The King Sports Lead Up

The Connection Between Warm Up & Full Speed

Last week I covered the warm up. You can click here if you missed it.

This week, I’ll finish our short two-part series with our lead up. Lead up is in the terms of a transition that you’re leading up to full speed. It fits between the warm up and the regularly scheduled programming.

There's more content in the lead up than the warm up with variety based on what you may be training that day. The lead up is influenced by the speed training themes I wrote about in June. For review, the themes are:

  • •0-10

  • •Change of Direction (COD)

  • •0-30

  • •As-sport-specific-as-possible COD

For our intents and purposes, lead up days for 0-10 and 0-30 look similar since it’s straight ahead sprinting regardless of distance. In turn, COD days are similar as well regardless if it’s sport-specific.

I always say get ready for what you're going to do next. You're going to start going at a higher speed and triggering that quick twitch with specific drills. Lead up is so important in the transition from zero to a hundred. It’s risky to go too fast too early. Just as preliminaries are important in the weight room with strength training, prelims are important in speed training.

Let’s get into the drills themselves starting with some of the auxiliary ones that can even blend in with the warm up.

Ankle Flips and Knee Snaps

These are complimentary but still worth mentioning. For Ankle Flips, the athlete focuses on powerfully “flipping” the ankle (plantar flexion) followed by a quick, exaggerated toe up, dorsiflexion. Knees are stiff during the ankle flips. This progresses to the Knee Snap which is like a single leg High Knee. One leg snaps the knee high while the other leg stays straight and flips the ankle.


This drill is done on lines in either a traveling or stationary manner, depending on your space.

The main movements are:

  • •Forward

  • •Backward

  • •Lateral

This can be done double leg and single leg as well. The athlete should perform short and low hops, moving as quickly as possible. If you want to add some challenge to this, instead of a two-dimensional line, you can utilize a ladder as a three-dimensional element where the athlete can’t cheat the drill.

Pedal the Bicycle Progression

This is a progression of the pedal the bicycle which is one of my favorite lead up drills. It’s as close to proper running as any of the other drills and reinforces some of the most fundamental things about running.

The athlete should focus on two main things: the posture and the pattern. The posture emphasizes the tall, forward lean getting up onto the ball of the foot and avoiding any heel strike. The stride pattern emphasizes lifting the foot up, around and down in a cyclical motion like that of a bike pedal. They mess up when the lead foot kicks forward rather than going immediately down.

On top of that, the athlete should not lose the arms. It’s amazing how kids will forget about the arms if they are so focused on the legs and vice versa.

The speed percentages range from 50% to 95% and can be chosen at your discretion. Sometimes you need to keep your athletes on their toes, pun intended, and give them a random percentage to aim for. It’s the simple things that make training fun.

Skip Series

This is a series of skips primarily focusing on ground force application. Our main skips are:

  • •Easy skip (we also say “playground skip”)

  • •Big skip

  • •Power skip

This is a good series for straight-ahead days.

The Big Skip is not just for height. You have to think up and out. You still need to push for some distance and lift. Don’t look like an EKG when you do it.

My Power Skip is for distance, though some kids may know it as their “big skip.” As with everything, just get on the same page with language in case kids have trained elsewhere and learned different vernacular. With this skip, when you land on the ground, think push. There will not be much elevation as you look to powerfully extend the ground leg and explode off the ground pushing forward landing to quickly repeat.

Oca Series

This is a series of movements based on the normal Carioca. Our main “-ocas” are:

  • •the aforementioned Carioca

  • •Tappioca

  • •Skippioca

  • •Doilioca

This is a good series for COD days.

The Tappioca is like a traveling salsa dance. It is a lateral movement characterized by shorter and quicker steps than a normal Carioca. The Skippioca is like a sideways skip. The athlete crosses the trail leg high in front of the lead leg but does not take it behind like a normal Carioca. What also differentiates it from a strict side skip, is a turn-return movement with a hip rotation.

The Doilioca is not a lateral movement, rather, it is a forward movement, truly just a Carioca facing forward. This is awkward for most kids but fun to have them try.

The Arm and Leg Series

This is a series of movements emphasizing the mechanics of the limbs and great in particular for straight-ahead days.

The arm-specific drills include:

  • •Big Arms

  • •Fast Arms

  • •No Arms

  • •Half & Half

  • •Hard Arms Backpedal

The leg-specific drills include:

  • •Running Butt Kicks

  • •Bounding

  • •the aforementioned Pedal the Bicycle

Remember to remind the athletes that doing drills teach one or two specific techniques. Doing that can mess up other moving parts from a technique standpoint (it's temporary) and it may make you feel goofy doing it which is a sign you are doing it right.

For Big Arms, the athlete keeps the arms at 90º and overemphasizes the range of motion of the arm swing. The main coaching cue is “elbow back, thumb through the belt loop.” The only way to get your thumb in the belt loop is to get the elbow back. For Fast Arms, the athlete runs with their arms pumping as fast as possible.

Like other drills, this will feel goofy to the kids, but they teach essential elements of speed. It is the upper body application of the two lower body factors of speed:

  • •stride length (big)

  • •stride frequency (fast)

For No Arms, the athlete puts the hands behind the back and focuses on keeping the shoulders up and the knees up. When you take away the arms, just like making them hold something in front like a ball, the tendency will be to allow their shoulders to drop and not properly drive the knee. The Half & Half starts with no arms and transitions to using the arms at halfway, thus speeding the athlete up. It is physical proof of how important the arms are for leg speed.

Hard Arms Backpedal is like the Backpedaling version of Big Arms. The athlete should drive the elbow back hard and emphasize the pull of the hamstring to get the foot up and through with big lift and big length. Watch carefully as I have seen over time that an athlete who has technique problems with arms going forward, this will clean that up. Have them do it so they can see the change.

The Running Butt Kick is like it sounds, just run and kick your but more than normal. Bounding – in a sense a running high knee – is as I describe it “running with hang-time”. The athlete should try to hang in the air which challenges the hip flexors. Kids will mess it up by turning it into a skip. It is like a skip in the way it emphasizes the force applied into the ground on each stride. Teaching kids bounding can at times be entertaining because some will naturally be inclined to skip.

The Pedal the Bicycle is again a great lead up drill. This is essentially combining Running Butt Kicks and Running High Knees but with fluidity in the pattern. Coaching cues are important. The foot goes up, around and down. Don’t let them kick out.

Vibration Series

These are good vibrations. This is a great series for COD days.

The main variations are:

  • •COD (change of direction)

  • •Turn & Run

  • •Hip Swivel

The essence of the drill is the athlete vibrates the feet as fast as possible while traveling as slowly as possible, changing direction at the coach’s direction.

For COD, the athlete starts facing sideways. This is a set of 1, 3 or 5 changes of direction that happen on the coach’s command, either from a verbal “Go,” a hand clap, a whistle or other sound. The coach initiates the athletes vibrating their feet then gives the necessary commands for them to travel laterally.

The Turn & Run also has the athletes starting facing sideways. After the coach gets the athlete vibrating their feet, they begin traveling laterally on the first command. The second command they turn & run, making sure to get the hips around quickly and accelerating into a dash through a specified distance.

For the Hip Swivel, the athlete begins facing forward. The first command starts the athletes moving their feet. The next command gets them traveling forward, again slowly with their feet chopping fast. While they are traveling, the coach points to the left or the right and the athlete reacts by rotating the hips that direction and back while keeping their torso and head facing forward. This entire time they don’t stop traveling.

Start Series

These include Push Up Starts and Falling Starts without a hurdle, Falling Starts with a hurdle. I like this series for straight-ahead days.

The Push Up Starts begin with the athlete starting with the chest on the ground and performing a prescribed number of push ups (if any at all) before running up off the ground. The focus is to not pop up but take off like a jet. As their feet get traction they need to start driving.

For Falling Starts, done with or without a hurdle, the athlete gets off the heels and onto the tip of the toes to be as tall as possible so that the body falls. The athlete then takes the first step as late as possible and attempts to recover as quickly as possible to a sprint. Try to encourage your kids to not cheat this drill by taking too early of a step but also to not mess up the drill by taking such a late step they stumble and break their posture.

Ladder and Hurdles

I’ve talked about how ladders and especially hurdles can be utilized for primary speed drills, whether by adding cables, other resistance or whatever else but they also serve a basic purpose.

Standard ladder and hurdles with a basic script are such a simple way to bridge that gap from warm up to game speed drills. Even a half ladder or a short course of hurdles can achieve this. Remember, the speed in an apparatus is as fast as they can under control.

The beauty of ladders and hurdles is that the scripts themselves can offer so much variation. You can have a ladder time that consists of patterns that all face forward and on a different day do patterns that are all lateral and on another day do all hopping patterns.

There are less patterns on the hurdles but as always be creative.

Now that we have covered the warm up and lead up, next week we are going to take a break from drills and their descriptions and talk about an important topic heading into a new school year. Stay tuned.



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