Oregon State's Linear and On-Field Speed Training

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"There is a misconception that football players should only train on-field speed," says Bryan Miller, Oregon State University's director of strength and conditioning.
"Unfortunately, little emphasis is placed on training linear speed, but it's necessary."

To create a well-rounded, fully fast athlete, Oregon State trains both speeds. Here are definitions of both and three points about training each, courtesy of Miller.

General Thoughts
Linear Speed
Straight ahead acceleration
From January to March [off-season], the Beavers devote one of four running days to improving linear acceleration. During May [pre season], players work linear speed development to prepare for the 40. All positions train linear speed with the same speed drills and using the same sprinting mechanics. However, for heavier athletes and players with poor strength-to-weight ratios, the volume of linear speed work changes [i.e., fewer reps, shorter distances, pulling less weight, less plyometric work]. Improving linear speed requires a high level of ground force production, a high level of central nervous system production, a great strength-to-body weight ratio, and the ability to perform technical and reactive movements. Focus on tall posture; proper, powerful arm swings; relaxing your head, neck and upper body; keeping your core engaged; and, applying maximum force into the ground each step.
On-Field Speed
Ability to perform position-specific skills and functions quickly
January through August, players focus on position specific exercises and drills to work acceleration, deceleration, lateral speed and anaerobic conditioning. Athletes should use running mechanics specific to his positional skill work. Due to the correlation between a player's on-field and linear speed, he should work to improve his overall production. E.g., an OL should improve his ability to pull on run plays; a DB needs to be able to run at full speed after opening his hips and turning out of his backpedal. On-field, position-specific work prepares a football player's body for the destructive forces of the sport and allows his instincts to adapt to actions and reactions of his position.


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