By Steve Morris
To get faster for football and increase agility on the football field, you need to be very careful about which exercises you choose to use to get quicker. The wrong exercises will not only NOT make you faster, but can actually make you slower! There are literally thousands of exercises out there…how do you know which to use to get faster?
Magazines, web sites and self-proclaimed experts are constantly throwing new, odd-exercises at you, claiming they’ll help you get faster for football! But, the truth is, the basics are what give you the biggest speed increases on the football field. We are after football speed, not simply track speed or improving our testing numbers!
Remember, you only have so much time to train so we can’t waste it on exercises that don’t produce results! Here are the top 5. Use these and you’ll get faster in record time!
1. Box squats to Get Faster for Football
Box squats are king of the football speed training hill. If you want to truly get faster for football, do box squats. A lot. They build raw strength in the glutes and hips and dynamic strength in the glutes and hamstrings. This is especially important for football where the game starts from a dead stop and can often be played in a stop-and-start fashion. Think of how a running back sprints to the hole, gets to the second level, stops, makes a move, and explodes again. This is the kind of explosive speed box squats build. And you can also use box squats as a dynamic effort movement, thus improving your rate of force development (maybe the most overlooked aspect of football speed training). Honestly, if you want to get faster for football but neglect developing your RFD, you are wasting your time!
2. Conventional deadlifts
Deadlifts are the most underutilized speed exercise in the entire football training world. All this bull about hurting your back has scared generations of players and coaches from using what just might be the greatest overall strength and speed builder of all time! As far as the injury factor goes, there are probably many more injuries each year caused by overtraining on the bench than there are from deadlifting. If you deadlift in good form, you’re fine.
Why conventional deadlifts and not sumo? Sumo deadlifts are great as well, but if you have to choose between the two, go with conventional because of the extra stress placed on the hamstrings. Once you learn to really sit back, pull, and engage your hamstrings, you’ll see your speed increase so much people will think you’re on something! Increasing hamstring and glute strength is the fastest way to get faster for football.
Stick with heavy, low rep sets. Again, this sounds dangerous to some, but the reality is that higher reps tend to equal more injuries than low reps. If you’re really afraid to go super heavy, work up to multiple sets of doubles and triples.
3. Snatch grip deadlifts
Talk about underused exercises…the snatch grip deadlift is a bonafide “get faster for football” all-star movement. Because of the wide grip, the body is forced into a much lower position, which makes the hamstrings, glutes and hips work harder. Harder is good when it comes to getting stronger and faster. This is also a great indicator exercise. Typically, as the snatch deadlift goes up, so do all other leg movements.
The key here is to start with the hips lower than normal (this will happen naturally) and actively “sit back” when you pull, keeping the back flat. We need to turn this from the traditional Olympic lifting movement into more of a powerlifting deadlift, keeping the shoulders behind the bar and the body sitting back. Again, go for low rep sets. This can easily be used as a max effort movement, especially on a day when you don’t feel up to hitting a super heavy squat or deadlift. While you still go heavy on the snatch deadlift, it’s still lighter than those exercises.
4. Bottoms up squats
Starting speed is almost never addressed by most football strength and speed programs…at least not consciously. Most programs base their leg work around normal squats and cleans. But real world starting strength (better known as explosiveness) is rarely covered.
Football is a game based on starting strength. If you can’t turn it all on quickly, the rest of your speed is wasted. Trust me. I personally went through this early in my career. When I fixed it, my game changed completely.
Jumping, firing off the line, starting a pass route, and jumping a pass route for a defensive back are all based on your ability to fire all the muscle fibers in a hurry. One of the best ways to do this is with bottoms up squats and front squats. Basically, this is setting the bar on the pins in the rack at various heights, usually the bottom, mid-point, or in a quarter squat position. Then you wedge yourself underneath, get tight, and explode.
Now ‘explode’ is the appropriate term. If you don’t move your butt quickly, the bar just won’t move. You quickly learn what kind of leg power you have when doing these. And once you get good at them, you can add bands or chains to make sure you’re exploding through the entire range of motion.
It’s best to stick with Singles and Doubles on these. Especially with Front Squats (it tends to be a trickier set up). Once you are moving some good weight, experiment with chains or bands added to the bar. Rotate these in about once a month. If you also do Deadlifts and SnDL’s as your ME movements, this is plenty.
5. Kettlebell swings
Swings, when done correctly, can do more for your closing speed than any other exercise other than box squats. The problem is most people do them incorrectly. They do them in the housewife fat loss style, turning it into a semi-squat movement.
You need to allow the kettlebell (or dumbbell or small sandbag) to swing back and between the legs. Then tighten the abs and contract the hell out of your hamstrings, forcing the bell to snap forward. It’s all about the reversal of motion here. Then the hips and quads fire a bit. That snap is responsible for your hamstrings being able to turn on in an instant and have you closing in on the ball or ball carrier. They build real world football speed.
The swing is an accessory exercise. Go with multiple sets of low to medium reps. Don’t be afraid to use some real weight and go with sets of four. These do best following a heavy movement like deadlifts.
-Do these exercises and you’ll be amazed how rapidly you can get faster on the football field!
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