Speed Training for Football Lineman
Speed Training for Football Lineman
You’re a big guy. You’re tall, you got some girth, you’re thick and you love pancakes (both on the field and in your belly). Thing is, you move like the molasses being poured all over those pancakes on a Sunday morning. That isn’t good. That isn’t ideal. You need to move like the butter sizzling on the skillet. You need that speed to take you to the next level.
Most likely because of your size as a lineman, you’ve never been trained how to be fast. Well we can help you understand how to develop the speed as a lineman to improve your play on the field.
Let’s take a look at the three key elements behind speed.
1. RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT
The first key, and this is incredibly important for lineman, is rapidly developing force. Starting fast helps us gain the upper hand. It puts us in an advantageous position to win the line scrimmage and deliver the initial blow.
2. ACCELERATION (DRIVE PHASE)
Optimal acceleration helps us get to top end speed. The faster we get to our top end speed the more likely we will be able to chase down that faster running back trying to scat around the edge, or reach and zone in on that flowing linebacker.
3. SOLID TECHNIQUE
While this is important, as a lineman it is low on our list of priorities. Hate to break to you, but as linemen, it isn’t very often where you get out in the open field and need to create space to score.
So as lineman we’re going to focus on the rate of force development and acceleration in the drive phase.
What to do to develop the elements of speed
The first thing we like to do is heavy sled work. Sled work gives us a myriad of means for developing force rapidly. We can pull the sled. We can push the sled. We can drag the sled. Let’s just make sure we are moving forward. It is key that when doing sled work and moving forward, we hold good posture and keep steep shin angles so that we are in alignment to propel and drive the body forward.
Now, if your posterior chain is not up to snuff, we recommend that you put the harness on and drive forward while pulling.
Maybe it isn’t your posterior chain that is lacking but instead your quads slowing you down. If that is the case, we recommend pushing the sled. It’s key that you focus on accelerating the sled so that way next time you’re asked to pull on a sweep, that the linebacker is going to get smacked; or, maybe you’re on the d-line and you're hawking down that running back trying to get to the edge.
Try to get 5 to 7 sets in a day when training the legs with the sled.
FULL RANGE OF MOTION
The second thing is we need to train in a full range of motion. Training a full range of motion increases mobility and increases trunk stability. Both will have a tremendous carryover to speed on the field. That means back squat deep, front squat deep, and yeah, we get it, powers are great, but so is hitting a solid bottom position in a clean or snatch.
Remember when we said that rate of force development was an important element behind speed? Well we got a not so secret magic answer. Ready for it?
We know: the olympic lifts are scary; The olympic lifts need to be taught. So?!?
Stop fearing these movements and embrace the skills and abilities gained from utilizing these ballistic movements to develop a killer first step.Not just a killer first step, but a MASSIVE first step. As lineman, we are bigger, taller athletes who have to be strong and explosive with that first step, and full range of motion olympic lifts are a great way to enhance this skill.
Just like the sleds, try to get 5 to 7 sets between the cleans and squats.
The third thing is plyometrics. Yes, you too can be a husky dunker. As a lineman it is important that you jump to develop force rapidly and create joint stiffness that leads to superior ground reaction forces that helps us run faster on the field.
One thing we like to do at Garage Strength is jumps from a static start. For instance, sit on a box in a deep position and jump over a hurdle or jump onto a box. The hurdle is preferred to the box jump because the hurdle requires much more coordination for deceleration upon landing. In turn, this requires more coordination and accelerates the development of joint stiffness.
Another exercise we like to use is bilateral stair jumps to foster reactive power. The stair jumps, like a box jump, decrease the load on the joints. But unlike a box jump, the stair jumps lead to a faster turnover.
Jumping off two legs is fine and good. It’s great actually. We highly recommend it. We also highly recommend utilizing unilateral jumps to improve single leg power, improve coordination and maintain symmetry with the muscles.
One exercise we like for single leg jumps is to have the rear leg elevated and have the athlete jump sideways on to a box. This movement helps D-linemen when running stunts and assists O-linemen making cuts and pulling.
When doing plyos one to two days a week is plenty. Get 5-10 sets of various exercises (2-3) in a day, doing 2-4 jumps in a set for each exercise. Make sure you get a good rest between efforts.
You do this, your speed on the football field will improve.
As lineman we have to be fast for a short duration of time. That means it is imperative we develop a vicious first step off the line. To do this we need to prioritize enhancing our rate of force production and our acceleration in the drive phase. We can do this by utilizing sleds, prioritizing a full range of motion in all manners of squatting (back, front, clean and snatch) and to make sure we jump using both bilateral and unilateral movements.
Do this and it won’t just be you eating pancakes, but you delivering pancakes.
Besides being the strongest non-meat eater at Garage Strength, Earl makes it a point to pick his banjo daily in the Scruggs style, is an avid artist, currently exploring the interaction of color through pixel art, and makes it a point to read and write daily. He makes money working as an educator at a school in the third largest city in Pennsylvania. When not working, he is taking walks with his wife, Julie, playing video games with his daughter, Belle, discussing the lore of some internet deep-dive with his son, Rhys, or texting his daughter Teegan, who is attending college to become a PA about her cat, Ginger, attacking his sockless feet. He also enjoys spending time with his dogs, Otis and Alma, in the morning when everyone else in the household is still sleeping. In addition to having weekends worth of certificates under his belt, he has trained, studied, and apprenticed under his mentor, Dane, for multiple years, investigating programming, technique and transference of training to sport in both closed and opened competitive environments. In 2019 he set the American Masters 35-39, 96 kilo, snatch record. It’s been broken since, but he has a paper certificate and a pdf to accompany the video evidence for documentation. He loves punny people.
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