Before a cutting movement, you must first train your body and mind to execute an explosive stop. Yes, it seems strange, but faster deceleration means a faster athlete. That stopping movement sets the table for you to execute an explosive cut, which then allows you to get the wheels in motion to blow by a defender.
Eric Johnson, performance specialist with Major League Strength says, "The faster you slow down, the more time you have to speed up and change directions. The harder you stop and push into the ground, you give yourself the ability to accelerate stronger and more powerfully."
The explosive power of the stop, if executed properly, allows you to push your body in the direction you are going more efficiently. And while that explosive stop sets you up for take-off, it also helps draw the defender off course by forcing him to change direction and/or speed.
Learning the ins and outs of cutting patterns also helps prevent non-contact sports injuries. Perhaps the most-severe injury of the 2009 NFL season occurred on a non-contact play, where one misstep by a New England Patriots wide receiver resulted in a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Wes Welker caught the ball over the middle and turned upfield, running directly at the pursuing tackler to execute a double cut, in which he plants on his left foot and breaks to his right.
Welker's left ankle and foot weren't pointed straight when he planted. He struck the ground with the side of his left foot, which caused his knee to bend inward, resulting in the devastating injury.
To ensure proper cutting, Johnson coaches the Pyramid Technique, a method enabling you to safely apply maximal force into the ground to explode into a cut.
- Position planting leg at 45-degree angle
- Keep foot and ankle pointed forward with toes pulled up toward shin
- Position planting knee inside of ankle and hip inside of knee (forming side of pyramid)
- Distribute most of weight on inside edge of planting foot
- Keep hips low and level in athletic fashion
- Point shoulders in direction of final movement
- Assume athletic stance
- Lower into quartersquat position and explode up into jump
- Rotate body 180 degrees in air
- Land in quarter squat and hold for one count
- Repeat jump, rotating in opposite direction to return to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Fully extend ankles, knees and hips // Keep knees behind toes when squatting // Land softly in athletic position with hips back // Don't use arms to rotate
- Set up five cones in straight line, approximately three yards apart
- Facing partner, shuffle explosively from first to second cone in racing fashion
- Plant and shuffle to start
- Repeat shuffle-and-return pattern for remaining cones
Sets/Reps: 1x2 with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Perform as quickly and explosively as possible // Maintain balance, staying square to partner // Keep toes pointed forward
Five-Cone Rabbit Drill
- Create box using four cones set up 10 yards apart and fifth cone in center
- Assume athletic stance at center cone facing partner on opposite side of cone
- As partner shuffles, backpedals, breaks and sprints forward, perform identical movement to mirror him
Sets/Duration: 4x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Maintain low center of gravity // Keep eyes focused straight ahead // Explosively drive foot into ground to change direction // Keep toes pointed forward and pulled up toward shin
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