Moving backward is a critical skill in almost every sport. Outfielders need backward speed to chase down fly balls; defensive backs need it to stay with lightning-fast wideouts; and point guards need it to get back on defense and prevent fastbreak points.
In all of these sports, however, backward movement is only transitional. In each example, the athlete moves backward only until he can commit to turning around and running forward. This transition period is when athletes are most vulnerable to losing their balance and speed. But you can prevent this from happening by performing backward and backward-to-forward transition exercises in your speed training workouts.
Backpedaling teaches the fundamentals of moving backward quickly without falling. When backpedaling, stay on the balls of your feet and pick up your feet instead of sliding them. Keep your hips low and pump your arms in front to maintain balance.
Sets/Reps: 3×5-10 yards, two to three times per week
Backpedal and Turn
This drill improves your ability to quickly move from a backpedal to a forward sprint. Backpedal five yards, then quickly turn 180 degrees and sprint forward 20 yards. When executing the turn (turning right in this example), your last backpedal step should be with your left foot. Then open your hips to the right and step with your right foot pointing in the desired direction. Finish the 180-degree turn by pivoting with your left foot and driving forward into a sprint.
Sets/Reps: 3-5×25 yards, two to three times per week
Up Two, Back One
This drill focuses on the transition between forward and backward movements. Set up six cones in a line five yards apart. Explosively sprint forward two cones, stop and backpedal one cone. Sprint forward two cones, stop and backpedal one cone. Continue this pattern until you run past the last cone.
Sets/Reps: 3-5x drill, two to three times per week
Photo: Tom Shaw