in one direction to either change direction or stop completely. The ability to stop quickly is just as valuable as reaching full speed rapidly. Imagine a running back being chased by a defensive player—both running step for step. The running back brakes and stops completely in two steps, while the defensive back has to take three steps. At that point, the running back has changed direction and is speeding away. He shed the defender thanks to his deceleration ability.

To improve deceleration, I recommend performing the following drills, which focus on braking and developing lower body muscles to absorb forward momentum. The drills also incorporate coordination and balance training, while targeting the anaerobic energy system to promote explosive bursts of strength and speed.

The first exercise is T-Cone Plyo Jumps. Perform as many reps as possible during 30 seconds, striving for five reps each side. Athletes first beginning this exercise can perform the drill without my Catalyst Band System, which can be added when sufficient strength and coordination have been achieved.

The second exercise I recommend is the Backpedal Turn-And-Go. Athletes should perform this drill with powerful and explosive movements, striving for four to six reps in 30 seconds. If you are new to deceleration training, or if BOSU balls are not available, simply perform the same movement landing on the ground.

Watch the video below for details on how to perform the drills.

To allow for maximum power and to fully challenge the body—similar to game-time conditions—perform deceleration drills at the beginning of a workout. At my performance facility, TrueFitness, we regularly include deceleration workouts in our training programs, and it has resulted in successful on-field performance.

Spencer Aiken is the president and CEO of TrueFitness [San Diego, Calif.], a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a Twist Master Coach. He has used his educational and fitness background to create a revolutionary training style that focuses on training athletes like athletes. He invented the Catalyst Performance System, a sports performance training apparatus for resistance, plyometric and strength training. He can be reached via email or at his website,

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock