How To Develop Explosive Speed

Creating a football speed program is one of the most important things a coach can do for his team.  Football is a game of speed, and I’ve seen it impact a game in more ways than I can count.  I’ve also seen a lot of coaches and athletes struggle with developing speed, so I’m going to explain some of the principles that must be understood. 
An effective football speed training program should focus on teaching athletes how to move efficiently and increase the amount of force they are able to put into the ground during this movement.  Unfortunately, most coaches are still wasting a tremendous amount of their athlete’s time and energy focusing on doing drills for the sake of doing drills, without understanding how these drills are supposed to help.  They find a bunch of drills on the internet or at a camp, put them together in whatever order feels good to them, and call it a football speed training program.  Without a thorough understanding of how speed is developed, your football speed training program will never produce optimal results.  Let’s take a look at the important factors involved in an effective football speed training training How To Develop Explosive Speed
Four Factors of an Effective Football Speed Training Program
An effective program has to take important pieces from several areas of science: physiology, neurology, biomechanics and motor learning.  Note that “drills” are one of the scientific areas we need to drawn upon.  Drills are simply a way to help develop one of these areas.  Understanding how a particular drill affects the human body is the key to drill selection and football speed training.
Biomechanics & Motor Learning – Athletes must learn how to put force into the ground in a way that will help them move more efficiently.  While not everyone needs to run, cut and accelerate the exact same way, there are certainly ways that are more effective than others.  These techniques need to be understood and taught to young athletes so they aren’t making gross errors in their movement. 
Drills should be selected that teach athletes the best way to apply force into the ground.  They also need to be taught in a way that creates real movement changes.  I often see football speed programs that look like they address mechanics on the surface, but when you get right down to it, it’s all just fluff.  Things like A-skips, B-skips, ladder drills and mini-hurdle drills do nothing for most football players, yet we see them shoved down their throats all the time. 
Rather than including a drill for the sake of including drills, understand what each drill teaches, and only select the ones that are pertinent.  Wall drills, for example, can be used to teach the mechanics of a forward lean, high knees and forceful backward push during acceleration.  If, however, you’re just throwing the drill into your program because you saw someone else do it, the drill is a waste of time.  It’s absolutely vital that you take the time to teach the athletes HOW to do the drills and HOW to move. 
Keep in mind that motor learning is very specific to the skill you are practicing.  That means that you are only going to get better at the exact skill you are practicing, and very little transfer will take place from one movement to another.  In other words, practicing skips and ladder drills will get you better at skips and ladder drills.  Practicing sprinting and acceleration will get you better at sprinting and acceleration.  What do you want to get better at?
Of course, some movements are difficult to learn and require “lead-up” drills.  The wall or tall & fall drills are examples of drills that help athletes learn how to accelerate.  A drill may work perfectly for one athlete, but not all of them, so you need several ways of teaching the same skill.  Always keep in mind, however, that the goal is to teach athletes how to run faster, not how to perform a drill.  The drill should always be a means to an end.
Physiology – Once mechanics are addressed, we need to get athletes stronger so they can produce more force.  If the increased force is put into the ground with good mechanics, the athlete will run faster.  If the mechanics are not efficient, the force will not be used as effectively as possible and your results will be sub-par.
Most strength programs today include some version of a squat, which is a great place to start developing strength.  We’re not going to get into the details of squat technique, but correct form should always be used.  A good football speed training program should also include work on the hamstrings, groin and hips through exercises like glute/ham raises, RDL’s, hip extension, hip flexion, glute/hip bridges, leg curls, slideboard inner thigh, side lunges, 3-D lunges and the Nordic hamstring exercise.  I see these exercises omitted from way too many programs, so make sure you are addressing all of the muscles involved in football speed.  You don’t have to do every one of these exercises every day, but the hips, groin and hamstring should be taken as seriously as the squat.
Be progressive with every exercise you choose to maximize your strength gains.  Simply working hard is a great start, but carefully documenting your progress is a much more efficient way to develop strength.  Choose a system of progression that works for you, and stick to it for several weeks at a time before you change anything in your program.  The human body takes time to adapt to a stimulus like a strength program, so be patient and stick with your program to develop strength.
 football1 How To Develop Explosive Speed
Neurology – Increasing force through physiological changes is important to increasing football speed, but increasing the speed in which your body produces that force is just as important.  The ability to produce force quickly is often referred to as power.  In speed and agility, power is important because you need to put force into the ground as quickly as possible in order to move fast.  Strength training will help make this happen, but explosive training will make it happen more efficiently.
Explosive training is all about optimizing your nervous system so your muscles will contract quickly and in a coordinated fashion that produces maximal power.  This can be accomplished through training methods such as plyometrics, weighted sleds or resisted movement, Olympic lifting, medicine balls and high speed strength exercises.
The key to enhancing your neurology is to perform the exercises with precision, maximum speed and maximum effort.  This means that you’ll be performing relatively low reps (less than 10 reps per set) with each exercise having slightly different guidelines.  You’ll also want to perform these exercises when you’re fresh and give yourself long breaks between sets.  This allows you to give maximal effort on every rep, which will train your body more effectively.
Combining these important areas of science will help you create the most effective football speed training program possible.  Understand the purpose of each drill or exercise and apply them in the most efficient manner possible.  If you follow the guidelines outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to developing explosive football speed.

Jim Kielbaso 

To see Coach Jim Kielbaso’s speed training system for football players, go check it out here at Complete Football Speed

Best Youth Speed Game

Coach Dave Gleason shares with you his Best Game for teaching speed and agility for youth athletes.

The beauty of this game is it not only helps lays the foundation of speed & agility but you can use this game to help reinforce mechanics you already covered (while keeping it fun).


Coach Dave Gleason is the Co-Creator of ‘Game Play Performance’ a series of fun, but effective games to help improve performance while keeping your athletes engaged. Click here for more info >>

The right speed & agility program for you

This past summer I had the opportunity to collaborate with the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) in creating their recently released Youth Speed and Agility Specialist (YSAS) Certification Course.

Combining the expertise of myself, Dave Jack and Dr. Toby Brooks, I feel confident saying that the final result is the definitive coaching resource on developing speed and agility in youth (6-18) field and court sport athletes.


Because the three of us catered to our strengths. Dr. Brooks brought his sport science background and drafted the most impressive text I’ve seen on the theory and methodology of teaching speed and agility to kids.

Dave Jack, an advisor to Reebok and Boston Celtic Paul Pierce’s Truth on Health Foundation, brings his wealth of knowledge in the areas of multidirectional speed and agility.

And, of course, I demonstrate my most up-to-date progressions for teaching linear speed.

(Become a Youth Speed & Agility Specialist today.)

As you research possible speed and agility programs to invest in, you may be wondering which program is a better fit for your personal needs: my Complete Speed Training (CST) program or the YSAS Course.

So here is my opinion:

If you coach athletes competing in team (field & court) sports like football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc., you will get more bang for your buck with the YSAS course than you will with CST.

CST is very drill dominant. So it does have a larger overall inventory of drills and exercises in terms of showing you the actual things you’ll specifically use to make up your training sessions. And it does a great job of explaining how to teach and cue those drills so your athletes do them right.

I think that is where CST is very strong and why it continues to be one of the most popular speed training programs on the market.

The YSAS course, on the other hand, is very skill and progression dominant. Instead of just showing you all the drills you can use, we actually show you how we teach these skills and progressions to real athletes in a training situation.

(For example, I had never met the athlete I workwith in the course *and* he is a wrestler so ‘speed’ isn’t a skill he has developed. So we didn’t stage the filming to work with top tier athletes.)

And I think this is a more effective way for you to learn how to progress/regress, modify and evolve the way you run your practices.

Here is a perfect example of why I think you will see the greatest benefits with the YSAS course:

In the agility DVD of CST, I teach that skill using primarily agility ladder drills and cone drills. There is nothing wrong with using these techniques, but as you learned from our teleseminar, these drills should supplement the skills we teach, not serve as the skills.

So I don’t think CST does a stellar job teaching the multidirectional component of speed.

On the other hand, in the YSAS course, Dave Jack bases all his instruction on the teaching of skill sets, progressions and regressions. He teaches you the general and specific movement patterns that generally and specifically apply to general and specific situations that field and court sport athletes of all ages will face in competitive situations.

He does an awesome job. Personally, I think he steals the show, though Dr. Brooks wrote a fascinating and detailed manual that you’ll learn a lot from.

Simply put, CST was filmed in the summer of 2004. YSAS was filmed in the summer of 2011. Here in 2011, the combination of myself, Dave Jack and Dr. Brooks flat out know a lot more than just I did back then.

Plus, I’d bet the farm that 2011 Latif would severely outcoach 2004 Latif.

And for that reason alone, I recommend the YSAS course over CST. I believe you will provide a better experience and help your athletes achieve the best results with this program.

I hope I’ve given you an honest, objective assessment of the two programs so you can make an informed decision.

When you’re ready to become a better speed coach, invest in the IYCA Youth Speed & Agility Specialist Certification Course.


Critical Skill for Team Sport Athletes

To succeed, athletes in team (field & court) sports must develop two skill sets:

1. Sport specific skill (how to play that specific sport)
2. Athletic  movement skill

But most team sport coaches only focus on sport specific skill, ignoring athletic development.

It doesn’t matter why, it only matters that most young athletes lack the ability to get themselves in and out of position to make the big play when it counts.

Because you work with these athletes, you have an opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives and on field success of these kids.

My friend, Dave Jack, is one of the best movement specialists in our industry. This summer, he and I ran a speed clinic for coaches, teaching them how we teach speed and agility to our young athletes.

I want to share a clip from that Closed Door session, where he showcases one of the most important movement skills you can teach your athletes.

Check it out:

A Critical Skill for Team Sport Athletes (Video)

Dave Jack  will be hosting a special teleseminar called ’7 Truths About Training Youth Speed and Agility’.

He’ll be covering 7 specific lessons about training speed that we’ve learned over the years and how these
lessons have fundamentally changed the way we coach.

If you like to stay on the cutting edge of how successful coaches are developing their athletes, you’ll want to be on this call!

The Most Important Word in Speed Training

I recently heard Dan Pfaff talk about acceleration being a complicated neuromuscular equation.

I recently heard Boo Schexnayder say acceleration is about finding the ‘resonant frequency of oscillary patterns’ in terms of developing and improving the efficiency of locomotive mechanics.

I recently heard Gary Winckler say, “90% of speed development is technique.”

I once heard Will Smith talk about understanding how the universe works by ‘studying the patterns.’

Well, I’ve been studying the patterns, and, in doing so, one fact has become overwhelmingly clear:

Our athletes will be faster when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will be more explosive and powerful when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will be on the board (instead of over and behind) and won’t trip over hurdles (or themselves) when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will consistently hit their times during tempo runs and race modeling sessions once they develop more of this quality.

So, if all I’ve said here is true, then what is the most important word in all of speed training?


Everything we do in practice is designed to improve the ability to express technique in order to positively influence performance. An athlete’s inability to express said technique simply boils down to lack of specific coordination.

Of course, I didn’t invent this concept. I heard Gary Winckler talk about it. Then I thought about it. Then I stole it. Now here we are.

Here’s an example. Last week I ran the exact same workout with two different athletes.

One was a 16 year old high schooler with a 200m PR of 26.1. The other was a 22 year old post collegiate with a 200m PR of 24.7.

The high schooler has been doing consistent technical work all summer and fall, going back and forth between me and another great sprints coach, Marc Mangiacotti. (He and I will be running a sprints clinic this summer, so, when they come, your sprinters will get to learn what we’re doing first hand…)

In our last session, she looked incredible. Her bad runs are now vastly superior to what good runs looked like in June. She can break down her own technique before I say anything which, to me, is a sign of wildly improved kinesthetic awareness and skill acquisition. Her confidence is light years ahead of where it was 6 months ago. I’m very proud of her and can’t wait to see her reap the rewards of her hard work.

The post collegiate, on the other hand, comes from a (Division I) college program that did absolutely no technical work, no speed work and sent 200m specialists out for 30 minute runs on a routine basis even in the middle of the competitive phase. She came from a good high school program (cough, cough), so that’s roughly the last time this athlete had good technical instruction (a 25.02 HS PR vs 24.71 collegiate PR is not a comforting improvement over the course of 4 years at the D-1 level).

Needless to say, this athlete was some sort of Hot Mess. She could feel it wasn’t right.

It wasn’t lack of effort or focus. And it sure wasn’t lack of ability. It was pure lack of coordination.

She lacked (‘lost’ might be a better word) the strength (coordination training under resistance), endurance (coordination training under event specific time constraints), speed (coordination training to express highest force in the least amount of time and resulting in optimal displacement) and mobility (coordination training to dynamically express forces through desired/required ranges of motion) to accelerate to top speed and maintain that velocity with any semblance of efficiency or consistency of execution.

Once she acquires the coordination that the high schooler currently possesses, I know one thing for sure, she won’t be grinding to dip under the times she ran when she was 16.

My point is pretty simple. If you want to run a 21st Century program, it’s not enough to just run fast in practice. As coaches we have to have our own process for solving the acceleration equation. And, just as importantly, we have to be able to help our athletes solve it themselves. Because we can’t cue them or engage in technical feedback once the gun goes off. Their success fundamentally depends on the ability to feel what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and make corrections in real time, under the stress of competition and with 6-7 other athletes trying to beat them. Or with a crowd of people staring at them while they barrell down the runway.

It’s not enough to send kids into the weight room if you don’t have the same technical standards for a squat or clean as you do for coming out of blocks or doing phase work in the triple jump.

But if you reframe your training perspective with coordination being the ultimate goal and strength, speed, endurance and mobility being interdependent qualities, it will be easier to connect the dots between movements, event groups and specific skill development.

At your next practice, watch your athletes perform all the drills and exercises that make up their practice with this concept of ‘coordination as the ultimate goal’ in mind. It will be both liberating and overwhelming at the same time.