Linear Speed Training for Football

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Last year, we morphed your scrawn into brawn with a summer program that focused on functional strength and power from LSU football training expert Tom Moffitt. This summer, we're back to quench your thirst for speed training with advice and a program from Lance Walker, director of performance at the Michael Johnson Performance Center. Yes, Michael Johnson, the gold-footed speed slayer who bolted to Olympic stardom in 1996, and whose resume once read "fastest man alive."

Watch video of off-season football training at the Michael Johnson Performance Center.

Walker provides a "smart" training program that will break your training stalemate, shave tenths off your 40 and leave college recruiters salivating for more of your game film.

Walker's program is specifically constructed to:

  • Provide an effective, efficient and ethical guide to speed training
  • Offer a detailed progression to assess, train and reassess speed
  • Challenge, adapt and then rechallenge your speed training

Eight weeks is a perfect timeframe to improve your 40s. Walker says, "Anyone can get faster, but not everyone will be fast. If you want more speed, you must work on speed."

The former Kansas State wide receiver continues: "Too many athletes work on speed endurance, such as conditioning runs and repeat runs, in hopes of getting faster. Being in great shape is critical to success, but a slow athlete that gets in great shape is still a slow athlete, but now he can run slowly longer."

This program addresses linear speed, which is covering the greatest amount of straight-line distance in the least amount of time. "There are three distinct areas of 'linear speed,'" claims the speed scientist:

Acceleration [first 10 to 20 yards of 40-yard dash]: Getting the body in motion from a static position; characterized by a driving leg action and horizontal body posture

Absolute Speed [usually lasts 20 yards]: Top-end speed; characterized by a more upright posture, rapid leg turnover, minimal ground contact and large stride lengths.

Deceleration [stopping]: Trusting the ability to "stop" to fully express the ability to "go."

Keep in mind, this speed program supplements the regular weight training provided by your coaches; hence it calls for only one training day per week. "Each phase is built into successive phases," Walker says. "The first phase will set up neuromuscular, biochemical and skeletal systems which the second four-week phase will build from."

In layman's terms: Don't skip Phase 1. It is an essential building block to progress to Phase 2. "Phase 2 is the real 'turbo-charger,' which will reveal improvement," Walker says. "At the end of the eight-week program, an athlete should see significant improvements in acceleration if he follows the comprehensive plan, which also includes his normal weight, run, jump, cut and conditioning programs."

Performance Points
As you'll notice, each day is broken into seven stages: Dynamic Warm-Up, Mobility, Stability, Power, Speed, Strength and Regeneration. Below, Walker explains the purpose of each.

Dynamic Warm-Up: Gets the body ready for action, increases blood flow, raises core temperature and prepares the mind for higher level demands to focus and concentrate

Mobility: Increases hip mobility, and emphasizes proper hip mechanics and muscle patterns

Stability: Makes you aware of body position while improving your ground contact time and stride length

Power: Adds power to hip, knee and ankle extensions while focusing on deceleration and an explosive first step

Speed: Amplifies first-step explosiveness by developing force; improves short-range acceleration for game speed development

Strength: Increases stride length, reduces ground contact time, prevents injuries and enhances deceleration ability

Regeneration: Maintains gains between training sessions and returns body to resting state by supplying adequate resources from training

Tempo is critical for each exercise. Walker defines tempo as "the speed at which you perform the three phases of a specific movement—concentric, isometric and eccentric—basically, a 1-3-1 tempo… indicating a one-second movement, followed by a three-second hold in the finish position, and then a one-second move back to start position."

According to Walker, tempo allows an athlete to maximize the quality of movements by emphasizing certain positions. To gain the most from every exercise, follow the 1-3-1 precisely.

Only one day of speed training per week, but the workouts are strenuous and demand absolute attention. "You must be complete with your training," Walker, speed ranger, cautions. "To maximize linear speed development, attack all three factors of speed: stride length and ground contact time; stride frequency and turnover; and efficient technique. This program addresses all three, because if you aren't attacking all areas, you will never realize your fullest linear speed potential."

Shine or ride the pine. It's your decision.

Proof of the Program's Success
In 2008, the MJPC churned out former Arkansas Razorback racers and first-round picks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. In 2009, their impressive draft class included Michael Crabtree, Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Pettigrew. Some of college football's most dynamic stars of the past two years all drank the revolutionary Kool-Aid brewed at MJ's facility. Cheers.

Click for the full Football Workout

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock