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Specificity for Football Quickness

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Of the many important aspects of football is movement speed and quickness. Quickness is near the top, if not on top, of every coaches list. Sometimes as coaches we get caught up with the forty times and we can easily underachieve for quickness development.

When quickness and acceleration are coupled together we have the formula for the most dynamic results one can expect.

Quickness applies for one step, several feet or yards, depending on the assignment. Another type of quickness can be reflexive reaction before a step is even taken. My intent for this article is to cover movement quickness for football and how specificity can play a major role for quality results.

While some of your players may possess natural quickness, my objective is to improve the overall team quickness.

Specificity Drills, the Correct Direction
A drill series should contain movements that are specific to football. Here’s a list of objectives to follow when planning your quickness series:

• Use position-related movements for position-specific quickness.
• Use limb speed frequency training which will enhance the nervous system properly.
• Multi-movement drills with high frequencies at varying distances and direction changes.
• Solid mechanical technique training during high-twitch activities.
• Use drills that will not undermine mechanical techniques just for the sake of a drill being football-related.
• Phase development, begin with basic function to progressive peak stage quickness application.

Quickness Skills and Physiological Application Combined
Physically speaking, athletes must phase limb speed with fast cyclic movement drills.
By doing so you will light up the nervous system in the proper way to increase fast twitch production over time. As well, the motor skill processing (psychomotor learning) is recording every move being made. When these two factors are combined over time, the training effect soars. The mental kinetics experienced by your athletes will deliver a new confidence and focus. It’s important to not lose sight of combining the arm-leg cycle action together on all quickness procedures. In today’s marketplace for speed, too often the leg cycle and feet are the main source of emphasis. The arm and leg activity is truly the key to performance and proper development. They must synchronize on every limb rotation taken. Additional emphasis for development must center on rhythmical high frequency while combining acceleration. The arm activity plays the major roll for controlling synchronization. Once again, mechanical techniques applied add effective rotational frequency because of cyclic efficiency, allowing greater limb speed.

Drills that Develop Quickness and Movement

The following drills are a section from my quickness development series that I’ve used for years with great success. The series is designed to tape the neural system while challenging the athletes’ mechanical stabilization during very fast movement transitions.

The drills will have a repeat nature. By design, they’ll demand two to three movement changes while applying extremely high frequencies. The further that the athletes travel through the zone changes, the tougher their challenge will be. Expect breakdowns – they are normal at first, and your athletes will improve as their skills develop.
The keys to success are keeping the eyes level at all times, making sure arm action never stops, and staying busy on transitions. Transitional changes and frequency changes are going to disturb the synchronization control of the limbs. As the athletes get better at keeping the arm cycle active, the easier and faster the movement becomes. Remember, the faster the limb speed, the more difficult it is to control frequency and mechanical balance. This is one of many reasons I’m not big on ladders. It’s all about feet, not limb, synchronization. Optimal movement requires complete limb activity, not just the leg action. The eyes play such a huge roll in sports movement and athletic function that they too must be used properly to gain precise results.

With ladders, your eyes must be downward and cannot focus level. That’s a bad position, which creates a locked-in habit over time. In addition, ground force to move or accelerate is not applied with the ladder usage. Its application is strictly rhythmical and is not specific to football requirements. We must quickly cover distances from point A-to-B.
All of the following drills are in progression order addressing the week-to-week learning curve.

Diagram # 1

For all the drills forward I recommend one foot high cones. Place three yards apart as diagrammed. There are five zones - you can make more as the skill of the athletes develop. But I believe you’ll find the arrangement designed will be challenging enough for a while. Execute very fast limb quickness three yards forward, decel next zone, repeat consecutively. Emphasize quick limb activity on all existing drills.

Diagram # 2

This drill introduces the shuffle activity. Get into base–hit position, knees flexed somewhat. Do not lower your butt too low – a common mistake. If the hips are too low the athlete cannot move efficiently and is not in position to release to a quick sprint if needed. Stay on the balls of the feet, not flat, and move them quickly off and on the ground. The key is to keep them close to the ground and not bring the feet to the center. Keep the width of the base even with shoulders at all times. After each quick shuffle zone, make the transition to straight run / jog pace, then back to quick shuffle. Repeat as indicated.

Diagram # 3

Coaches, here is my apology for what seemed like hundreds of e-mails last year asking me to explain what I meant by lateral run. The flood outweighed the ability respond to that issue. Ok, here’s what a lateral run is – moving sideways left or right, while facing the line of scrimmage or end zone. Hips and shoulders stay square while the leg action is left-over-right or right-over-left. The knees must be actively moving upward on each stride and the arm cycle is actively synchronized with the leg action. Do not focus the feet. The knees are up and force is applied to the ground down and back the same as the stride phase of a sprint or stride taken forward.

The speed you desire will be determined by the amount of force you apply and how much frequency is activated. When you arrive for the transition to the decel zone you will turn straight facing down line on the zones. Each new zone requires switching from lateral (applied fast) to straight decel and over again and again. Arm action must be active then slow, back and forth.

Diagram # 4

Shuffle quick as instructed earlier, straight with half speed applied, back to shuffle, etc. When you switch to shuffle from straight strides you must breakdown quickly to base position of the shuffle. The key is to come around square to the front with the hips and shoulders. This drill will create capability to transfer momentum from straight to side action which is football position oriented.

Diagram # 5

The lateral is quick once again. Move to straight, lineal run with limb speed staying at the rhythmical rate of frequency as the lateral speed that’s established. Repeat as shown.

Diagram # 6

This is merely incorporating two quick, yet different movements. They are both lateral in movement direction. This drill challenges the transitional quickness from one laterally oriented movement to another. The transition requires arm cycle activity to arms inactive and back again.

Diagram # 7

This drill will require the athletes to burst straight toward cone one then plant to a lateral, followed by another plant to straight once again. The plant required must be an extension plant. An extension plant means that your leg cycle, as it is coming downward, is extended rapidly to the ground without dropping your hips. The action will deliver a quick momentum displacement of velocity to the new direction. Each cone requires this plant to successfully handle the drill rapidly and effectively. Once again, the arm action does not stop or stall on plant insertion.


Over the last 29 years, Dale Baskett has trained over 100 NFL players representing every NFL team. This includes 21 All Pro’s and two members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Additionally, he has worked with both high school and college football programs at all levels. His in-depth line of videos, available at, shows position-by-position drills, coaching points and on-field demonstrations.

For further information, contact him at 858-829-5599 or


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