By Patrick Beith & Latif Thomas
On a daily basis I receive emails from newsletter subscribers asking variations of the very same question:
What is ‘step over drive down?’
How do you ‘step over drive down?’
What does ‘step over drive down’ actually do?
I think you understand what I mean.
And this is a great question that clearly needs some further explanation.
The only way to get faster is to learn to apply more force to the ground. Simple Physics state that every action has an equalAnd opposite reaction. So it stands to reason that the more force you apply to the ground with every step, the more it is going to give back to you.
Now this is an overall concept of course. Athletes must use a variety of training methods to develop this ability. But it is this ability to apply greater force to the ground that determines how quickly an athlete can accelerate, change directions or maintain top speeds.
So I don’t want you to get the idea that if you practice one specific drill or do one specific lift in the weight room that you will now have done everything required to help athletes achieve all their speed goals.
The truth of the matter is that you have to build all of your speed development around this fact. By improving things such as flexibility, doing short hills runs, running at full speed, performing speed drills, strength training and plyometrics, athletes directly and indirectly improve their ability to apply more fore to the ground by becoming stronger, more coordinated and thus more efficient.
All of these elements added to a structured speed workout program will result in every athlete quickly improving their ability to run faster.
But for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on the action of ‘step over drive down’ because efficiency is important and if your athletes’ running form is terrible, then they will not be able to take advantage of all the work that goes into mastering the ability to apply force to the ground.
Some coaches and trainers have suggested that doing speed training drills will not improve technique. Some say that other elements of training will actually correct technique by their very nature.
In my experience working with thousands of athletes of various ages, sports and skill levels, I find that *certain* speed drills are an excellent and required means of reinforcing these ideas. So what exactly am I talking about?
First, lets break running down into two parts: accelerating and maximum velocity or speed maintenance.
Most sports rely heavily, if not exclusively, on acceleration. This means that athletes rarely reach full speed during while competing in their sport. A great example of this is American football where athletes compete mostly in spurts of running that last 5-20 yards. The only time they reach full speed and must try to maintain it is when a breakaway occurs.
I bring this up because there are going to be differences in the way athletes must run and think about running depending on whether they are accelerating or attempting to maintain top speeds. The differences are subtle but significant and must be addressed.
Yet, the overriding principle remains the same, they must ‘step over, drive down’.
More specifically, athletes must learn to step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground so that the foot lands, generally speaking, beneath the hips.
As I just mentioned, there are subtle differences between where the foot strike will take place depending on what phase of running the athlete is in.
The important factor is that they be able to put themselves in a position to apply force to the ground as efficiently as possible.It’s really one of those paradoxes that we often find in athletics. At the end of the day, no matter what else an athlete trains and regardless of how great their coaching is, if they aren’t in a mechanical correct position upon foot strike, it doesn’t matter how perfect the rest of their training is, they’re going to under perform.
At the same time, all the mechanics in the world won’t help an athlete who doesn’t have the strength, coordination and flexibility required to apply that force.
And this is why athletes *need* a complete speed training program to help them achieve their full potential.It’s the reason why sometimes we see super strong athletes who can put up ridiculous weights in the weight room, but get them on the track or on the field and they’re slow as molasses on a cold winter morning.
It’s lack of efficiency, not lack of strength. As coaches and athletes we must change our focus.
And that’s’ why I cue the step over, drive down technique. As an athlete, and I pretty darn fast one I have to say, this was my Achilles heel. No one ever taught me how to do this properly and so I suffered from a number of the side effects of poor efficiency: painfully slow acceleration and chronic hamstring, arch and knee problems.
Talent took me to a pretty high level, but now I sometimes sit back and think to myself that curse afflicting many former athletes ‘what if…’
So that’s why I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to make sure that other athletes and coaches don’t allow themselves or their athletes to underachieve like I did.
Because if one person, one time had been a good enough coach to pull me aside and teach me how to ‘step over, drive down’ my entire athletic career would have gone in a completely different direction.
So as I’ve spent all these years studying speed development, in many ways searching for the reasons why I didn’t achieve my athletic goals. ‘Step over, drive down’ is a Truth that always rings clear in my head as the primary solution to many athletes’ lack of achievement.
Over the years I’ve found a particular progression of cues, drills, exercises and techniques that, when taught in a specific order using specific ways of understanding how and why it works, athletes quickly make radical changes in their technique and efficiency.
And that means, of course, they got much faster.
But the truth is, you could have your own copy of Complete Speed Training in your hands to get a better understanding.
You can see my specific drill progression on video. And watch as I perform each drill with perfect technique as I explain exactly what to look for, how to teach it and where and how athletes will do it wrong.
Because like I said. Without getting this technique down, the rest of your training is like trying to teach algebra to an infant: Pointless.