THE APPROACH

Tom Shaw doesn’t believe running fast for long distances does football players any good. He says he could spend “15 straight days running the dog out of football players” and they’d just get well conditioned—but not faster. Tom’s logic on this is spot-on: On the football field, the longest play is six or seven seconds so training long is a waste. Instead, Tom drills his players in the vertical jump and the standing long jump. “If we can increase these two things, you’ll be faster in the 40-yard dash.”

Also, Tom trains guys like they are in their position. “You don’t train a wide receiver to run like an offensive lineman,” he says. Tom has his players doing drills specific for each position—like drills to make a QB better at dropping back just three or five steps. No matter what athlete he’s training, Tom keeps his calm. “I’m not a screamer,” he says. “I’m more the guy to give players an idea how to do something rather than scream at them because they don’t know how to do it.” So listen up and learn.

QUICK START AND FLY: HOW TO GET OFF YOUR START AND ACCELERATE

Speed is the name of the game in football, and to train for speed you must focus on form and technique. This program was designed to help you improve your form, hone your technique and give you that quick-react start and acceleration you need for a lightening-fast 40 at the combines.

Use this program to prepare for your first combine, or as a part of your pre-season speed training.

Frequency
Get in two workouts per week during the last six weeks of the off-season program or leading up to your combine. Technique drills can be done daily as part of your warm-up.

Duration
You'll get the most benefit by focusing on your form and technique. That means running each rep only when you feel rested or "fresh." This is not conditioning. A normal speed workout will last about 45 minutes.

BEFORE YOU START

Pre-Workout Stretch
Designed to pre-heat the muscles so that we can obtain maximum benefits from the pre-workout stretch. This can be simple jogging (i.e. 1/2 mile jog) or other light activities like jumping rope, form drills, back pedals, cariocas, hip swivels, skips, mountain climbers, striders, etc. This period should last 5-8 minutes.

Dynamic Warm Up
The goal is to prepare the muscles for the more dynamic work that will follow. Special emphasis should be placed on the quads, hams, calves, groin, glutes, and hip flexors. This period should last between 5-8 minutes.

Dynamic Flexibility Drills
Get ready for speed work - heel-to-butt, high knees, skipping, bounding. 5-8 minutes.

Neuromuscular Drills
Further prepare for the workout and to focus on the specific components of sprinting.


QUICK START/REACTION TECHNIQUE DRILLS

These drills will improve your start technique and initial acceleration. Remember, start each rep feeling fresh. No dead legs!

Pushup Starts
How Come: Improve your start technique
Equipment: None
Reps: 3-5 reps
How-To: - Start in a fingertip pushup position. - Bring your legs under you and begin to run. Your goal is to drive outward and stay low. - Your body angle should be about 30-40 degrees, with your shoulders well in front of your hips. - You should feel like you have to take fast-driving steps in order not to fall over. Know-how: Avoid standing up too quickly, which will rob you of forward drive and acceleration.

Resistive Starts
How Come: A resistance drill to help improve initial acceleration
Equipment: None
Reps: 3-5 reps
How-To:

  • Work with a teammate for this drill.
  • Have your teammate push against your shoulders while you lean forward 45 degrees (i.e. your body position after the first step).
  • Run forward against the resistance provided by your partner for 4-6 steps, at which point your partner should release the resistance.
  • You should keep running 10 to 20 yards.

Know-how: Resistance must be strong enough to force you to push down and back harder against the ground, teaching you to accelerate harder on the first several steps.

Ground Starts
How Come: Improve your start technique
Equipment: None
Reps: 3-5
How-To:

  • Start laying face down on the ground.
  • Have a teammate or coach say "go," then jump to your feet and sprint about 10 yards.

Know-how: Emphasize staying low and leaning forward.

Ball Drop Starts
How Come: Improve your reaction and start technique
Equipment: Tennis balls
Reps: 5-8 reps
How-To:

  • Have a teammate or coach hold two tennis balls, one in each hand.
  • You should be in a down stance, five yards away.
  • Your partner will drop one ball.
  • As soon as the ball is dropped, your goal is to sprint and catch the ball before it hits the ground a second time. Just one bounce!

Know-how: As you get faster, back up a yard at the beginning. This is an excellent drill to work on the sprint start and reaction.


THE WORKOUT

This daily routine includes resistive running, assistive running, contrast training, and normal sprinting.

Normal Running
Always spend time doing normal running to benefit from the assistive and resistive work. You want to apply what you've developed in those drills.

20-40 Yard Sprints (up or down)
Sprint the prescribed distance from either a sprint start or a standing start. You might do this after the assistive or resistive drills so that you focus on a greater push and/or turnover to the natural stride. You might race with a teammate.

Buildup Sprints
Gradually accelerate over a distance of 30-50 yards. This is a good exercise if you're refining a particular technique, but want to maintain good mechanics at increasing speeds.

Flying Sprints
You'll accelerate gradually for 20-30 yards, and then run through a specific distance (i.e. 10-30 yards) at maximum, all-out speed! This drill helps solidify top-end speed after assistive running.

Variable Speed Runs
Cover 100 yards as follows: jog 20 yards; sprint 20 yards; ease down 20 yards; jog 20 yards; sprint 20 yards. Your goal is to explode into the sprints and accelerate as fast as possible.


WARM DOWN

As important as any warm-up or drill. Include light jogging, stepping, or biking with stretching.