Developing Speed and Acceleration Qualities in Athletic Development
There are numerous factors that contribute to an athlete’s ability to produce high levels of speed and acceleration, force production being one of the main qualities we need to develop to accomplish this and maximize athletes’ ability to steal and run the base paths.
Acceleration is characterized by an athlete’s ability to generate high levels of production and be explosive from a static starting position. In addition to that, body and shin angles come into play, longer ground contact times, and learning how to apply force into the ground in a manner that propels them to move in the intended direction.
This is where the “false step” or “drop step” comes into play. We naturally see athletes take a “drop step” (check out the right foot in the slow-motion video) to reposition their shin and body in a more optimal position to drive force “down and back” underneath the hip to project themselves in a horizontal manner.
There are numerous drills/exercises we perform to maximize an athlete’s ability to generate high levels of force production as means of improving their acceleration capabilities. The key is placing athletes in the proper body positions and shin angles to replicate the movement pattern and force vectors that come into play to drive acceleration improvements. This can come in the form of strength training, plyometrics, specific acceleration drills, resisted sprints, heavy sled marches, hill sprints, etc.
Below are a few examples of exercises you can implement to work on improving your ability to drive more force into the ground and be explosive in your first step. Consider these drills require and focus on longer ground contact times and projecting the body in a horizontal manner to replicate the force vectors involved in acceleration.
- Sled Marches
- Resisted Sprints or Hill Sprints
- Overcoming Sled ISO’s
- Kneeling Starts
- Push- Up Starts
See the Instagram video at the end of this blog post.
Another of my favorite methods we utilize at Top Performance Strength is the contrast method. The goal is to pair a heavy strength training exercise with a similar movement pattern that replicates the strength training exercise. One example would be pairing a safety bar squat with a box jump or squat jump. Another variation for the upper body would be to pair a bench press with a medicine ball chest pass.
This elicits post-activation potentiation (PAP) – enhancement of muscle force capabilities following maximal or near maximal muscular contractions (from heavy lifting). This enhances the central nervous systems excitation capabilities so athletes can exert increases in force production than otherwise possible when doing plyometrics and power movements. The amount and rate of force that muscles can produce is amplified to increase power outputs. Check out the link below that demonstrates one of our athletes performing the contrast method by alternating between a heavy sled march and a 10-yard ball drop sprint.