Rocketman – Be Complete to Compete
Football Acceleration Drills For Wide Receivers
By: Doug Heslip
Coming out of your stance like a rocket it what it is all about. Vertical push is critical to defeating a defensive back. The ability to vaporize a defensive back and leave him to spontaneously combust is just plain fun. One of the goals for my athletes is to cover 10 yards as fast as possible.
You can win the battle of the line of scrimmage before the snap. How? First, get in your stance and look like an overwhelming force. Make the DB think he will be crushed because he is in your path. Look fast even if you are not.
Secondly, when the football is snapped, open it up, detonate, erupt, and come out like a rocket. Let the DB know you will compete on every snap. Let him know you have superhuman mental toughness.
If you are not the fastest guy in the huddle, you can still be very effective. This is where having outstanding footwork and the ability to deceive when you are running routes is your path to prevail and reign when it matters.
Below are a few football acceleration drills I use to develop complete wide receivers to compete. There are certainly more drills, exercises and pieces of equipment you can use such as sleds, tempo runs, 10, 20, 30 yard sprints and hills. I mention a few below you can put in your tool box to use to add a little variety. I like to keep things fresh.
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For these football acceleration drills, I use a weight belt (placed around the waist) or wrist weights. You can use dumbbells if you don’t have wrist weights. I like the wrist weights. They are simple and it adds a little weight to their hands. I am not sold on using a weighted vest to run routes as it places too much forward lean in their stance against press coverage and I believe a heavy load hinders the running of routes. Therefore, I prefer to stay away from the vest for route running; my opinion. I do not use a lot of weight. I want them to be athletes and run routes like a wide receiver flawlessly.
Have your WR get into his stance. At first I have them accelerate off of the line of scrimmage for 10 yards as fast as they can with weight. Make sure you perform contrast reps (no weight) after the weighted reps.
I will have them run routes using the above method. Using a Vertimax, I train them off the platform on the Vertimax using waist and hip flexor loading with a special harness. With the Vertimax, I do not do any route running: just straight ahead acceleration for these football acceleration drills.
Have your WR lie on his stomach on the ground. Have your QB or coach approximately 10 yards away perpendicular to the WR on the ground with a football at the ready to throw.
I like to slap the ball to make the WR on the ground respond to the sound. Once the WR hears the slap he gets up as fast as he can (push up) and runs straight ahead. The QB will throw the football to him on the run as he is going parallel to the QB. The WR tucks the football QB side to prevent the DB from knocking it loose.
I will also have them “stick” their outside foot (pressure step) and run directly at me. I like the “stick” move because it simulates a WR planting his foot on a quick slant for example. Then, I will throw the football to them as they are running toward me.
A “stick” move is when a WR runs a three-step or five-step slant route. The “stick” is made on the last step before the actual slant. I tell them to stick their foot in the ground and use it as a pressure step to accelerate them into the slant.
TENNIS BALL DRILL
Have your WR in his stance. Stand approximately a few yards away from him with a tennis ball. Drop the tennis ball. The tennis ball will hit the ground once, but tell your WR he has to catch the tennis ball before it hits the ground twice. As his acceleration improves from the stance, move further away from him.
A progression to these football acceleration drills is once he catches the first dropped tennis ball, take a second ball and throw it in the opposite direction he just came from. This will help with deceleration after the first ball is caught and will require a change of direction. I want the change of direction performed as fast as possible. Coach them on shin angle and shoulder sway to prevent losing precious tenths of seconds.
Acceleration, deceleration and reacceleration is a critical skill set WRs need to acquire. The ability to change direction seamlessly is a valuable commodity.
There are routes where WRs will break down very quickly in an attempt to seduce the defensive back that he is going to alter his route in a different direction. Having some snake oil salesmen in your WR can be beneficial.
Even if you can get the defensive back to freeze his feet while your WR is reaccelerating you have a good chance at a big play. Tenths of seconds matter during a one-on-one battle and it will ultimately be the deciding factor on who wins that play. Tenths of seconds lead to whole numbers on the scoreboard and in the win column.
HURDLE JUMPS ADVANCED JUMPING
I have my athletes perform this exercise a couple of different ways. The first way is to have them stand right in front of a track hurdle. Have them jump over the hurdle and then have them sprint 10 yards.
The second way is to have your athletes jump 5 times with trap bar with a weight your athlete can handle. You may want to start with body weight, progress to bar weight, then add weight. They need to understand jumping and landing mechanics (Snap Downs). I consider this advanced jumping.
After 5 reps, I have them jump over three track hurdles as contrast reps.
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I use medicine balls for all of my athletes. They are great for football acceleration drills. Medicine balls are fantastic for athletes to build strength. Medicine balls can be used in all planes of motion and engage muscles from all areas of the body. It is also a great way to get violent and release some frustration you may be feeling!
Do not forget to train in all planes of motion. The med ball can deliver great rotational power benefits. I train athletes in a variety of sports, as well. I make sure they all throw the med ball with their right and left sides to achieve some symmetrical benefits.
Medicine ball is pure acceleration and can teach triple extension. Medicine ball throws create momentum and improves acceleration. Once the throw is completed I have my athlete’s sprint using the momentum created by the med ball.
Start off with proper jumping and landing mechanics. Use weight only when they have completely mastered absorbing force.
Have your athlete hold a medicine ball. I do not go over an eight pound ball. From a standstill have them broad jump three times with the med ball in their hands. After the third rep they drop the ball and perform 2 additional jumps without the med ball.
I will also have them sprint after the weighted jumps as a variation. The momentum created will assist in acceleration.
I do not have my athletes perform many sets of this particular exercise. I have them perform only 2 sets. It is a demanding exercise.
ROTATIONAL THROW LATERALLY
Have your athlete stand forward with med ball in hands near chest area. Take a small step forward and plant the right foot. At the same time bring the med ball to right hip with knees bent to engage the glutes. You will be in the frontal plane.
Push off with the right foot and take a big step with the left leg and unleash the med ball from the right hip. Your hands after releasing the med ball will be extended over your head at an angle. After the med ball is released, have them sprint and chase the med ball downfield. Make sure you get both sides.
WRs have to use their hands and arms for a variety of reasons such as hand-to-hand combat, blocking, and of course catching the football.
The medicine ball two hand chest pass is a great way to develop stronger fingers. Catching the medicine ball to the sides, overhead and low will certainly develop the hands.
Throwing the medicine ball will build strength in the arms. This will come in handy for hand-to-hand combat with an edgy defensive back.
I have my WRs attach bands near their ankles. I simply have them step laterally as fast as they can just like the single move. After resisted reps on both feet, I then have them perform contrast reps.
I use light, not heavy bands, so I do not mess up their technique. If the band is too heavy it will probably affect their shin angle and may create some body sway in the wrong direction.
My athletes like the contrast reps because they feel faster with their feet. This builds confidence to take on a press defender one-on-one and win.
I have them run routes after they complete their resisted sets. This gets some extra rep work in on catching the ball on the run too.
I understand having great footwork is vital too. Single moves and double moves coupled with great acceleration are critical. You have to be complete if you want to compete.
Free Video Training Series: The Four Most Important Football Speed Training Drills
About the Author:
Coach Doug Heslip is a sports performance and football coach in Negaunee, Michigan and trainer at Heslip Elite Sports Performance Training. He has been coaching football and training athletes for 20 years. Coach Heslip is an instructor at the USA Football/Green Bay Packer coaching clinics at Lambeau Field and has been for nearly 10 years, rated the number 1 station as polled by coaches after instruction. He is also a Team USA football coach. Coach Heslip has written several articles published through American Football Monthly and has a Running Back DVD through American Football Monthly, peer reviewed and labeled outstanding. He also received the Governor’s Service Award for the State of Michigan for coaching football.
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