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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

US Sports Football: Next Levels Formula For Speed


  • Author Brian C Powers

Maximizing speed potential can make a mediocre player good, and a good player great. This is one of the most highly sought after athletic qualities and for good reason. Philadelphia Eagles Football GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY 

Speed is one of the most devastating weapons an athlete can posses on the field, court, or ice. We have had tremendous success developing speed in our athletes by implementing the following formula.

  1. Develop relative body strength to a high level

  2. Mastering the basics of proper running mechanics

  3. Improving the body's Rate of Force development

  4. Attaining appropriate body composition levels.

  5. Structure your speed sessions appropriately

Now let's take a closer look at each variable of our speed formula.

Develop relative body strength to a high level

Being strong relative to your body weight is the foundation for almost every athletic quality. This will improve every aspect of your game, especially your first step and 10-15 yd acceleration. The more force you are capable of putting into the ground the faster you are going to move. A good starting point for lower body relative strength is a squat or dead lift between 1.5 to 2.0 x body weight for males, and 1.25 to 1.5 x body weight for females. More often than not, we see a steady improvement on speed tests as our athletes approach these numbers.

Mastering the basics of proper running mechanics

Weight training alone will not be enough for most athletes. Being proficient in proper running mechanics will enable the athlete to apply their strength in the most efficient manner as they put force into the ground. The more proficient you become the more your strength transfers to the field. That being said, most team sport athletes don't have to be a mirror image of Usain Bolt to maximize their speed potential. I have never seen Usain change directions, contact a competitor, or have a stick or ball in his hand. Put the majority of your focus on mastering the basics and you will be surprised how far it will take you.

Improving the body's Rate of Force development

Once a foundation of relative strength and proper running mechanics has been established, it is important to train the body to wake up its sprinting muscles by recruiting the appropriate motor units quickly. The faster you can recruit a group of muscles the faster you will accelerate, jump, and change directions. This can be accomplished with a variety of exercises and drills including: Olympic lifts, box jumps, position specific plyometrics, and exercises done in the "power range."

Attaining appropriate body composition levels.

To be blunt, fat people are not fast people. By attaining the appropriate body fat percentage you won't waste the force you are putting into the ground by dragging around any extra baggage. It would be the same concept as a NASCAR team going to great lengths to put together the best car in the world, then lining up at the starting line with a Uhaul trailer attached to it. Just be sure to attain your body composition goals through appropriate nutritional strategies and energy system work. One of the worst things an athlete can do to improve speed is to drop body fat by doing excessive, slow paced, cardio.

Structure your speed sessions appropriately

One of the most common mistakes athletes make is confusing speed work with conditioning work. When developing speed you are trying to teach your body to run at 100% of its capability. This is not possible if the athlete is not completely recovered between sprints. At Next Level we generally stick to a 1:12 to 1:30 work to rest ratio during speed workouts. So if your sprint takes 5 seconds to complete, be sure to rest 60 to 150 seconds.

Hopefully these tips will help you maximize your speed development. By implementing the formula above, Next Level athletes routinely drop.02 seconds off their 40 time in one off-season. (more for females!) How much better would your game be if you improved from a 4.8 second 40 to a 4.6? If you are a local athlete who is interested in participating in one of our speed development programs, contact us at 303-237-3390.

Best of luck in your training endeavors.

  • Brian Powers

In 2001, Brian studied and interned under the world renown strength coach Charles Poliquin, as well as local NFL combine preparation specialist, Jim Warren. In 2002, Brian founded Next Level Performance and put his education and experience into practice, producing two collegiate All-Americans in the first year of operation. Next Levels website can be found at

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