Learning the workout secrets of NFL players isn't easy. We asked former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Donovin Darius for the secret to developing quick footwork.
When was the last time you saw a running back or wide receiver in the open field and with one shift of their body to the right or the left the defender goes flying like two F-18s in battle? Or how about the time you saw a cornerback lined up one yard in front of a wide receiver in a bump and run position, and all of a sudden when the ball is snapped the receiver runs by the cornerback as if his feet were stuck in quicksand? Well, that happens all the time and for the same reason. One athlete has quicker feet than the other. So the question becomes "how do you develop quick feet and eliminate being on your opponent's highlight reel?"
Here are three ways you can develop quick feet:
1. Develop Strength In Your Calf Muscles and Ankles
There is no other area that takes more pressure but has the responsibility to provide more quickness and explosion than the calves and ankles. These areas have to take the full weight of your body while moving in one direction, stop it and then apply force in the opposite direction. Thus it is very important to workout these areas. When I played in the league for 10 years I had several exercises that helped me strengthen theses areas.
- To strengthen the calf muscles: Stand and hold dumbbells or a weighted bar on your back. Perform three sets of 15-20 reps by standing up on your toes, pushing the weight of your body with up with your calves. If weight is not available stand on the edge of a step, lower yourself down and push up as high as you can on your toes.
- To strengthen your ankles: Sit in a chair with feet on the ground. Lift your toes up while your heels are on the ground. This develops the muscle near your shins, which is necessary for quick feet development. You can also lift your toes and push out and in with your foot to develop the outer part of your ankles.
2. Get Your Nervous System In Shape
Having quick feet is a combination of your brain and nervous system wanting to make a move and your fast twitch muscle fibers coordinating that movement with your body. During these movements your muscles are working but also your nervous system. It is your nervous system that is telling your muscles how fast to go and when to react. If your nervous system and muscular system is not well trained and on the same page then it could lead to an athlete wanting to make a move but his body not responding.
Below is a drill that develops your Neuro (nervous) Muscular (muscle) System.
- Machine Guns: Stand in an athletic position, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, butt back, ankles bent, shoulders slightly forward and head up. On command, rapidly alternate your feet as if you are running in place without lifting your feet higher than three inches off the ground. Perform this exercise three to five times for 15-20 seconds straight. You will notice that your legs will get heavy and your speed will decrease. The more you do this drill the more your muscles and nervous system will be ready to make any move your mind tells them to.
3. Perform Plenty of Footwork Drills Using the Quick Foot Ladder
The quick foot ladder was designed to allow athletes to develop foot quickness and body coordination. There are over 25 different drills you can perform using the ladder. The ladder should become your best friend as an athlete because it can train different types of movement patterns at high speed. Included in this article is a video of me performing two ladder drills. If you want to increase your foot speed you should perform at least five different drills. Start out slow and get faster as you become accustomed to the movement pattern. You can perform a specific number of drills or you can do it for a continuous time period (i.e. two to three minutes straight).
-Donovin Darius played defensive back for 10 years in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, and was a first round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He is the founder and CEO of Next Level Training, which is designed to take any athlete to the top of the competitive mountain.
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