Great football linemen excel with power, agility and quickness.
Football linemen need great change-of-direction speed to succeed in the trenches. Having great change-of-direction speed (agility with quickness) allows you to beat your opponent "to the spot" or recover from mistakes in positioning.
Linemen with "not great speed" can repeatedly make plays to help the team win. This is not an accident. You can improve your change-of-direction speed with proper training.
As with any athletic move, core strength is critical. Overall body strength is also important.
Before you begin to train for speed and power, the foundation should be laid with sufficient core and body strength. Failure to lay this strength foundation will lead you to certain injuries.
Body positioning is critical if you want to improve your change-of-direction speed. You will need dynamic balance. In many sports, it is not that easy to change direction and accelerate because you are often off balance.
To improve change-of-direction acceleration, you should have a shin angle of approximately 45 degrees for the first few steps. Your shoulders should also be slightly leaned forward. Your body lean should be at the ankles and not the hips. Having your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart will give you the most stable base of support.
This is not always possible during athletic competition. So, stability needs to be added by lowering the center of gravity. Change-of-direction acceleration could be laterally, at an angle or forward (when back pedaling) and will catapult you to near maximal speed quickly.
The first step in the change-of-direction is important. If this step is too long, you will over-stride and bring your shin to a vertical angle instead of 45 degrees. This will slow you down. So, the first step should be under your hips. Again, your body lean should be at ankles and not the hips.
Lateral change-of-direction technique is critical for football linemen. The shin angle remains important. Shuffles are often followed by sprints. You should use short, quick steps to decelerate and bring your body under control.
A "jump stop" can also be used to change directions. Your knees and hips should be bent with the shoulders aligned over your knees and toes.
Shuttle drills, lateral shuffle/cuts, crossovers, cariocas, tapiocas, ladder drills, etc. can all be used to improve change-of-direction speed for football linemen. You should perfect technique at half speed before progressing to full speed drills.
Work on your change-of-direction speed every day.
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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