Three simple exercises to increase your hand speed

What allows a cornerback on the snap of the ball to hold a receiver at the line? On the flipside, what lets a wide receiver fly by a bump-and-run corner as if his feet were in quick sand? Or how can a mountainous offensive lineman keep the fastest defensive end from ever getting within three feet of his quarterback? The answer: they all developed their hand speed. I would rather have a teammate who could lift 225lbs explosively and quickly for 10 reps as opposed to a guy who can lift 315lbs five times at a very slow rate. Every athlete on the field must develop their hand speed. In this article I'm going to share with you three simple ways to develop your hand speed to become a more imposing football player.

Three Ways To Develop Quick Hands

1. Increase Your Strength

Here's a simple example of why strength development is important to speed development. If I want to push a car down the street by myself, I could probably do it. Although it would take me a longer time I would still get from point A to point B. Now, if I had some of my buddies come and help me, the car is still the same weight but because there are more people pushing we would get there much faster. The same is true with your muscles. Strength training is important because you want to recruit more muscles (friends) to help you push yourself or your opponents. This would in turn allow you to do the same function as before but with more ease and more speed. Whether it's a lineman, defensive back or wide receiver, the athlete that can shoot their hands the fastest is the one that will more than likely win on a given play.

During my ten years in the NFL, when I wanted to increase my hand speed for covering wide receivers on the line, shedding blocks and getting interceptions, I would focus on doing more push ups and pull ups. Every day you should do a minimum of 50 pushups and pull-ups in your workout routine. These exercises will allow you to develop the muscles in the chest, shoulders and back that are needed to shoot your hands effectively for any football related skill. You'll be able to get off blocks better, blow by defensive backs, get your hands in the air for an interception quicker, and disrupt a receiver on the snap of the ball more easily by staying committed to these exercise. Increasing your strength can help you develop the base for all athletic movements.

2. Develop Your Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers

In the example above about the teammate that I would like to have, I stated that I would rather have the athlete that can use his muscles faster and more explosively, than a person who is very strong but not quick. Football is a game that relies on reaction time and force application. The person that can fire their muscles faster than their opponent and apply more force is usually the more dominant player. All the muscles in your body are comprised of both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. The fast muscle fibers help you to move quickly and explosively. The slow twitch muscle fibers help you sustain your activity over a long period of time. Developing your fast twitch muscle fibers to increase your hand speed will allow you to make bigger plays, block more efficiently, jam receivers and become a better over all athlete.

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To develop these muscle fibers your exercises have to be done fast and explosively. For one exercise, draw numbers or colors on a big sheet of paper or wall and on command try and touch as many numbers and colors in what ever pattern you say. Better yet, have a partner call out the colors or numbers so your job is simply to fire your hands with speed and accuracy. For another simple drill, stand in front of a wall and on "go" see how many times you can alternate touching the wall with your right hand and then your left hand in a short span of time. The object is to increase the number of touches over the same period of time. By developing these fast twitch muscle fibers your body becomes accustomed to not only moving quickly, but being explosive and accurate at the same time.

3. Train Your Eyes

You may be saying "what do my eyes have to do with my hands?" Your eyes have everything to do with your hands, your body and all of the skills it takes to be an elite football player. There is a saying in the NFL: "if you see too much, you see nothing at all." That means if you are not focused with your eyes on the specific details of a technique then you are likely to perform it incorrectly. On every down there is something that a football player should be focusing on. It could be the hips of a wide receiver he is about to jam, or the ball when it's snapped for a defensive lineman. The point is, your eyes should tell your body where to go. The more your eyes are disciplined, the more opportunities you can have at successfully performing your duty on the football field.

To develop eye discipline, I used to stare straight ahead at a spot on the wall. I would then have a teammate hold up a piece of paper so I could only see it with my peripheral vision. I was not allowed to turn my head. The object of this exercise is to allow your eyes to see more while you are focusing in a single direction. This was beneficial when I was running with a receiver and out the corner of my eyes I would see the ball. Due to my eye training and quick hands, I was able to get my hands up and make plays on the ball. The combination of your eyes ability to recognize things faster and your hand speed will cause the game to slow down for you while your production increases.

You see, developing quick hands is not just about working on the hands. Instead, it's a combination of the whole body working together to take your game to the next level. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below, and I'll do my best to answer all of them!

-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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