A well-respected strength coach once told me that when the DMV teaches kids how to drive they first teach you where the breaks are. The same should hold true for speed. I know most of you may think that speed is defined by how quick you can get from point A to point B, which is partly true. If you study the fastest players on a field, court or ice, they are the players that can stop on a dime no matter how fast they are going and change directions. I use athletes as an example for the tactical arena because similar to their demands, yours are rarely a straight line. You are stopping, changing directions and then starting again.
Let’s use a straight-line example. Two people are asked to run straight for 25 yards, stop to touch a marker and then run back to the starting point. Person A starts to slow down 10 yards before the marker so they can stop successfully. Person B slows down 4 yards before stopping. If we assume both are about the same speed then person B just gained 6 yards on person A simply because they could stop quicker and needed less space to do so.
So the real question is how do you do it? Part of what will be addressed is the muscle groups that are recruited to gain the stability and strength to decelerate properly. The two major strength groups are the hamstring and gluteul group with the knee joint needed for stability. The other part that will be looked at will be the drills that help us learn or re-learn how to stop. It is one thing to practice the drills but if there is no strength or stability to reinforce the drills they are of no use.
The hamstring group, which is responsible mainly for extending or straightening your hips and flexing or bending your knee (the same position you are in when you stop), is the main focal point for superior deceleration. Many athletes that you hear pulling, tearing or injuring their hamstring is most likely a result of the deceleration they were attempting.
The gluteul group plays a part in both the deceleration and acceleration but is mainly a hip extensor, which straightens the leg like the hamstring. The gluteul group provides the stability around the hip joint and ultimately the entire leg to be able to stop.
As we look at your body joint-by-joint in the future, you will come to understand that your knee is responsible for stability not mobility. All of the muscles that surround your knee play a part in its stability. The one muscle that that is not part of your hamstring group that does play a major part in the stability of your knee is your vastus medialis or the muscle on your quad that is on the lower, medial portion making a tear drop shape. One of its main functions is maintaining patellofemoral stability or stability of the knee joint.
Once we strengthen all these areas with proper and functional movements your ability to decelerate will be greatly enhanced.
Drill Progression: start with your feet parallel and jump forward with two hops then push backward for two. Focus your skill on the point in which you change directions from forward to back. It is at that very moment where the transition happens from deceleration to acceleration. Once that becomes easy, have a partner hold a band around you and perform the same movement with resistance. The resistance will pull you back and fight your ability to decelerate properly. Fighting through that into a stable state will improve your deceleration. Video will follow shortly.