The Best Speed Drill for Acceleration

As we continue through our summer and one of the most important parts of the athlete’s training year, I want to expand on one of our recent topics.

Recently, when I covered the speed training themes, I referenced drills that fit for 0-30: the High Speed 110’s and the Speed Ladders. I hope you’ve had time to hit the track and experience one of those workouts since then. Drop a comment below! What did you think? How did you like it?

Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite drills for 0-10. This drill is one of the best ways to improve acceleration and can make an insane difference in your athlete’s explosiveness. I’ve given you hurdle drills that improve acceleration, so now I’m going to give you a drill that utilizes different equipment and doesn’t restrict your stride.

The Drill

The drill is what I call Double Resistives.

In the King Sports Training training index, a single resistive is where an athlete wears a belt or harness or some other tool for speed training like a resistance band and a partner creates tension and provides resistance while they run a specific distance.

A double resistive is:

  • •belt/resist from back

  • •ball/resist from front

When we add a medicine ball into the hands of the runner. The medicine ball takes away the runner’s arms. There need to be two coaching cues. Coach your athletes to:

  • •keep your shoulders up

  • •keep your knees up

When an athlete has to hold the ball, it may result in them allowing their shoulders to dip or them to not pick up their knees.

The Effect

“You do not want to waste a great training opportunity.”

One of the reasons why a double resistive is so amazing at improving acceleration is because the power the legs must generate to overcome the resistance results in greater force production. When you take away the arms by putting an object in their hands, you’re putting the focus on the legs. Without the help of the arms, it’s up to the hips to drive hard.

As with resistance training with strength exercises, the body has to adapt to the resistance. The stimulus is everything. The body will remember what it does last, so after a couple reps of running with resistance, you do a contrasting unresisted rep. We refer to this as a “regular.” The athlete will explode out.

And since the body does remember what it did last, it thinks the resistance is still there and the athlete will stumble on the first two steps if you do not coach them to be ready to “launch” on the takeoff.

You do not want to waste a great training opportunity.

The coach, everytime, must remind the athlete that they are about to take off faster than they are accustomed to and be ready to take a longer-than-normal first step, as well as, a faster 1st step than they are accustomed to. Coach them to touch-and-go on the first two steps. It’s what I call artificial speed because the body is responding to a resistance that helped them the first time but is no longer there. So you tell the athlete to pay attention and capture that move and sensation.

The Equipment

Let’s talk equipment. Back in the day the belts might not have been as fancy, but they were still just a combination of three materials:

  • •Nylon

  • •Plastic

  • •Metal

The most important thing is safety.

I’ve seen videos of people using large bands or cables. Personally, I don’t like something stretchy. It’s safer to use something that can be taut. If you let go of something stretchy, even just by accident, it can result in an injury.

Then there are the times where you want to be able to release for the athlete to experience the immediate contrast. You can only do repetitions with releases if you’re using a strap or a rope.

Something to also consider is the capacity of the buckle. When I was training bigger athletes like linemen in football, there were belts that wouldn’t stay clipped because the force was too great. Or they (the belts) simply were too small. I had special harnesses for my bigger athletes.

Even if the belt uses velcro to secure it, make sure the velcro is still effective. Sometimes velcro can collect debris like cotton from clothes and makes the connection less stable.

The medicine ball can be anything. Leather medicine balls, rubber med balls, even a sports ball like a basketball or soccer ball will accomplish taking away the arms. However, the weight does matter because a heavier all adds more resistance. If the athlete is mature enough, try to use a weighted ball that adequately challenges the athlete.

The Distance

This drill is short. Short here means max of 15 yards. It can be as short as 7-8 yards (for instance when adjusting for younger athletes or applying heavier resistance from the back).

While longer distances are a legitimate drill, they are done differently. I use a different apparatus to create a consistent tension that can be calibrated when I’m asking my athletes to take it 20+ yards.

The shorter distance naturally means a quicker rep. The reason for aiming for a short duration like 4-6 seconds is that we are not trying to lose speed, referring really to the athlete's output. Yes, the athlete’s forward progress moves slower, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t running fast. They are still at 95% effort. The resistance already makes it higher intensity, so it's already a taxing drill. Keep it short enough that they don’t fatigue before the finish line.

Another important element is that the resisted distance is never longer than the unresisted distance. I want the unresisted reps to be longer. So a 15-yard resisted run wouldn’t be followed by a 10-yard unresisted run. It needs to be an equal or greater distance like a normal speed break, which we do at 20-30 yards. A reminder, sprint strides are like weight room reps., you need enough of both to get fast and strong, therefore the 20-30 yards allows the runner to get the newly found faster turnover repeated more before the effect diminishes.

The Order

The reps themselves can be adjusted, but it’s important to understand the sequence. We always go from resistance to unresisted(regular). In strength training, it’s similar to doing a heavy barbell bench press then going into push ups or a ballistic drill like chest pressing a med ball at a wall.

However, in strength training it works to start with the lighter drill and superset it with the heavier drill. I call that pre-exhaust. For example, doing a triceps exercise then doing a close-grip bench.

I don’t like that for speed training.

For the double resistives, do at least three sprints with the belt and ball.

We then remove the ball, not the belt. While med ball sprints are a single resistance, I refer to those as Med Ball Sprints so that Single Resistives can be understood as the belt resistance.

After at least a couple of those, you then remove the belt and go unresisted. The reps usually scale down. So for example, if you’re doing multiple sets, it might look like this:

    SET 1
  • •Double = 3 reps
  • •Single = 3 reps
  • •Regular = 2 reps

    SET 2
  • •Double = 3 reps
  • •Single = 2 reps
  • •Regular = 3 reps

The Partner

This can make or break the drill. It’s easy to do and easy to mess up. If you, the coach or the parent, are able to do the resisting, I know you’ll be able to provide the athlete with a proper amount of resistance. With kids, it can be more unreliable.

The most important thing about coaching this drill is communicating the different responsibilities.

For the athlete who is running, it’s simple. Tell them to just run. If they get distracted, it blows up the whole drill. They need to allow their partner to learn how to properly resist. The best way to explain it is “ the runner sprints, the partner, jogs.”

As for the partner holding on, there are a couple basic things that need to happen.

First, they need to get ready and then communicate to their partner that they are good to go. If the runner starts prematurely, it could lead to an injury.

Secondly, they aren’t ready until they have a proper grip of the rope or strap or band and it is taut. If it’s loose, it will create a jerk and yank that throws off the runner.

Finally, they can’t hold the runner so tight it stops them. If the runner can hardly travel because the partner is just anchoring down, it’s too much. Even mature, elite athletes don’t need excessive resistance.

Sounds simple enough but trust me, I’ve seen everything. That’s even a small reason I love this drill and other partner drills: kids have to learn how to collaborate, communicate and cooperate.



This relies on another partner, but it doesn’t take much. A third person stands in front of the runner and places their hands on the outside edge of the runner’s shoulders. They provide just enough resistance that the runner can feel it.

Obviously if the two partners, the one in the back and the one in the front, wanted to stop the runner in his or her tracks, they could. That’s not the drill. They need to allow the runner to gain forward progress and get a quality rep.

The key is to just adjust after a rep. Err on the side of easy. If the runner feels like they can handle more, then go for it.




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