You have to have speed if you want to be a baller on the flag football field, softball diamond, or pickup basketball court. And that first step is critical when it comes to schooling opponents. So what’s the key to gaining a quicker first step? Training for speed by increasing your stride length or stride frequency. The strength-training exercises provided below will help with that. They’re all basic compound movements — exercises that involve multiple muscle groups — and should be done prior to any additional strength work.
Remember, without proper weight-lifting form and stride mechanics, your odds of getting injured increase. So instead of being hoisted on your teammates’ shoulders after catching an 80-yard TD, you’ll be riding pine on the injured reserve.
• Take a barbell from a power rack or squat stand, keeping your upper back tight and chest up. Set your feet roughly hip-width apart and initiate the squat movement by pushing your hips back and then bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
• Squeeze the bar as tight as possible throughout the entire movement, this will create tension in your whole body and help you stay “tight” through the lift.
• Perform 4 sets of 3 – 5 reps.
• Take a barbell from a standing position and with slightly unlocked knees push your hips backward while keeping the bar close to your thighs. Depending upon hamstring flexibility and individuality, lower the bar to knee-level or lower, then push your hips forward to return to the starting position.
• Keep your shoulder blades squeezed tightly and your entire back tight during this exercise to perform it properly.
• Perform 4 sets of 4 – 6 reps.
• Stand in front of an 18-inch box — or a smaller box if needed, of course — and step up with the right leg and press through the heel of the right foot to bring the left leg up to the top of the box. Slowly lower your left leg back down and repeat for eight repetitions on each side.
• Once the basic step-up movement is mastered with correct body position, try alternating legs each time.
• Perform 3 sets of 8 reps on each leg.
The NSCA Education Team trains athletes to improve athletic performance and reach fitness goals.