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Speed Report – Dynamic Relaxation – The Misunderstood Nugget for Speed and Quickness

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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When we think of the word relaxation it doesn’t suggest a very aggressive picture in our mind. Whenever I mention the term “Dynamic Relaxation” to coaches, they’re momentarily puzzled. They are searching their thoughts for where this picture fits football, a sport that delivers aggressive action every play.

Football movement is not naturally linked to relaxation when the game is all about contact. Having a consistent forceful mindset week to week is what every coach desires. However, this isn’t the prescription for maximizing quickness or limb speed. The key is getting your players to perform consistently fast every play. The first order of business is speed development using a bio-mechanically controlled systematic package that provides dynamic relaxation within the scheme. What is dynamic relaxation exactly and how does it work? It’s the ability to run aggressively at varying frequencies without muscling or forcing the activity of limb movement. It’s a learned skill that is currently absent in the football world.

A Needed Concept

How does this term work with football movement? This is one of those techniques that must be practiced consistently to master the effectiveness it provides. Here’s how it works. Has anyone ever told you to be 100% aggressive yet be relaxed at the same time? Let’s break it down. When relaxation is used in speed and movement, it’s about being aggressive with limb movement while staying in a controlled sense of being. The objective is to rotate the arm/leg cycle aggressively while breathing stays normal. Also, relaxing the muscle structure to allow the muscles to contract rapidly. The natural tendency in football is to force speed with a weightroom mentality. That is, tensing up and trying to muscle the contraction phase, instead of relaxing and letting the muscle structure contract quickly. The pretense application is a normal mindset that football falls prey to quite easily. When I work with groups, I always instruct them to lose the weightroom mentality, relax and focus on arm/leg quickness. You can add this technique simply whenever you train with speed work. It’s a mental concept that is controlled first by understanding the concept then having the athlete feel the limb quickness. Once they feel it, they will be aware enough to begin to control the reps as the players train.

Technical Development Issues

The technique is an old concept utilized for track sprinters many years ago. In football, it is much harder to teach due to the focus, once again, on running aggressively to make plays. There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive but aggression and skill methods combined can deliver a totally different result for getting from point a to point b rapidly. Also, quickness response movement is heightened for better burst results. The learning curve for application can be difficult if you don’t direct the players’ focus consistently.

What makes it tricky to teach is the fact that football has so many variable movement actions involved.

The Good and the Bad

The good news is that relaxed aggressiveness is doable. Perfecting this skill will increase your teams football speed as a whole dramatically.

There is bad news, as well. If you use steep hills, over-weighted sleds or anything along these lines, you can be assured that dynamic relaxation will be difficult. They are counter-productive for the relaxed intensity desired.

Our applications for development are sometimes skewed due to staying inside the box. That is, focusing on a notion or portion of a movement we wish to help while not realizing at the same time we’re hammering one or two other techniques valuable to speed and movement. My efforts are to lend good sound principles that make football speed come alive. This particular technical skill will be worth the time spent to perfect it. I will be giving you some good sound drills to help you bring about this most important nugget for playing faster. Speed components make a difference if you use methods that are technically sound and thorough.

Teaching Dynamic Relaxation Drills

The following drills can be utilized to facilitate learning the technical necessities for crafting the skill level of intensity with relaxation. The goal is to focus on the frequency of limb activity to increase the overall cycle speed during all movement where maximum intensity of acceleration and burst may be called for. The major mistake will be asserting muscle force alone and trying to power the movement instead of relaxing and letting the limb rotation operate rapidly. The key focus point for stimulating this activity is to center on the arm and leg frequency and not muscling the turnover. While sleds and load sprinting can be of value for understanding force application, it can also greatly hinder contraction learning values.

Diagram # 1: Release at easy stride pace and be relaxed at 60%. The burst will be the key that takes place next, limb quickness at the point of burst assertion, not muscling the ballistic burst needed. A decel will follow with the mental focus relaxed and visualizing on the upcoming impact of a quick limb burst again. As a coach, you need to look carefully at the over tensing aspect that may be present initially. It will get better as you work through the days and reps.

Diagram # 2: Lateral easy at 60% with the same principles applying for quickness as directed in diagram #1. The difference is lateral speed work, not lineal.

Diagram # 3: Angle downhill with a fast sprint angle and relaxed with a quick approach. Plant quick (extension plant), and immediately decel limb speed to a short turnover, staying relaxed once again. Plant a second time to a full burst sprint, then repeat plant to decel, this time to a longer sprint finish.

Diagram # 4: Long sprint applying relaxation and limb speed. Decelerate, back to quick relaxed burst to relaxed but a dynamic sprint. This drill is quite simple because it offers only lineal speed with minimal movement changes.

Diagram # 5: This drill is very lineal, as well, but offers up a challenge of quick response changes due to short zone lengths. The cones will come at the athletes rapidly and concentration should be focused on the quick response of limb rotation, then to a slower decel,  and back to quick again. This is the hardest drill to perform well because of the sudden changes of limb speed. 

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 34 years he’s consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at and 858-568-3751.


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