Single Leg Workouts to Build Speed and Explosiveness


40 yard dash

Everyone wants to know the secrets behind a faster 40-yard dash time and a quicker pro-agility drill mark.

They’re all searching for the dynamic speed drill to increase their velocity and the elusive top-end speed routine that will knock off those two seconds and destroy that pro-agility drill that will only leave coaches, scouts and other contemporaries exclaiming in profanities. So where is this magic pill to elevate that potential and unlock speed you ask?

Well unfortunately, there is no quick fix or potion for building faster athletes for the game of football. Sorry.

However, there are multiple qualities that come into play when developing raw football speed. A coach or trainer must consider developing an athlete to aggressively accelerate, obtain the skill to decelerate, change directions quickly, and lastly, create a “warrior mentality” to fight for every inch. Being highly competitive, hard-hitting, and more than willing to engage in one-on-one combat has more to do with sheer football speed than any quick fix drill you might find. On top of the various components that come with developing speed, there is still one underrated answer to the question, “How do I get faster for football?” Answer: simply get stronger on one leg. Yes, that’s it.

Agility drill UGAThere are a number of sprint routines and position specific drills that will enhance a player’s potential but the best way to ensure success is to build single-leg strength. So why is single-leg strength training the best for achieving maximum speed and velocity? Let's first look at and understand the art form of biomechanics and the technique of sprinting. Sprinting is a single leg movement, so the obvious would be to train on one leg. Secondly, it enhances agility movements, strengthens glutes, and stabilizes hip abductors used in single leg movements - which are vital for deceleration. Next, it recruits more muscle fibers to build stronger legs, without placing overload on the spine. Which also aids in injury prevention and knee stabilization. And finally, which is often overlooked, it enhances balance and hip flexibility.

Just as with any training program, a plan of progression and proper sequence must be followed to reap the success and benefits of single-leg training. Progression and sequence should start with body weight exercises during the first three weeks of training at an 8, 10, or 12 repetition scheme cycle before any type of load is added. Once the athlete has demonstrated a mastery of movement patterns, then add external loads. More experienced athletes however, may not need a full three weeks before adding resistance. Always start with dumbbells before preceding to using a barbell. Below are a few of my recommended single leg exercises to incorporate into your speed and lower body training:Jamaal Charles

  • Jumping split squats
  • Lateral squats
  • Pistol squats
  • Weighted step up movements
  • Reverse/Forward lunges
  • Bulgarian squats
  • Walking lunges

Utilizing single-leg movements is the secret to athletes being fast and agile. In game situations, athletes are required to push off one leg from both the parallel and split stance, pretty much a majority of the time. So for training to transfer over to real time atmospheres, single-leg movements must be employed.

You cannot eliminate all double-leg lifts; as football players are often placed in situations requiring to root the feet and push while both feet are planted during the course of a game. Using single-leg accelerated or decelerated movements will have a direct effect on improving overall game speed, maneuverability, and an increase in functional strength. 

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