Improving Foot Speed and Agility


I wrote this a while back but just added it to our free articles section at Strengthcoach.com so I could share it with a larger audience.

Developing Foot Speed and Agility

A couple of threads on the StrengthCoach.com forum got me thinking about the question of foot speed and athletes. I can’t tell you how often I hear a parent or a coach ask, “How can I improve my son’s/daughter’s/ athlete’s foot speed or agility?” It seems everyone always wants the shortcut and the quick fix. The better question might be “Do you think you can improve foot speed?” or maybe even the larger question, “Does foot speed even matter?”

That begs the larger question, “Does foot speed have anything to do with agility?” I know coaches or parents reading this are asking, “Is this guy crazy?” How many times have we heard that speed kills? I think the problem is that coaches and parents equate fast feet with fast and quick feet with agile. However, fast feet don’t equal fast any more than quick feet equal agile. In some cases, fast feet might actually make an athlete slow–often I see fast feet as a detriment to speed. In fact, some of our quick turnover guys, those who would be described as having fast feet, are very slow off the start.

The problem is fast feet don’t use the ground well to produce force. Fast feet might be good on hot coals, but not on hard ground. Think of the ground as the well from which we draw speed. It is not how fast the feet move, but rather how much force goes into the ground. This is basic action-reaction physics. Force into the ground equals forward motion. This is why the athletes with the best vertical jumps are most often the fastest. It comes down to force production. Often coaches will argue the vertical vs. horizontal argument and say the vertical jump doesn’t correspond to horizontal speed, but years of data from the NFL Combine begs to differ. Force into the ground is force into the ground. In spite of what Brett Contreras may say, vectors don’t seem to matter here. The truth is parents should be asking about vertical jump improvement, not about fast feet. My standard line is “Michael Flatley has fast feet, but he doesn’t really go anywhere. If you move your feet fast and don’t go anywhere, does it matter? It’s the old “tree falling in the woods” thing.

The best solution to slow feet is to get stronger legs. Feet don’t matter. Legs matter. Think about it this way:

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6 Responses to “Improving Foot Speed and Agility”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    It will always be tough to the educate the masses. I truly believe if you work hard you will slowly convert a few. Keep trying.

  2. Thank you Coach Boyle. I teach TRX classes and bag boxing classes at a boxing gym. Trying to educate the masses that all power generates from the ground up. Power for every punch generates from the feet. I get a little frustrated because one of the most popular classes consists of hyper feet and punching. The mentality is fast is better. They are “tapping” the bag, not punching–they’re just looking busy, not truly punching. Trying to make a difference. One of my demos is casually drop a medicine ball on the floor. Then I slam it on the floor as hard as I can and tell them that this is what happens when you use the ground to your advantage.

  3. mboyle1959 Says:

    Great mind think alike. Nice job.

  4. mboyle1959 Says:

    Thanks Peter. I think people waste a lot of time with “quick feet”. This was just me writing what I must have said 1000 times to parents.

  5. Peter W Roberts Says:

    I can here the derisive comments flying in as I write, no fast feet drills, what’s a coach going to be left with damn. Good stuff as usual Mike and it’s the brain activity these articles stir up that really hit home, OK do I need to rethink agility training, could be. I always wondered about the transference from classroom to field of these drills too, maybe we should experiment rather than just accept. Thanks for the neural stimulation

  6. Great article Coach Boyle. I wrote a very similar articel on my blog. Check it out when you have some time. I hope to make it up there next summer! Fran

    http://pinnacleperformance.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/what-exactly-is-footwork/

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