Drills to Boost Acceleration

Get faster starts with these acceleration drills

Build acceleration.

If you play field or court sports that involve plenty of starts and stops, having the ability to reach your top speed quickly—from a standstill or from a jog—can give you an advantage over your opponent. Acceleration is the term that refers to how quickly you can change your speed and it is a worthwhile skill to develop if you play any sport the requires quick starts, repeated starts and stops, or a variety of pivots and fast changes of direction.

Athletes who reach their top speed the quickest seem to have a few factors in common. One of the most obvious is their lower body position at the start of the sprint. They also maintain this lower position for a longer time and are able to direct more of their power into forward motion rather than vertical motion. Staying low during the start is one technique you can practice and develop if you want to accelerate faster. 

Another factor related to running mechanics and body position is using the arms to help propel you forward. Driving the arms forward and directly back rather than flailing to the sides, keeps the body momentum moving in the direction you want to go. This arm positioning and movement appears to be the most efficient and effective way to help boost speed out of the blocks.

Another common factor seen in athletes who have the fastest acceleration is their lower ground contact times.

Fast accelerators spend less time in contact with the ground, generate more power each stride and keep their feet under their body during acceleration. Landing on the heels or with the body behind the foot acts as a slight break, and slows down forward motion, but landing on the balls of the feet with the body slightly forward increases momentum and improves ground contact times.


Court and field sport athletes often benefit from practicing specific drills that develop acceleration. Here are a few of the most popular training methods for boosting speed out of the gate and keeping it going once you reach top speed. 

1. Sprinting with a Weighted Sled 

Sprinting against resistance may be the king of the acceleration drills. Professional football players often use a weight sled during training to build power and acceleration. In order to get the most from a sled drill, the athletes need to maintain excellent sprint mechanics while pulling the sled and stop the drills when fatigue sets in.

2. All-out Sprints

Sprint drills have been shown to increase an athlete's top speed and may have a slight benefit for increasing pure acceleration. All out sprints are perhaps the simplest way an athlete can begin to build more speed and power and potentially help reduce ground contact times. Adding 5-50 yard sprint sessions into the weekly training routine is also a great way to boost top speed.

Doing these types of sprints on a slight incline, or a hill may be slightly more effective (and safer) than doing them of the flats. 

3. Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises, when done properly, are a great way to build overall power in the glutes and quads and to develop a more powerful rebound, which can translate into faster top speeds and faster foot-turnover. It's particularly important that athletes know and heed the warning signs of injury when performing plyometric power drills and build up both intensity and effort slowly over time.

Ideally, an athlete will use a variety of training methods that combine these three drills in order  to build both faster acceleration and a higher top speed. The combination of sprinting against resistance, increasing speed, and building power can give field and court athletes an advantage both out of the blocks and at the finish line.

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