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Dynamic Relaxation, Rhythm, Intensity – Learned from Drill Applications

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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There are three main components for sprint speed – relaxation, rhythm, and intensity. Connotations of the first two components – relaxation and rhythm – don’t sound like normal football terms when you think of the mental mind set. Relaxation is an uncompromising term in the football world. When players walk on to a football field they don’t think of relaxing. They don’t even begin to think that it’s a good idea.

Rhythm is a term that you hear sometimes in football. It’s usually referred to as something happening involuntarily, not always a practiced trait. For example, the flow of the game can have a rhythm. It can be what happens to a team or player, such as a QB. These three elements have a significant place in football when we speak of football speed and the proper training.

Running is the essence of the game. How well one runs and how fast, linearly and multi-directionally, can be the difference in the final score. These characteristics are the most important qualities required for speed development, which leads to maximum football speed performance. Of course, mechanical technique is the most important ingredient for playing fast. The significance of our three skill topics are extremely important, yet not utilized enough. Let’s break each down, shed some light on not only the importance of each, but how you can integrate them into your program.


This is the most under-involved and misunderstood facet of speed, especially in football. The very word relaxation is uncommon to football. It is also one of the more difficult techniques to teach to football players due to the mindset on a football field.

Whenever we line up for speed work during the week, the players are not thinking of relaxing and letting things flow freely. They are usually focused on forcing speed. I’m constantly teaching the directive to not muscle the run. Speed requires that one doesn’t pre-tense as if the athlete is in a weightroom. The weightroom has a mentality when you train and it’s different than speed work. Speed is just the opposite, if you wish to have power and frequency function well. You can’t have opposing rotational forces.

It starts with the mindset to relax the muscular structure and let the limbs turn fast. Secondly, the atmosphere of football practice or a game is about maximum aggression. I teach that forcing speed will not work. The mind must be in a different zone for speed work than the weightroom. I refer to it as a “weightroom mentality” and “speed work mentality.” If you ignore this mindset, you’re missing a huge component for heightened speed. If done correctly, the dividends are just the opposite of marginal. Drills will follow with technical application for teaching this dynamic skill. I call the technique “supple intensity.” The body is relaxed and the mind is visually intent.


This is a misunderstood ingredient that can change your entire team speed performance. First, technique overrides everything else. Rhythm is a close second and is a technical component within the mechanical application training process. Rhythm is a trained skill that every player can learn. To teach it, you must begin at slower frequencies and progress speed percentages week-to- week. The key to training is to have the athletes set a cyclic stride rate at a given percentage and maintain it through various zone lengths. Rhythm is the catalyst for maximizing true speed capability.


Intensity is a mandatory quality that all of your athletes must attain. There are provisions, of course, as is the case with everything you teach. First, you have to build a sound foundation prior to installing the intensity phase of movement. Remember, the faster the limb frequency, the harder it is to hold together the mechanical function. Areas affected include dynamic relaxation, rhythm and the synchronization of the upper-lower limb rotation. The synchronization factor is greatly proportional to rhythm.

Instructing the players to be aggressive with limb rotation will be successful if the components mentioned are solid and road-tested at varying velocities. The first element that is lost when you put the limbs in an aggressive all-out mode will be dynamic relaxation. Aggressive limb rotation can be conducted in several ways.

Set up short zones to begin, so the players cyclic rotations front-to-back are limited in number. Aggressive intensity is a skill. Therefore, consecutive limb rotations at high frequency are difficult to maintain at first. Always train at speeds from shorter to longer distances. This allows for early success which will build confidence. If your players run well for ten yards, then they implode mechanically, you’re de-programming what they’ve just successfully completed. Remember, speed intensity is built by executing successful intense limb speed sprints at variable distances progressively. Here are some speed drills you can use:

The drills are arranged by category. These drills will help you develop the characteristics necessary to enhance the skills for each category.

Dynamic Relaxation

Diagram # 1 – A: There are four zones of varying distances. Release into zone one at 30% of max. Increase limb speed as % indicates in each zone that follows. As the players proceed, they must remain relaxed as the speed increases.

Diagram # 1 – B: Zone one requires high short cycle frequency. Activate limb speed in the second zone to 80%. Stay relaxed at the transition phase as you go in and out of the zone quickly. Immediately energize limb speed and velocity to 90%. This will be the toughest zone to maintain a relaxed mode.


Diagram # 2 – A: You are performing quick cycles again through a longer zone. The quick cycle run and then the transition into zone two requires a quick change of cycle speed to 80% within a three-yard distance. Then lock rhythm of the limb speed. Focus should be on the arm speed established from lock point to end of zone.

Diagram # 2 – B: This drill begins with two variations of running patterns before entering the locked rhythm zone. At the first zone run, quick cycles again but a shorter distance and then switch to a lateral run at 80%. For the last zone, transition quickly to 90% then lock rhythm of cycle pattern.


Diagram # 3 – A: Release straight at 80% in the first zone and transition into zone 2. Build speed rapidly to 95% and lock limb intensity in the last zone. Incorporate rhythm and intensity.

Diagram # 3 – B: Begin with intense lateral run, transition into 100% sprint with intense limb speed and maintain aggressiveness.


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