Start and Stop

 Acceleration and deceleration are essential components of a successful training program. Acceleration is the increase in rate of speed, and deceleration is the decrease or reduction in speed. Knowing how to stop properly is a great skill that athletes need to focus on. I feel like acceleration gets a lot of love because it's explosive, powerful and reactive, but proper deceleration is CRUCIAL for minimizing the risk of injury and being able to rapidly change directions.

Acceleration refers to the time it takes to go from a stopped position to top speed, how quickly can you "get fast". Think of a football player during combine testing for the 40 yard dash - how quickly do they come off the line and reach top speed? That first 5-10 yards is their acceleration phase. During the acceleration phase, fast-twitch muscle fibres help drive the athlete explosively from their static position.

Acceleration Drills:

  • Wall Drills 
    • Teaches athlete preferred positioning when accelerating (shin angle, forward lean)
  • Get Up Starts from varying positions 
    • Push-up position
    • Laying on stomach
  • Prowler Pushes
    • Allows athlete to push resistance and progress forward with forward lean and shin angle
  • Sled Drags
    • Opposite to prowler pushes, athlete is pulling resistance in a forward lean position
  • Plyometrics 
    • Bounding
    • Varied jumps
  • Up Tall & Fall
    • Athlete has feet parallel on line, shift weight forward coming up onto toes and falling forward
    • Catches themselves before going face first into turf and accelerate forward

 

Deceleration is just as important as acceleration. As mentioned above, learning to decelerate properly will help an athlete avoid or minimize injury. This refers to the athlete's ability to come to a stop after reaching sub-maximal or maximal speed, and also an athlete's ability to change directions. When I teach acceleration drills, I always cue the stopping or landing portion to get my athletes to practice good habits. For example, if an athlete is performing a squat jump, as much as I want them to load their hips and drive explosively off the ground, I want them to catch themselves in a proper landing position to focus on control, stability and decelerating after an explosive drive.

Deceleration Drills:

  • Depth Drops
    • "Jumping" off a small elevation, leading out with one foot and landing on both feet
    • Keep hips back and high
    • Soft knees to absorb force
    • Tight core
  • Short Sprint to Stop
    • Working on acceleration off the line and coming to a full stop
  • Lateral Shuffle to Stop
    • Change of direction and varying the movements
  • Plyometrics
    • Varying jumps, focusing on landing mechanics
  • Change of Direction 
    • Teaching athletes proper positioning to plant and change direction

There are so many different drills you can use to teach acceleration and deceleration, I've just listed a couple that I use and that I've had success with. What's important is that we teach our athletes proper mechanics to keep them strong, explosive and most importantly, healthy. Can't teach one without the other!

Got some drills that have worked for you as coach? Leave them in the comments below!