Oct 7, 2016
First Steps to Speed
Jeff Kipp

Football is a diverse sport played by a variety of athletes, whose ideal physical stature is largely dictated by the requirements of each position. However, one common thread provides an advantage for all football players at any position: to be faster than the opponent. To help develop speed, here is a drill for first-step explosion.

Falling Start

Aim: To develop acceleration and first-step explosion.


The athlete begins in a tall standing position with the feet directly under the hips, chest up, head neutral, and eyes focused straight ahead. The athlete falls forward, maintaining a straight line with the hips forward (see photo above). The athlete does not bend at the waist or hips and does not round the back. The athlete falls as far as possible before forcefully flexing the hip and knee of the drive leg to 90 degrees at both the knee and hip and drives the arms in the opposite positions from the legs (see photo below). The drive leg continues into a first step by driving the hips forward explosively while maintaining the straight-line posture.

This step is followed immediately by an explosive second step while maintaining the posture. The athlete does not perform the drill at full speed until mastering the correct form. The athlete performs the drill using the natural drive leg and then using the other leg. The athlete needs to be able to take an explosive first step with both legs.

Coaching Points

• Keeping the body straight and tall, the athlete falls as far as possible before initiating the drive leg.

• The chest is up throughout the movement, and there is no bend at the waist or rounding of the back.

• Remind athletes to explosively drive the leg and drive the hips as far forward as possible.


After athletes master the first two or three steps using proper technique, they can progress to a more explosive start and carry out the drill for 5 — 10 yards. They may also perform the drill on a slight uphill (2 — 3 degrees), slight downhill or a combination of uphill, downhill, and flat angles.

This article, an excerpt from the book Developing Speed, was originally published on the website of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is being used with permission. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Jeff Kipp, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D, currently serves as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the men's and women's cross country and track and field teams at the University of Kansas. Kipp also served as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the United States Air Force Academy, as a Performance Coach at Velocity Sports Performance, as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Denver, and as a Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the football team at Colorado School of Mines. Kipp holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University and a Master of Science degree in Exercise Science from the University of Northern Colorado.

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