5 EXPLOSIVE Exercises for a Faster First Step

Many athletes can benefit GREATLY from a faster first step. Hoopers, volleyball players, tennis players, football players, and more rely on their first step quickness for athletic success. But, when it comes to HOW to get a faster first step, most athletes are confused.

Your horizontal force production AND your rate of force development is what determines your first step quickness.ย  In other words… In order to get a faster first step, you need to increase your horizontal force production and the speed at which you produce that force.

There are 5 explosive exercises I want to share with you to help you increase your rate of force development AND horizontal force production. They are:

  • Single Leg Broad Jumps (with progressions)
  • Staggered Stance Broad Jump
  • Falling Starts
  • Accommodating Resistance Barbell Reverse Lunges
  • Bulgarian Split Squat/Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps

These 5 explosive exercises will help you get a faster first step through various mechanisms. Below, I’m going to share the benefits of each movement and how to perform them for maximum effectiveness.

Let’s jump in:

1. Single Leg Broad Jumps (With Progressions)

Single leg broad jumps should be a STAPLE in your training if your goal is to get faster first step. I mentioned above that if you want to get a more explosive first step, you need to increase your horizontal force production. Well, single leg broad jumps help you achieve this while independently working each leg.

Additionally, the single leg broad jump position is very specific to the position most athletes will be in as they go to take their first step.

Another great part about single leg broad jumps is that you can easily progress them to provide even more benefit to your first step quickness. You can perform single leg double broads, and single leg triple broads as you get better at your broad jumps.

This will help you work on your amortization phase, or the amount of time you spend on the ground while sprinting. Performing single leg double and triple broad jumps will also help you lower the time it takes you to produce maximal force. In other words, these movements will help you increase your rate of force development.

How to Perform Single Leg Broad Jumps for a Faster First Step:

  • Start on one leg
  • Bend the knee slightly as you push the hips back
  • Load up quickly then rapidly extend the hips and swing the other leg out to cover as much distance as you can
  • Land on both feet

2. Staggered Stance Broad Jumps

When you take your first step, you most likely will explode out of a staggered stance. This means you will likely have one foot slightly in front of the other. This is where the staggered stance broad jump comes in.

In simple terms, staggered stance broad jumps help you produce more force, and produce force faster, out of a staggered stance. But, staggered stance broad jumps also have another powerful benefit.

Many athletes have a bad habit of pushing off of one foot when they start a sprint or make another athletic move. Staggered stance broad jumps help you fix this bad habit. The staggered stance broad jump forces you to extend both hips before you take flight in order to jump the maximum distance.

If the athlete has a bad habit of pushing off one leg, it will show up here. Once the athlete learns to extend both hips before taking his first step, he will almost instantly have a faster first step.

How to Perform Staggered Stance Broad Jumps:

  • Start in a staggered position, one foot slightly in front of the other, but the feet hip width
  • Push the hips back to load up the hips
  • Extend the hips rapidly to cover as much distance as you can
  • Land softly on both feet

3. Falling Starts

Positioning is another critical component of a quick first step. If the athlete tries to explode forward from an upright position, legs straight, and chest up tall, he’ll get out to a slow start. However, if the athlete has the knees slightly bent, hips slightly pushed back, and has a forward lean, he will generate much more horizontal force. This increased horizontal force will help him take a faster first step, and jump out to a faster start.

One drill that can help you get used to quickly entering this “golden position” is the falling start. Falling Starts force you to lean forward until your forced to catch yourself or fall on your face. This basically forces you into the golden position with a forward lean and positive shin angles. Again,ย this is the most optimal body position to generate horizontal force AND have a faster first step.

How to Perform Falling Starts:

  • Start with the feet hip width, hands by your sides
  • Place your weight on the balls of your feet and tip forward
  • As you’re about to fall, quickly catch yourself by extending one hip and reactively pushing off the ground with that same leg
  • Throw the arms at the same time
  • Proceed into an explosive sprint

4. Accommodating Resistance Barbell Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges are the ULTIMATE strength exercise for athletes. The main reason for this is because the bottom of a reverse lunge mimics your acceleration position, or the golden position I spoke above earlier. That means the reverse lunge is an exercise that is specific to our acceleration and we can directly increase our force output in our acceleration position with reverse lunges. This will carry over to a more explosive first step.

Reverse lunges become even more potent for a faster first step when you add accommodating resistance in the form of bands. Accommodating resistance isย the best strength training method to develop power because it allows the athlete to accelerate through the full range of motion of a lift. This means increased rate of force development, power, and explosiveness.

Again, the reverse lunge is specific to your acceleration and first step force output. When you add bands, it will help you create force quickly in your first step.

How to Perform Accommodating Resistance Barbell Reverse Lunges:

  • Safely un-rack the barbell and stand with your feet hip width
  • Take a big step back, keeping the chest over the thigh, and sink the back knee towards the ground
  • Keep the weight on the front leg and explode back up into your starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

5. Bulgarian Split Squats/Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps

Finally, we move onto a contrast training combo for a faster first step. If you don’t know, contrast training is essentially tricking your body into moving with increased rate of force development. It works by performing a certain movement pattern with resistance. The presence of the resistance heightens the nervous system. When you’ve completed your resisted set, you perform a similar movement pattern that is unresisted. Usually it’s an explosive movement.

Doing this allows you to perform that explosive movement with increased rate of force development and powerr.

That’s what we’re accomplishing with the combination above.

First we perform weighted Bulgarian split squats. These will help our hip extension and build up the quadriceps. Both of these qualities are crucial for first step explosiveness. Once you’ve finished your set of resisted Bulgarians, you will perform Bulgarian split squat jumps.

These jumps follow the same movement pattern as Bulgarian Split Squats, except without the resistance and they are more explosive. You should feel more “poppy” and springy when you perform these. That means the contrast training is working.

How to Perform Bulgarian Split Squats/Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps:

  • Start in a kneeling position in front of a bench
  • Place the top of your back foot on the bench
  • Your other leg should be bent 90 degrees with the knee and ankle stacked
  • Push through the front leg to reach the top position
  • Sink the hips down and back until the knee hovers off the ground
  • Repeat for desired reps
  • If performing the split squat jumps, repeat the same motion except break contact with the ground, then land softly

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