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The Fast Feet Fallacy - February 20th 2019

She needs to work on her first step quickness” “He needs to build a faster first step”  I hear some variation of this regularly when discussing athlete goals with new clients. I am not going to be a dick and rip apart this false assessment because on the surface, it makes sense. Fast, agile, confident, athletes often have what appears to be a fast first step. Parents and, to a lesser degree, sports coaches are not movement experts. Nor should they be. This leads to training programs aimed at moving the feet faster but not necessarily with force and power.

I have spent some time over the past few months watching some of my high school athletes in action during their winter sports and I have two takeaways in terms of movement: 1) too much emphasis is placed on how fast the feet move and not nearly enough emphasis on what the feet are doing when contacting the ground. 2) Confident athletes will always have a “faster” first step.

Think of running like jumping, you have to push the ground away from your body to jump high or run fast. That fast first step you are seeing is an athlete pushing the ground away from them as hard as possible.

Grab a tennis ball and slam it into the ground twice. On the first slam, hold your arm extended overhead and emphasize moving your arm as fast as possible, on the second attempt you don’t have to worry about moving your arm fast, instead, focus on trying to slam the ball right through the freaking earth. I am 100 percent positive that ball will bounce a hell of a lot higher when you try to slam it through the earth.

How do we improve this skill? Practice!

Start with a 3-step sprint. On each stride, you want to focus on pushing the ground away from you as hard as you can. Push-Push-Push. Once you have learned how it feels, once it has become something you do without thinking about it, focus on pushing for 5 yards. Once 5 yards becomes automatic, move on to 10 yards. This will allow you to improve your sprinting skills without thinking too much about it. The goal is to create a new default style of movement. You should also be performing exercises like vertical and broad single leg jumps, single leg strength exercises, sled drags and sled sprints. Focus on pushing the ground away.

I hope this article will help sway the emphasis away from “Fast Feet”. Part dos will focus on the importance of confidence within the realm of movement ability. I would love to hear some feedback if you have any questions or comments.

 

 

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