The Crossover Step Myth: “Don’t Cross Your Feet”

Is a crossover step bad in sports

Whether it is, basketball, football, or soccer you can easily find coaches extolling the dangers of using a crossover step.  “You’ll get beat if you cross your feet” is still a common mantra for many coaches.

However, when we watch many of the best defenders in these sports, we see them cross the feet often.

So are they just doing it wrong?  Or maybe they are just gifted athletes the rest of us mere mortals shouldn’t try to copy?

We would argue that they have developed the athletic movement skills to use their feet, legs, and hips effectively.  They developed a wide enough range of motor programs that they can cross their feet, rotate hips, and reposition efficiently to move well.

The Crossover Step

A crossover step is used when an athlete wants to move a bit faster or cover longer distances, approximately 4 yards or more. If you are doing a crossover to the left, you lift your right leg and cross it in front of your body. Your right foot will land in front of your left foot. (To see this, view the videos below.)

This is the way that the body naturally wants to move because it allows better force production and vector than a shuffle. 

If you watch athletes, you’ll notice that players will do this movement without instructing them.

Defenders and Hips

The concept coaches are trying to teach when they say “don’t cross your legs” may be that they want the defender to stay “squared up” to the opponent.  They want the defenders’ hips facing the opponent so they can go left or right easily at any moment.  

This makes sense.

If a defender turns their hips early, the attacking player can exploit this by changing direction.  With the hips turned one way, the defender is going to be slower because they have to turn their hips 180 degrees to get after the opponent.

So in a sport like basketball, the defender may want to be able to shuffle their feet to move left or right and cut off the attacking player. 

By shuffling, they stay squared up and can quickly react to either the left or right.

Speed and Distance

Let’s imagine we line up two players with the same speed for a race of 5 yards.  However, we let one sprint straight ahead and the other side shuffle.  Who is going to win?

The sprinter.  Running straight ahead is more biomechanically effective than shuffling.  There is a speed limit on the shuffle.

Now, what if we let the second athlete do a crossover run for those 5 yards?  Not a full turn and run, but staying hips square to the other, but letting their legs cross the midline of the body.  

In equal athletes, it is now going to stay really close.

So the crossover run can be effective. When a higher speed or distance is covered and the defender needs to stay square in case the opponent stops or changes direction.

Let’s take this further and make them go about 15 yards.  

The athlete using the crossover run may stay even initially. But they will start to fall behind as the other athlete keeps increasing speed.  Spriting straight ahead is just faster because of better biomechanics.

So at farther distances and higher speeds, the defenders need to turn their hips and run otherwise they will be beaten.

Situational Needs

What those examples highlight is that the “best” way to move depends on the goal.

  • Stay alongside the opponent
  • Keep hips square and ready to change
  • Move at different speeds
  • Cover short, medium, and long distances

That is why we want athletes to develop all of these movement skills.

It’s also why we want them to develop the coordination to effective change between them including opening the hips or crossing the feet.  

They need both linking skills so they can react instantaneously.

When a sport requires athletes to react to changing opponents, ball movement, and tactics it is considered an “open” sport.  The decisions and patterns are open to change.

Any defender in these sports has to possess a variety of ways to cover ground, change direction, and do these things while watching the game in other directions and dodging obstacles.

In the video linked below, watch as Kobe Bryant (recognized as a very good NBA defender) uses shuffles, crossovers, and slides to manage varying speeds and distances.

Training Crossed Feet

In our movement methodology, we develop several movement skills that help an athlete effectively cross their legs.  We teach them to do this to both move and transition between movements.

A variety of carioca drills are used to form a base of coordination with the legs crossing the midline of the body, both in front and in back of the torso and the other leg.

While these are seemingly remedial drills, they are very effective at helping an athlete get comfortable both turning the hips and crossing legs.  While the carioca isn’t a movement pattern they will use in transit during their sport, they give lots of repetition to develop proficiency.

The crossover drills are used both as the crossover run for transit and the crossover step to transition between movements. Crossover drills are combined with lateral or linear movements. The movements include: sprints, shuffles, and backpedals.

Finally, it is critical to use open, applied drills where athletes have to react to opponents, stimuli, or commands to change between speeds and directions.  They have to learn how to combine these hip, leg, and foot positions efficiently.

Building Athletes That Can Cross Their Feet

While the goal of not crossing the feet and staying square often makes sense, the reality of reacting in open sports means the best athletes learn to do it well.  

Instead of trying to coach athletes to stop using these natural movements, we work to make them more efficient and have a bigger skillset.  We want them to become proficient in using a variety of movements and transitions and reacting instantaneously to their opponents.

Training effective crossovers are key in building better athletes in many sports.

Curved Running In Sports

Curved Running In Sports

If you aren’t training curvilinear sprinting, you’re missing an important part of game speed.

When you look around, you’ll start to notice there is a lot of curved running in sports. Most of us think of speed as straight-ahead running. We think of agility and see the changes in direction and footwork.

But since it falls somewhere in the middle, curved running gets ignored in most training programs.

Curved running is not turning or changing direction. It’s when an athlete is altering their body lean and mechanics to run on a curvilinear path. It is reasonable to ask if this is important in sports. When we break down the video, do we see curved running in sports?

Curved Runs in Sports

In any track sprint over 100m the athletes are going to have to run the curve. After all, that’s just the shape of the track.

Yet, curvilinear runs occur in a lot of team and court sports as well. The reason is simple, there are often opponents blocking their direct pathway.

A curved path becomes the fastest option. You can maintain or build speed running the curve while working to edge out your opponent and gain a lead.

If you want to see some great curved runs take a look at lacrosse. Because there is a large amount of field behind the goal players use all 360 degrees. This leads to many curved runs attacking the goal.

In many sports we see athletes trying to get around the corner or around the edge set by defenders. Think of a defensive end in football trying to rush the quarterback. Or the running back trying to both get outside around defenders while gaining some positive yards.

You see the same thing in basketball and soccer with offensive players trying to get around a defender to drive on the goal or basket.

Accelerating or Maintaining Speed

In liner sprinting we look at acceleration and upright, maximum velocity mechanics differently. The postures, rhythm, movement pattern, and power requirements are different.

Trying to accelerate around a defender and get to the basket requires curvilinear sprinting.
A baseball player displays upright, cyclical sprinting mechanics.

When we consider curved runs in sports we need to recognize that they occur in both acceleration and max velocity.

The NFL defensive end is starting from complete rest when they start that curved run. An NBA player driving the basket is similar. These are instances where the players are accelerating on a curved pathway

On the other hand, a wide receiver taking the ball on a sweep, or a baseball player rounding the bases are using more cyclical, upright mechanics. Just like linear sprinting, as you get to higher velocities, you have to become more upright.

Bottom line; curved running in sports is common for attacking players. These runs also have differences compared to linear sprinting.


While its common in sports, its not actually well researched. In part because its just harder when the athlete is moving on a curved line.

However, we do have some information that highlights the different demands during curved running.

One of the most obvious is that the athlete leans their body. The tighter the curve, the greater the lean. This leads to obvious changes in running mechanics.

The body lean means the athlete has to manage and overcome centrifugal forces. They must apply mediolateral forces through the lower body much more than in linear sprinting.

With the athlete’s body leaning, the ankles make contact with the ground in either eversion (angled out) or inversion (angled in). Applying the large forces in sprinting at these angles creates new demands. Athletes need increased mobility and stability in the foot and ankle.

Since the trajectory of the run is curved, and the body leaning, the outside leg of the player must “crossover” the midline of the body to strike the ground. Crossing over requires both increased hip mobility as well as stability and power in different muscles.

While there is limited science, the early research on curved sprinting shows that the body is loaded differently. Training and specific preparation for those forces and ranges of motion just makes sense.

How To Prepare The Body

One of the things to prepare athletes is to make sure they have the requisite range of motion needed. The hips need an appropriate range in internal/external rotation and hip adduction.

This can be developed through various mobility methods. Check out this drill for hip mobility.

The foot and ankle also require a different range of motion and increased stability.

Like linear sprinting, curved runs in sports require generating and transmitting large forces into the ground. Developing the right strength and power qualities in the weight room will contribute to better curved running.

An easy modification to consider is leg strength with some type of lateral movement. This helps prepare for the added medio-lateral forces in the lower body.

Players should also include lateral hops and plyometrics. These will both build power and prepare the foot and ankle structures.

Sprint Training For Curved Runs in Sports

Most athletes have limited training time. Often they can barely spend time on linear sprinting. So how do they fit in something else?

In most cases, small doses added to the existing speed training can work. After all, there are more similarities with linear sprinting than differences.

If an athlete doesn’t have good mechanics in linear sprinting they probably won’t be good in curved runs. At Velocity, we’ve found that developing the basics first in linear sprinting is an effective strategy.

Crossover Running

The crossover and lean are what make curved running possible and create different demands. That’s why we use crossover running to develop curvilinear sprinting speed.

Cross over running covers a continuum from single crossover steps to running laterally for multiple steps.

What we’ve found over the past 20 years and one million plus athletes, is that training the crossover improves curved running.

The trajectory in crossover running is more extreme than a curved run. However, the combination of linear and cross over drills prepare the athletes for effective curved running.

We top this off with small doses of curved running as applied drill in speed sessions. Doing this allows athletes to explore how to effectively apply these mechanics.

These applied drills are fit into both acceleration and max velocity training sessions.

Curved Running When Returning From Injury

When you consider the increased centrifugal forces in curved running, you recognize the extra demands on the body. The athlete encounters demands on their mobility, stability, and strength in the lower extremity.

If a player who makes curved runs is rehabbing from a lower-body injury, they better put some focus on it.

Unfortunately, we find it rarely happens. Curvilinear running should be trained before returning to sport. The player’s body should be specifically prepared for an effective and safe return to sport.

Curved Running In Sports Can Be Improved

Curved runs are critical in many sports situations. Being faster on the curve can give a player an advantage. That makes it something players want to be faster at.

The most important way to improve curvilinear sprinting is to get good at linear sprinting. Most of the mechanics, forces and physical demands are very similar.

Preparing the body through targeted mobility, stability, strength, and power development is the next step. It’s the physical foundation needed. Including crossover running drills and a small dose of curved runs tops off the training.

Improved curvilinear speed allows athletes to be ready come game time.

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

Olympic Lifting for youth athletes

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

By Coach Tim Hanway CSCS. Sports Performance Director – Norwood
Every four years without exception, the world is treated to the Summer Olympic Games. The world’s best athletes assemble and compete for national honor, prestige and glory.
It’s Usain Bolt shattering preconceived notions of speed. Simon Biles combining all elements of strength, power, poise and grace in what can only be described as gymnastics masterclass. The level of athleticism at the Olympic Games is truly inspiring.
From a sports performance standpoint, coaches like myself view the Olympic Games through a different lens. Specifically, those displays of incredible athleticism stimulate our appetites and thirst for knowledge.

Olympic lifts are a common denominator

As coaches, we look at the performances of world-class athletes and ask ourselves; how can we reverse engineer the training process? What allowed these athletes to hit such peak form? How can we also improve own athletes’ performances?
I have found that there is a common denominator when looking at the training systems of all athletes. That is, the successful integration of Olympic Lifting into the athlete’s respective training programsOver the years, I have spoke with countless coaches and athletes alike. Reviewed training logs of professional, collegiate and other national level athletes. The Olympic lifts are almost always there.
To be successful in the highest level of any sport, athletes need to reach their maximal levels of strength, power and speedOlympic lifting for youth athletes is one strategy to achieve this.

Olympic Lifting For Young Athletes; Is It Good?

The beauty of Olympic lifts is that they are hands-down the single-best method for developing the many aspects of strength, power, speed and total-body athleticism.
However, Olympic lifts have a highly technical in nature. Sometimes they get a bad reputation from athletes, parents and even strength and conditioning coaches. They can have a perceived difficulty and/or danger.
However, when Olympic lifting is one of the safest, most versatile and effective methods of training sport-specific athleticism. When they are taught and executed properly.
Like so many elements of training, it can be misunderstood. Which is why the purpose of this article is to shed light on Olympic lifting.
For young athletes there are many benefits. Incorporating them into your training program can help you achieve newfound levels of performance and enhanced athleticism. So we are providing a general overview of these lifts.

The Snatch and Clean & Jerk

The Olympic lifts are broken down into two main categories. These two categories are called the “Snatch” and the “Clean & Jerk”.
power ouptut of olympic lifts
As portrayed in the following diagrams, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk lifts are very similar in that in both instances, the movement ends when the bar is
successfully lifted over the athlete’s head.
Sports science research shows both have very large power outputs.  Much larger than classic compound strength exercises.

The Snatch

The Snatch, according to world renowned Performance Coach, Clive Brewer, is the “most powerful, whole-body human movement possible in sport”. It requires a tremendous explosive effort to move that bar from ground to overhead in one movement.
Technical breakdown of snatch olympic lift
Figure 1: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Snatch”

The Clean & Jerk

The Clean & Jerk on the other hand, is a two-part exercise where the Snatch ends when the bar is successfully lifted over the athlete’s head. Although nearly identical, the position of the bar and segmented nature of the Clean & Jerk allows athletes to lift even heavier weights than when performing the Snatch.
However, because of the heavier weight and greater distance of bar travel, the speed of execution for the Clean & Jerk is slower.
Technical breakdown of the clean & jerk olympic lift
Figure 2: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Clean & Jerk”
With that, the emphasis of power in training (i.e. speed vs. force) becomes the key element in executing the two lifts and more specifically, successfully training the body when performing the Clean & Jerk.

Big Force, Small-Time: The Basis of Athletic Power

Drilling a soccer ball 50yds from midfield. Soaring through the air to dunk a basketball. Making bone-shattering hits as an offensive lineman. Each of these illustrates the concept of power application.
However, as alluded to above when discussing the difference between the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, each of the above three scenarios illustrates different types of power. To understand the difference between the three, we must first discuss what power exactly is:
In its simplest terms, power can be described in the following mathematical equation:
Power = Force x Velocity
“Force” in this equation can be broken down into equaling the product of Mass x Acceleration. Producing force is the application of “strength”.
“Velocity” on the other hand, can be described as equaling the distance an object travels divided by the time it takes to get there (Velocity = Distance/time). This is commonly called “speed”.
Jumping, sprinting, cutting and exploding from a three-point stance are all examples of sporting skills that each require a high degree of force generation, in the shortest time possible (Force x Velocity).
Hence, the mantra ‘Big Force, Small Time’ perfectly captures the essence of optimal sports performance training. Most sports movements require an optimal combination of force and velocity. to be successfully executed at the highest level.

The force-velocity curve

Either Force or Velocity can be emphasized in the above equation to maximize power output. Depending upon the task at hand, you might want one more than the other.

This concept is best illustrated in the following image, which depicts what is commonly known as Sports Science circles as the “Force-Velocity Curve”.
the force velocity curve
Figure 3: Illustration of the ‘Force Velocity Curve’
In the diagram you can see the inverse relationship between maximal force and maximal velocity. In a nutshell, the laws of physics state that when resistance or force levels go up, speed of movement goes down and vice-versa.
Let me illustrate this concept into force and velocity components. I often ask my athletes; “Which would you rather: Be hit by a cement truck going 10 mph or be hit by a bullet going 1,700 mph?” The look I typically get in return tells me that neither option is considered ideal.
In each instance, both the cement truck and fired bullet are considered extremely powerful from a physics standpoint. In the truck scenario, what makes the truck so powerful is the sheer weight and force of the truck of question. What it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in mass.  Getting hit by a truck is very unpleasant!
The bullet on the other-hand, is tiny. The mass of such a small object is practically inconsequential on its own, but when traveling at such incredible speeds, represents a powerful and equally dangerous scenario.
In conclusion, when it comes to developing athletic performance, not all power situations are created equal. This is part of the reason Olympic lifting for youth athletes is a great way to train power.

The Best Athletes “Surf the Curve” In Their Training:

I learned the phrase “surf the curve” was one when reading an interview by Nick Grantham and Neil Parsley. They are both highly acclaimed Strength and Conditioning Coaches from the United Kingdom.
velocity based strength training
Velocity Sports Performance applies strength training across different parts of the force – velocity curve to optimize athletic performance.

Nick and Neil expressed that for a majority of athletes, in order to achieve optimal power training, there are times in their respective training plans where they have to train more like a “truck”, less like a “bullet” and vice-versa.

The reason for this is that for so many sports, both elements of power (i.e. Force and Velocity/Speed emphasis) are present when describing the skills and abilities necessary to attain peak performance.
Take our football player as an example: the football player making a tackle represents a skill with a high force component. Whereas, that same player exploding off the line of scrimmage to beat his man and chase the opposing quarterback, represents a skill with a high velocity component. Therefore, both elements of power (i.e. big force and big velocity) are necessary to compete at the highest level as a football lineman.
Strength and Conditioning Coaches describe this point of emphasis when it comes to training power as either a “Strength – Speed” or “Speed – Strength” emphasis. 
For example, let’s look at two different strength types in the same basic movement pattern. A bench press executed with explosiveness, could be considered a “Strength-Speed” exercise. Whereas a light, fast medicine ball chest throw could be considered an example of a “Speed-Strength” exercise (greater speed or velocity emphasis).

Olympic Lifts: Giving Athletes the Best of Both Worlds

Now that power has been clearly defined, and the relationship between force and velocity clearly understood, one can start to fully appreciate the ‘complete package’ of Olympic lifts.

Olympic lifts aren’t the only way to increase power

Let’s be clear, medicine balls, plyometrics, and speed work are also essential to overall athletic success. Anyone that has sat through my podcast of maximal speed training has heard how much I value focused, precise and biomechanically sound speed work.
The truth is that each of the above three classifications of exercises represent focused training strategies that are scientifically proven to maximize peak power output, especially from a speed-strength standpoint.
Conversely, I also love the regular incorporation of heavy, key compound lifts, including overhead and horizontal pressing movements like the military press and bench press, upper-body pulling movements and classic lower-body strength exercises.
What each of these broad categorizations of lifting movements have in common, is the high degrees of coordinated, muscular-strength efforts necessary to complete each of these lifts successfully.
However, Olympic lifts provide athletes with the best of both worlds.  To illustrate, in revisiting both the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, one can appreciate the degrees of power necessary to navigate the bar overhead from a stationary floor position.
What is not captured in the static images for either the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk however, is the requisite strength, explosive power, precision, and total-body coordination necessary to successfully navigate such impressive weights from the ground to an overhead position.
It is only through such highly precise, coordinated muscular efforts where high levels of athletic power can be achieved to successfully attempt either of the two types of Olympic lifts.

Olympic lifts provide one type of sports specificity 

Arguably, from a ‘sports specificity’ standpoint, the Olympic lifts successfully capture the rapid triple-extension qualities of the ankles, knees and hips so often encountered in sports (see below images):
arm care program for baseball and softball players
building young athletes female goalie
elite training
Each Demonstrations of the rapid ‘Triple-Extension’ of the hips, ankles and knees as they relate to sport
Virtually all sporting actions require a forceful triple-extension of the hip, knee and ankle. Whether sprinting, cutting, making a tackle, or attempting to jump for a serve, triple-extension is there.
Plyometrics, speed work and heavy compound lifts, are tools that represent invaluable components of my own coaching ‘arsenal’. Utilizing a combination of these tools throughout a training plan can lead to substantial gains in performance. There is no question that even in the absence of Olympic lifting, athletes can still achieve increases in athletic power.

Training efficiently

Athletes and coaches have limited time and effort to spend in the weight room. The question I usually ask myself as a coach when creating a program is; what types of lifts and activities are going to give my athletes the most ‘bang for their buck’. What will give them the greatest return from their training investment in the weight room?
The answer is Olympic lifts. Programming olympic lifting for youth athletes combines high levels of strength, speed, power and total-body coordination. 
Let’s return to the key distinction between the two lifts as well as our ‘Force-Velocity’ Curve.  By nature the Snatch is considered by many coaches to be more of a ‘Speed-Strength’ exercise. Whereas the Clean & Jerk is considered more of a ‘Strength-Speed’ exercise. This due to a combination of factors which includes the bar speeds and degrees of resistance encountered in both lifts.
Overall, both versions of the Olympic lifts in a training program allows athletes to effectively ‘surf the curve’ in their training. These lifts rely on the successful application of high force and high speeds. It is impossible to attempt either the Snatch or Clean & Jerk slowly.
Unlike plyometrics or medicine ball work, Olympics lifts can have a very wide range of resistanceInstead of relying on either body weight or small, weighted implements, Olympic lifts us adjustable barbells and weight. A coach can adjust the plates in order to achieve optimal resistance levels.


There are numerous benefits that strength and power training has on sports performance. Speed training, plyometrics and classic strength training exercises can all provide athletes with exceptional gains in performance and athleticism.
Olympic lifting for youth athletes provides athletes with the ultimate “X-Factor” when it comes to training.
These lifts closely mimic the force and velocity demands of sport. As a result, they allow athletes to make monumental both strength and power gains in the weight room. They are efficient. One exercise gives multiple strength benefits.
Still the argument persists that these movements too technical for some athletes.  The truth is that once mastered, Olympic lifts provide young athletes what’s needed.  An array of exercises and drills that transfer to on-field performance.
Youth athletes that can learn Olympic lifts at a young age benefit from a superior training stimulus. Their successful incorporation also adds the confidence to execute one of the most common lifting skills in the sports world.

Youth Speed Training Tips: Technical + Applied Drills

Tips for training speed in youth athletes
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  However, it’s much more than just drills.  How different drills are combined affects learning.  For youth speed training to carry over to the game you need to learn this tip in the video.

Velocity Speed Formula

Combining technical and applied drills is an important part of youth speed training.  It’s one way we make sure athletes can apply the speed in the game.  This is just one part of the Velocity Speed System.  It’s built on the science of biomechanics and motor learning.  Learn more about the Velocity Speed Formula

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Optimal Range of Motion

Speed training drills: optimal range of motion
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion


The range of motion your limbs and joints travel through while sprinting is a Goldilocks scenario; not too big, not too small, but just right.

If the limbs are traveling through too big a range of motion you may be wasting time and energy.

If the range is too small, you wont generate the power you need.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Optimal range of motion is developed by acquiring good motion through stretching and mobility work combined with dynamic mobility drills.  Below we have a few of the speed training drills that help athletes develop the optimal range of motion for sprinting.

Kneeling Arm Action Drill

This drill to reinforce arm action has been around for a long time.  The reason; it still helps athlete work on understanding the arm swing range of motion while running.  One of the keys is that you want athletes using this drill to feel good spinal alignment with relaxed shoulders and neck.

Use this drill through various speeds, push faster until form, coordination or body position start to suffer.  Then back the speed down and regain the form.  Make sure the motion is from the shoulder.  No “karate-chop” actions at the elbows.

Fast Leg Drill

There are many useful variations of the Fast Leg speed drill and multiple benefits.  The one we are focusing on here is the range of motion.  Specifically the range of motion when the leg recovers from behind the body and the thigh lifts in front.  The higher the thigh lift, the more power the drive down and back can be.

This drill breaks up the sprinting motion so athletes can focus on the technical aspects.  As always, great core posture is important.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Proper Direction

Speed Training Drill for Proper Direction
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right amount of force, but applied in the right direction.

Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way.  When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your PROPER DIRECTION qualities.  These drills are designed to reinforce and help the athlete self-regulate the direction they apply force to the ground.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Harness Resisted Sprints for Acceleration

To accelerate an athlete need to apply more force horizontally.  Thats how they increase their movement velocity. This drill reinforces horizontal force application.

The harness allows additional horizontal force to be applied to the athlete. Using a belt, it’s applied near the center of mass to be more biomechanically correct.  As the athlete feels that added force, they will tend to automatically apply force in a more horizontal direction


Wall Drills

This is a classic speed training drill that has survived the test of time.

Trying to drive the legs backward and push into the wall reinforces the horizontal force direction for acceleration.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

It’s very effective but has a problem; it get boring quickly.  So make sure you use it as a prep or reinforcement drill.  Don’t do it for a long time.  It’s also bets used in quick contrast with a drill where the athlete gets to apply that force moving and reinforce the proper direction.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Small Time

plyometric drills for speed
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force Faster for Speed

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your SMALL TIME qualities.  In essence, these are plyometric drills.  Drills where you have a ground contact that stretched your muscles, followed quickly by a contraction of those same muscles.

One of the benefits of this type of plyometric action is that parts of your muscles act like springs.  When you land they compress.  When you push they spring back and help you.

This is what we term Reactive Strength and is key for any athlete that wants to be fast.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Hurdle Hop Speed Training Drills

Hurdle hops are a very popular drill for speed training with good reason; they are effective.  The key is to do them well.

When your goal is to develop your reactive abilities, you need to focus on getting off the ground quick.  At the same time, you need to apply force.  Make sure you try to really project your body high into the air on each.  The speed is on the ground contact, not the movement forward.

Jump Rope Double-Unders

This is a time tested classic for foot speed.  It’s hardly new, but it works.  It should be a fundamental piece of every youth speed training program.  It’s basically a plyometric drill for speed.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

If you don’t want to get smacked with the rope, you need to apply that force quickly.

Double-unders are what we call a “self-limiting drill’.  This means that you really can’t perform it with bad technique.  Maybe you can get a few in without doing it well, but to string them together you need good form.  You will be in the proper body position, have the right range of motion and have a small time on the ground.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop an athletes ability to apply force quickly. They are great plyometric drills that work.   Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll see the results transfer to game speed.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Big Force

speed training drills
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Getting Stronger for Speed

These 2 important drills help you to develop BIG FORCE qualities.  Although these are not weight room drills, strength training for speed development is important.  To be fast, athletes need to train in the weight room and do it properly.

You need to develop some of the specific strength qualities in these drills to improve your speed.  They are very specific to building strength for speed.  They are proven speed training drills that build specific strength and have a high carryover from training to application.

MORE FOR YOU:  The Science of Strength For Speed

Box Blast Exercise

The Box Blast is a speed training drill that lets you focus on maximum power.  The basic alignment of the limbs and torso is similar to the acceleration phase of sprinting.  Most importantly, the muscle motion is a piston-like action which we observe the acceleration phase.

Heavy Sled Runs

This is another greater drill that is highly specific to strength for speed.  Speed training drills like this need to be executed with great form and body alignment.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop the force production capabilities of athletes.  Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll the results transfer to game speed.

WANT TO GET FASTER: The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Formula: Big Force

Strength training for speed

Velocity Big 4 Speed Formula
The Speed Formula is the science of speed biomechanics simplified.

Understanding strength training for speed is important for coaches and athletes.  Previously I’ve covered why the Big 4 is such an effective “formula” for speed (read it here). It’s how we analyze movement, teach and come up with drills and programs. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary. The formula is:

  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
Let’s delve deeper and take a look at the first element; Big Force. It has driven why and how we incorporate certain drills and resistance exercises. It is basic Newtonian physics; you push the ground one way and it pushes you the opposite direction.

How Much Strength Do You Need?

It’s a good question. How much strength do you really need?
Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue. Sprinter’s have way more muscle mass. This doesn’t mean you need to just be bigger or become a powerlifter. But biomechanics research does tell us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
You need to produce a Big Force. The strength you need is developed by:
  • sprinting fast,
  • using specific sprint and plyometric drills,
  • and getting in the weight room.

What Is Strength?

For an athlete, strength means a lot more than just how much weight you can lift. There are 6 different strength qualities we train. Focusing on specific strength qualities is how we improve speed.
Strength is how much you can lift, right?
How much you can lift is a great expression of some strength or power qualities. As an Olympic weightlifting coach, I’ve helped athletes go from starting the sport to be on the US National team. I love the strength and power (Strength x Speed) expressed through weightlifting.
Then there’s powerlifting. Squat, deadlift, bench. Many of the coaches on our staff have been competitive powerlifters as well as my friends. These feats of strength are really impressive and it’s a great expression of Max Strength.
Neither is the definition of strength though. They are just great examples of 2 of our 6 specific qualities. Going in-depth is beyond the scope of this writing but here are our 6 types of strength:
  1. Maximum Strength: think powerlifting and even sub max weights. It’s about force and speed is not important.
  2. Eccentric Strength: Think shock absorbers and brakes. When you land, stop, cut, etc… your muscles contract while lengthening. This is an eccentric strength action.
  3. Power (Strength-Speed): Moving fast against a larger load. Think weightlifting or football lineman pushing each other.
  4. Power (Speed- Strength): Moving fast against a light load. Throwing a baseball, jumping, throwing a punch. Moving it fast matters.
  5. Rate of Force Development: How fast you can turn on the muscles. Think of a drag racer analogy. It’s how fast they can go from 0 to speed that matters.
  6. Reactive Strength: Combine a fast & short eccentric stretch, immediately followed by RFD and you have reactive. This is the springy quick step you see in fast footwork.

What Type of Strength Do You Need?

If there are different types of strength, which help you apply a BIG FORCE into the ground? Which will help you get faster?
The answer lies in part on what you are trying to improve. The answer may be different if we are talking about acceleration compared to maximum velocity sprinting. And those may be different than a change of direction.


This is the phase where you are starting and gaining speed. During this phase, the mechanics lead to slightly longer ground contact times. This added time in contact with the ground lets you build up force to push harder. You still have only between 200 – 400 milliseconds, so Max Strength will help, but Speed-Strength is key.
This phase is also characterized by large horizontal and vertical forces. This means that when training strength, you need strength exercises for both pushing backward and down. A good dose of weight room basics like lunges, power cleans help. Combined with vertical and horizontal plyometrics, along with sled work, the results get better.

Maximum Velocity Mechanics

During this phase, you are upright and moving fast. Your foot needs to hit the ground with high forces but it’s not there for long. Elite sprinters are in contact less than 100 milliseconds. You need Max Strength enough to handle the high loads 1.5 – 2.5 times body weight on each leg. You also need to be able to absorb the impact and reapply force quickly. That’s Reactive Strength.
Since you’ve already accelerated, in this phase the forces are mostly vertical. They keep you from falling into the ground. Therefore, weight and plyometric exercises like squats, reactive hurdle jumps, and even jump rope double-unders all contribute.

Change of Direction

When changing direction, the type of strength can depend on how sharp of a cut you make. One situation is a major change of direction where you slow down and re-accelerate. This requires a lot of Eccentric Strength and Strength-Speed. On the other hand, if it’s a quick cut without slowing down or a big range of motion, then it’s more about Reactive Strength and Speed-Strength.
Both these are going to benefit from a mix of weight room and plyometrics. The weight room will include strength exercises and Olympic lifts for power. The plyometrics are going to need to focus on developing horizontal and lateral forces.

Technical Sprint Drills for Strength Development

There is a big misunderstanding of technical speed drills. Most people see a technical drill and naturally believe it’s to develop technique. It makes sense after all, but there is so much more.
Many “technique” drills in speed training are just as important to developing Big Force as the weight room. By refining an athlete’s technique, they become more efficient with the strength they have. They learn to apply it better.
Often many speed drills are really a plyometric exercise themselves. They require putting a lot of force into the ground, in the proper direction. They are in fact the most speed specific form of strength training there is.

Strength Training for Speed

Having good technique and good power output is key to being fast. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s an AND sitution. You need technique AND strength. In every athlete’s development, they go through stages. Sometimes their technique gets ahead of their strength, and vice versa. Make sure you stay on track by developing both and working with a knowledgeable coach who can determine if you need one or the other more.