Danny Arnold, owner of Plex [Houston, Texas], always keeps his all-star clientele on their toes. Stop by Plex for a speed session with Julius Peppers, Charles Woodson or Reggie Williams, and you'll see Arnold running around as much as his athletesmoving cones and changing things up for the next set.
"Be consistently inconsistent with your training," Arnold says. "Don't let your body learn your drills, or else the drills start to take over. One time through, and your body has already learned the timing and steps required to complete the drill again. Since football is 100 percent inconsistent, this is how you have to train. We start out structured, then we apply our signature."
Arnold provides one of his inconsistent speed workouts, which totals about 60-70 repsthe approximate number of plays in a football game. If you can conquer Arnold's workout, you can probably handle whatever you might encounter on a Friday night.
On and Offs
Cover the entire 100 yards of a football field, alternating between jogging and sprinting through zones marked by cones [see diagram]. Begin at the goal line; jog to the start of the first zone, then sprint full speed through the zone. As soon as you exit the zone, slow yourself back down to a jog. Continue the pattern down the length of the field.
Arnold's Signature: Change the location of the cones and the sprint distances after each set. Don't place the zones too close together, or else it becomes one long sprint.
Routine: 6-10 sets/ 60-90 seconds rest
Coaching Point: When you hit the first cone, try to get to full speed right away. Explode into a sprint; actively work to slow yourself down at the "stop" cones; don't just coast.
The Payoff: This drill teaches you to change gears suddenly, which separates a good football player from a bad one. This is true football speed.
Begin on the goal line facing a partner who is standing at the five-yard line. Sprint full speed toward him, stopping quickly right in front of him. Jog back to the goal line, turn around and sprint back to partner who is now standing on the 10-yard line. Stop quickly right in front of him and jog back to the goal line. Continue with partner standing on the 15-, 20- and 25 yard lines.
Arnold's Signature: Instead of moving back five yards each time, your partner can decide where to stand for each of the five sprints as you jog back to the goal line. You won't know how far you have to sprint until you turn around and go.
Routine: 6-8 sets/ 30-45 seconds rest
Coaching Point: Drop your hips to shut it down. If you feel pressure on your knees, it means you're staying high when you slow your feet.
The Payoff: When the partner chooses the next spot, you learn to shut down based on reaction, not a learned pattern. The biggest problem with the fast kids is that they can't stop well, because they can't control their body weight. With a cone, you can stop a little, then go around it. If you try that here, you are going to knock your buddy down.
Mini Squat and Sprint
Hold a 25- to 45-pound plate against your chest and lower into a parallel squat position. Perform 10-15 mini squatsrapid, small bursts without going all the way up. Drop the plate on the grass and immediately explode into a sprint.
Routine: 5x5 yards, 5x10 yards, 5x15 yards/ 60 seconds rest
Coaching Point: Don't go all the way up on the mini squats; they should be tiny little bursts.
The Payoff: Too much sprinting is done with fresh legs; you warm-up, then go out on the field and sprint. In a football game, you're always doing a fatiguing movement before exploding. To duplicate that, we fatigue the speed musclesglutes, quads and hamstringsthen sprint.
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