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Strength Training

SAQ Training for Football: Building Speed and Explosiveness

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Football, Strength Training, SAQ Training for Football: Building Speed and Explosiveness

Reading Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

Although strength training is a huge part of football, SAQ training is just as important. Football requires proficiency in many areas:

  • Reaction time 
  • Explosiveness 
  • Running speed
  • Quickness
  • Conditioning 
  • Agility

To excel in this sport, athletes must improve these skills through SAQ training—speed, agility, and quickness. Cone drills, ladder drills, and even hurdle training can help your clients experience improvements in these three areas. 

As a coach, it is important to make sure your football players focus on performing each drill at top speed and with quality footwork. Let’s take a closer look at how to design and implement SAQ training.

What Is SAQ Training?

Prior to designing a speed, agility, and quickness program you must understand each component on its own. The three types of training are often used interchangeably because of their similarities. But they are different and the training you perform for each will vary.

Speed refers to how fast your athlete can move from point A to point B. You must focus on how fast they can move in the forward direction. Remember, this should be one forward direction or from one spot to another.

Agility is an athlete's ability to move fast, but with change of direction. Unlike speed, agility requires constant acceleration and deceleration. Athletes need to change direction while moving at a maximum speed. Agility requires athletes to have a strong core for balance and stabilization.

Quickness though is how fast an athlete can react as they change their body position. Quickness demands the athlete to control force while being as explosive as possible. Explosiveness from a starting position is acceleration. Acceleration is a key component to quickness.

Speed, agility, and quickness drills should be completed first during any training session. Before or after the plyometric block. Include a dynamic warm-up for injury prevention. And be sure to use movement patterns that will be in the workout to prime the body for training.

Speed Training Drills

Football requires athletes to have speed with or without the ball. Defensive players need to prevent offensive players from making catches and running past them. For a player to make it past the defensive, they need to have speed. And for a defender to catch up, they also need to have speed. 

To improve speed, an athlete must focus on stride length, stride frequency, and power development. Speed training can utilize different types of drills to improve these areas. We know how important the 40-yard dash is in football. Power is an overlooked skill when considering speed training. Check out some of these exercises to improve power.

Ladder Drills

To improve overall speed, you can use a speed or agility ladder. Foot speed and footwork contribute to stride frequency or leg turnover. Ladder drills as simple as a one step or lateral shuffle help with fast feet.

There are many other ladder drills that help with speed like the icky shuffle, in and out, carioca, and lateral run throughs.

Cone Drills

Cone drills like the x drill, 5-10-5, L drill, and W drill will also help improve speed. To focus on speed itself, try to execute drills that require your athlete to sprint in a linear direction. Focus on cone drills that limit lateral movement and excessive change of direction. 

Strength and Power Drills

In football, strength and power development comes through resistance training. To gain speed you must develop high amounts of muscular force. Power is crucial at the beginning of a sprint, but also throughout. A speed drill does not always involve only a sprint. Instead you can use conditioning, plyometric, and strength exercises:

  • Speed barbell back squats
  • Sled pushes
  • Power cleans
  • Split jerks
  • Sled runs
  • Squat jumps
  • Box JUMPS
  • Bulgarian split squat jumps

Agility Training Drills

Agility exercises are crucial for football players. All agility training helps players keep up with the demands of the sport. All positions in football require quick movements and constant change of direction.

For example, a running back has multiple roles. These include but are not limited to running, catching, and blocking. When receiving the handoff, a running back must read the defenses scheme and adjust as the play goes on. To adjust and make something happen, they need to be agile. Being quick on your feet applies to all positions in football, just in a different style.

Ladder Drills

Agility requires change of direction, acceleration, and deceleration. Focus on these components by incorporating forward, backward, and side-to-side movement during an agility drill.

Ladder drills like the single leg shuffle, ski jumps, lateral in and out, and the icky shuffle are beneficial to football players. These will all help improve agility.

Cone Drills

Some of the most popular cone agility drills for football include the following: 

  • L-Drill or 3 Cone Drill
  • X-Drill
  • W-Drill

These drills support constant change of direction including acceleration and deceleration. Providing a great measure of speed as well as agility.

Quickness Training Drills

By now you should recognize how speed, agility, and quickness can be used interchangeably. SAQ training for football is often intertwined. But quickness mainly emphasizes speed when an athlete changes their body position. 

Ladder Drills

Agility and speed ladder drills repeat for speed, agility, and quickness. But specific ladder drills that mainly work on quickness include:

  • High knees 
  • Lateral quick steps
  • 2 feet in and 2 out
  • Icky shuffle crossover 

Cone Drills

One of the biggest cone drills that measures quickness in football is the pro agility drill. Also known as the 5-10-5, the pro agility drill evaluates speed with a change in body position. Running 15 yards in a 10-yard distance showcases an athlete’s ability to accelerate and decelerate. All while body position changes.

Quickness also depends on reaction time. Drills for this include a ball drop or mirror drill. Reaction ball drills are a great addition to quickness training. 

The ball drop drill can be performed in different ways. Start by standing 10 feet away from an athlete. Drop the ball and as soon as you do your athlete will run to catch it. They must catch it before it bounces a second time.

The mirror drill involves two athletes. They begin by facing each other in a marked off distance. One athlete begins shuffling trying to lose their partner. The athlete who leads can go any way they want, while the second athlete mimics their movements.


Are you looking to expand your knowledge in sport-specific training? Become an expert in Strength and Conditioning through the ISSA. Help athletes achieve maximum performance by passing the NCCA accredited exam.

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