Over the last four seasons, no team has been more dominant than the New England Patriots. Three of the past four Super Bowls have traveled through Foxboro. And, even more impressive than their collection of championship rings is New England's all-around consistency. Sorry Raiders, Bucs and Panthers fans, but your team followed a season titled conference or Super Bowl champs by falling off the competitive radar.
Not surprising, New England's regularity on the field is equally matched by their dedication to proper training and performance enhancement off the field. The key element to the team's performance enhancement program is quickness training. Assistant strength and conditioning coach, Tom Shaw, is partially responsible for working the collective feet of New England.
Shaw is a nationally recognized performance enhancement coach. Before joining the two-time Super Bowl champs, Shaw worked with the New Orleans Saints. His clientele has included the likes of first-round draft picks Peyton Manning, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson.
The drills that Shaw has implemented for the Patriots as quickness cornerstones include the speed ladder, L-drill and position-specific drills.
The Speed Ladder
"Ladder drills should be done everyday. And we don't do 10we just do three or four, and it's not the warm-up. It's actually the workout," Shaw says.. The speed ladder is invaluable to improving foot-speed and quickness, as there are more than 50 variations of this drill.
"We try and switch [the drills] up.. So we're going to do three today, four different drills the next day and four different drills the next. This way the team can't get into a pattern. They actually have to move their feet quickly," explains Shaw..
Perform one repetition of the drill up the ladder. Following a rest, repeat the same drill back down. After the two reps of the drill, perform the next drill the same way. Give yourself ample rest between each rep to ensure you can move your feet as fast as possible on each rep.
The L-drill has become extremely popular in NFL circles and is a component of the NFL combine.
The L-drill has two purposes.
Purpose 1: To improve overall quickness and agility. Football players accelerate, stop and change direction in short intervals; this drill improves game day ability.
Purpose 2: To test athletic ability. Incorporating one to two repetitions of this drill two to three days a week is enough to achieve desired results. Performing only a few repetitions prevents fatigue and allows you to run each rep at top speed, which is crucial in quickness training. Shaw explains that these drills aren't meant for conditioning. "Quickness training is pace specific, so you have to train at the pace you want to run."
So if you're not giving it 100 percent, you're wasting time.
"Quickness training is all about your first step. And in any athletic event, your first step is the most important," says Shaw..
For that reason, Shaw and the Patriots take advantage of the play-oriented nature of football. Each player at every position has a specific assignment, which has a very specific movement, and therefore, a specific first step. Turning these specific movements into drills helps every football player create a quickness workout tailored to that position.
Receivers should drill pass routes. Because most routes begin with several steps up the field, a receiver's first step should be off the break. For example, when drilling a five-yard out, work on the steps you use to plant and burst to the outside.
Offensive lineman should drill pull left and pull right steps, as well as reach right and reach left.
Linebackers can work slight angled steps similar to the ones taken when plugging a gap.
Defensive backs, like receivers, should drill steps out of the break and not focus on back peddling.
Perform position-specific drills two to three days a week in sets of four to five reps running for two to three steps. Like the speed ladder and L-drill, it is important to recover fully between each rep, so you can focus on the speed of the movement.
Speed Ladder Drills
One Foot In
Run forward through the ladder placing one foot in each square.
Two Feet In
Run forward through the ladder placing two feet in each square. Make sure to switch the lead foot after each pass through the ladder
With both feet close together, hop forward through the ladder on both feet making sure to land in each square.
Two In One Out
Move forward through the ladder using a two steps in one step out pattern. Step into the first square with your left foot followed by a step into the same square with your right foot. Next, step out to the left of the ladder with your left foot. Now step forward into the second square with your right foot. Step into that same square with your left foot. Then step out to the right of the ladder with your right foot. Next, step into the third square with your left foot as you did in the first square, and continue to repeat the pattern.
Two Out One In
Move forward through the ladder using a two steps out one step in pattern. Start by standing outside and to the left of the ladder. With your left foot, crossover step in front of your right leg into the first square. Next, with your right foot, step outside and to the right of the second square. Then, with your left foot, step outside to the right of the ladder next to your right foot. Now, with your right foot, crossover step in front of your left leg into the second square. Then, with your left foot, step outside and to the left of the third square. Finally, with your right foot, step outside and to the left of the ladder next to your left foot. You should now be standing with both feet outside and to the left of the ladder, and can repeat the pattern.
Shuffle One Foot In
Shuffle laterally through the ladder placing only one foot in each square. Make sure to shuffle through the ladder twice, first leading with your right foot and then leading with your left foot. Do not let your feet crossover each other.
Shuffle Two Feet In
Shuffle laterally through the ladder placing two feet in each square. Make sure to shuffle through the ladder twice, first leading with your right foot and then leading with your left foot. Do not let your feet crossover each other.
Lateral Bunny Hops
With both feet close together, laterally hop through the ladder on both feet making sure to land in each square. Make sure to hop through the ladder twice, first leading with your right foot and then leading with your left foot.
Two In Two Out
Move laterally through the ladder using a two steps in two steps out pattern. Start with both feet outside of the ladder. First, step into the first square with your right foot followed by a step into the same square with your left foot. Next, step backward and to the right with your right foot. Your foot should be outside of the ladder and pointing toward the second square. Take a similar step with your left foot so that you end up standing with both feet outside of the ladder and in front of the second square. Then, repeat the pattern.
Lateral Scissor Step
Start with your right foot in the first square and your left foot outside of the first square. Then, jump half a square distance to your right and scissor-kick your feet. You should land with your left foot in the first square and your right foot outside of the second square. Next, jump half a square distance to your right and scissor-kick your feet. You should land with your right foot in the second square and your left foot outside of the second square. Repeat this pattern for the length of the ladder, moving to your right for the first set and moving to your left for the second set.
Start the drill by setting up three cones in the shape of an L (see below). Each cone should be five yards apart with the second cone five yards ahead of the first cone and the third cone five yards to the right of the second cone. Start in a three-point stance next to the first cone. Sprint straight ahead to the second cone, plant and touch the line of the second cone with your right hand. Then, sprint back to the first cone. Once at the line of the first cone, plant and touch the line of the first cone with your right hand. Now, sprint back toward then around the second cone toward inside of the third cone. Sprint inside and around the third cone and head outside of the second cone. Quickly turn around the second cone and sprint toward and then passed the first cone to complete the drill.
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