Having speed can open doors and create "big play" opportunities as fast as you can snatch them. Not having speed, however, can have you missing opportunities, and those same doors close in your face.
Having competed nationally in track since I was nine (and been a California state finalist in high school and junior college), I know a little bit about what it takes to be fast and transfer that into football speed.
I'm going to share with you some of the basics about football speed training as well as the approach you need to take to increase your speed.
"To Get Fast... Run Fast!"- Rod Woodson
This is the most simple, but best advice I've ever received on how to increase my speed. It came from Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson when I had the good fortune of asking his advice on the 40yd dash and professional combines.
He was basically saying that too many people are looking for some magic speed shortcut, when, really, the best way to increase your speed is to actually get out there and work:
Run your 40- and 20yd bursts. Hit the hills, bleachers, and stadiums. Get on the power sled or the speed training parachute. When training for speed and power, work hard, be consistent, and you will get faster.
If you don't take anything else from the Speed Training section, take that.
So, how do you get speed?
First is your stride. Your ability to cover ground depends upon two things: how fast your stride is (your stride rate), and how long your stride is (your stride length). Optimizing your stride rate and length are very important if you want to increase your speed.
Increasing Your Stride Rate
Increasing your stride rate is more trainable than stride length and comes down to your ability to generate a high impulse, or a great amount of force in a short amount of time.
This is also known as power.
The average contact phase for elite sprinters is 0.1-0.2 seconds. Your goal, through power and sprint training, is to develop this high impulse and decrease the time of your contact phase toward the lower end of that timescale.
The specifics of power training are explained in detail in the Power Training section.
Increasing Your Stride Length
Increasing your stride length is a little more difficult to achieve than increasing stride frequency because it is initially determined by your height and leg length, which are unchangeable.
Still, it can be done, and to do it there are three factors you have to pay attention to:
- Your Strength
- Your Flexibility
- Proper Sprinting Technique
As an athlete, one of the main problems I see in people with small strides are lack of strength and flexibility. Their knees just don't get up. Even with a quick stride rate, and look like their moving fast, but they're really just taking a lot of steps and going nowhere.
Here are some ways you can tackle these problems and things to pay attention to when you're working to increase your stride:
Speed and Strength go hand in hand; you cannot be fast without being strong. Strengthening the prime movers of sprinting will increase your speed by increasing the force by which you pull yourself through each stride.
Flexibility. Developing your body's static and dynamic range of motion, is a key component in developing speed. If your range of motion (i.e. your stride length) is limited, your speed will be limited also.
Sprinting technique and mechanics will make sure all of your movement is used for locking up receivers, intercepting balls, taking them to the house, or blowing ball-carriers up. In other words, for speed, so that its not wasted with bad technique.
In addition to developing your strength, flexibility, and technique, you have to get out there and sprint:
Drills for Speed Training
Drills you can use in your speed workouts. These are "no fluff" speed training drills, that, when performed consistently, will drastically improve your 40yd dash time and have you blazing across the field.
Speed Training Workouts
As a Great Cornerback you have to be fast. DB technique is important, but without speed, all the technique in the world won't keep you from getting scorched by lightning fast receivers. Here's where you put everything into a progressive, periodized speed training program and make sure this doesn't happen.
Agility and Footwork
Agility and footwork are just as important as speed. As a Great Cornerback, you have to be able to change directions very quickly and beat your opponents to the punch.