Six Exercises To Increase Speed

With most sports fall season well under way, we thought we’d share some insight into our philosophy on developing speed and agility.

Without a doubt there’s nothing more exciting than when speed and quickness take center stage in a sport. Watching someone pull off a play – whether it’s stepping through a gap no one else sees or pulling off a backhand on a ball they had no right getting to – it’s amazing to watch. Speed can flat out change the outcome of a game. It’s mechanics and it’s reactionary – it’s speed and quickness; and the good news: it’s trainable.


Regardless of the sport, the ability to rapidly and efficiently accelerate, decelerate and then re-accelerate a body segment, or the entire body, is a nearly universal and essential element of athletic success. And yet, as parents that want our children to succeed in their chosen sport we believe that by simply throwing more skill based <Insert child’s chosen sport here> training at them; they will become the next Neymar, Mia Hamm or Serena Williams. News flash: it doesn’t happen. Sure genetics plays a role - especially at elite levels – but it would be a pretty safe bet to say that 95% of college athletes got to that level through smart training and hard work; not because their parents were genetic wonders.

image courtesy of Eric Cressey

image courtesy of Eric Cressey

That being said, here at Nexus Performance we follow this algorithm based pyramid for our youth athlete’s development.

As you can see, speed and agility follow a sound base of strength and stability. We would place skill based training up near the top of the pyramid with Mobility and Endurance. It’s obviously still important it just can’t be the base of the athletic development pyramid. See our previous blog “You can’t microwave an athlete” for more information on how we specifically train different age groups. From age 10 we start to ‘sprinkle in’ a little more power, speed and agility work. Here are a few that our athletes use at Nexus:

  1. Medicine Ball Rotational Throws: The focus is on athletic stance and a stiff and stable core.

    • Stationary Side Throw: The athlete will stand with their side facing the wall in an athletic stance, holding a light medicine ball at chest height. The move is initiated from the outside leg pushing (and internally rotating) toward the wall. Athlete will release the ball toward the wall like they are throwing a punch.  5-6 per side

    • Shuffle Side Throw: As above but athlete will start further away from the wall and perform 1 or 2 “shuffle” steps before releasing the ball toward the wall. 5-6 per side

  2. One Arm/One Leg Tubing Row: Focuses on Deceleration, Acceleration and balance.

    • Attach a resistance band at a low contact point (make sure what you are attaching to is secure!) with the athlete facing the wall while holding the other end of the band in one hand. The athlete will perform a single leg deadlift movement (the same side leg as the hand with band goes back). As the leg goes back the same side hand will reach toward the wall. As the athlete stands back up (brings the back leg back to the ground) the arm performs a ‘row’ with the band. 5-6 per side

  3. Falling start sprint mechanics: This drill helps the athlete to ‘get over’ the front foot, allowing a much quicker stride during the first and seconds steps – both vitally important for quick acceleration.

    • Athlete will stand feet under hips and arms at their side. On cue they will start to fall forward “like a tree” (arms and legs not flailing). The front leg should piston up (whilst the opposing arm is “thrown behind”) allowing a strong and powerful initial step. The challenge being they must “manufacture coordination” due to the arms and legs not being in opposition at the beginning of the movement. 3-5 per side over 3 yards

  4. Parallel stance reactive acceleration: In this drill the athlete will react to a stimulus.

    • This is a reactive acceleration drill where the athlete will react to a stimulus such as a ball being dropped as the signal to take off. Because of this random reaction the athlete must quickly and innately create a push off angle that not only propels the body forward but also aligns the athlete’s upper body to create the line of power vital to efficient acceleration. The athlete should be facing forward and in an athletic stance. The ball being dropped is their cue to accelerate in the balls direction with aim of gathering it before it bounces a second time. 4-6 reps

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