Speed Drills with Florida State Football

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Boost your acceleration with Florida State football

By Chad Zimmerman

Football players physical attributes vary as much by position as they do by assignment. Linemen need incredible size, strength and footwork to battle hand to hand in the trenches. Linebackers and running backs need inordinate speed, agility and vision to move across the field between the tackles, off the corners and down the sidelines. As for receivers and corners, these speedsters need top-end quickness to stretch the field vertically, jumping ability to compete in the air for passes and quick reflexes to react and cover man-to-man.

One attribute indispensable in every position, however, is acceleration, according to Jon Jost, head strength and conditioning coach for Florida State University. Acceleration is key for every player on the football field, Jost says. Improving it will translate into linemen having better five- to 10-yard bursts; linebackers taking quicker drops and plugging gaps with greater speed; running backs cutting with greater explosiveness; receivers making better breaks during routes; and defensive backs making better breaks on the ball.

Acceleration is easy to improve. Jost says, Strength, power and leg drive are the essentials to acceleration, and these are all things we can teach and train. If we can get our athletes to come out of their starts low, remain low and keep good drive angles, then we can teach players to accelerate faster for longer periods of time.

The FSU formula for improved acceleration combines strength, power and movement training. Conventional weight room lifts, such as squats and lunges build strength; Olympic lifts and plyo exercises develop power; and to teach proper form and technique, Jost uses resistance runs, start drills and technique drills on movement days.

Jost created a sample four-day movement training program based on the training he uses with the Seminoles. Every day includes an active warm-up plus start and technique drills. Resistance runs and plyometric drills alternate every other day. Each element, combined with strength and power work, produces the acceleration-boosting effects experienced by the FSU football team.

Every area is crucial to developing proper acceleration technique and power. In this issue we cover start drills. Prepare to learn a Seminole secret or two.

On a given training day, the Seminoles perform one advanced start drill with a basic set of 10-yard sprints. The four start drills described here develop acceleration by teaching powerful single-leg drive from the start, staying low during the drive phase and maintaining proper forward body lean throughout.

Start Drills

One-Knee Start (lateral)
• Start on goal line with right foot and left knee on ground
• Explode laterally to left off right leg
• Sprint down goal line
• Repeat for opposite leg and direction

Coaching Point: Emphasize pushing and driving laterally off the one leg as hard as possible. When you start to push, lift the down knee off the ground and open the hips to move laterally as quickly as possible.

One-Leg Start (option 1)
• Start in three-point stance with right arm down and left leg slightly forward
• Lift right leg off ground
• Explode forward into sprint off left leg
• Repeat for opposite arm and leg

One-Leg Start (option 2)
• Stand on left leg
• Squat down with right leg back and off ground
• Lower upper body into running angle position
• Explode off left leg into sprint
• Repeat for opposite leg

Coaching Point: With both One-Leg Start options, the key is to concentrate on pushing and driving off the one leg and exploding out. The movement will be almost like you're jumping out, off the one leg, and then sprinting for the target distance.

Push-up Start
• Start in push-up position with arms bent, chest on ground
• Place hands flat on ground next to chest, toes touching ground
• Extend arms and pushup off ground
• Drive right knee toward chest and explode off right leg into sprint
• Repeat for opposite leg

Coaching Point: The most common error with this drill is bending at the waist as you come out of the push-up position. Make sure to keep a straight line between your shoulders, hips and ankles.

Falling Start
• Stand with feet shoulder-hip width apart
• Lean forward keeping straight line between shoulders, hips and ankles
• Fall forward until you begin to lose balance
• Explode forward into sprint off left leg, drive right knee to chest
• Repeat for opposite leg

Coaching Point: The point just before you feel like you're going to fall on your face is when you have to explode forward into the sprint. The emphasis of this drill is maintaining a straight line between your shoulders, hips and ankles.

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