Speed, Training

3 keys to first-step quickness: don’t get left behind!

Slow and steady may win the race, but coaches and scouts are looking for the hare, not the tortoise.

Ramon Williams Nov 11 November 11th, 2019

Slow and steady may win the race, but coaches and scouts are looking for the hare, not the tortoise. Explosiveness is an attribute that can take every athlete to the next level. Understanding the keys to developing first-step quickness and applying them to your workout routines can help you blow by defenders, steal bases, recover on defense, or race to a new personal best in the 100m dash.

To improve your first-step quickness, focus on three crucial aspects—relative strength, force application and hip mobility. Improving them will give you a leg up on your competition.

Relative Strength

Being strong isn’t enough to guarantee great performance. Athletes need to have adequate levels of relative strength—that is, strength in relation to their body weight. One of the most important factors in speed and quickness, relative strength is a key component in acceleration during game situations. To reach your maximum speed in the shortest distance and time possible, you need to be able to generate large amounts of force in relation to your weight.

To boost relative strength, master bodyweight exercises and continually work on building maximum strength through traditional exercises like Back Squats, Deadlifts, and other barbell exercises. Also, incorporate plyometrics into your routine to help boost explosiveness and speed.

Force Application

The angle that your foot contacts the ground makes a tremendous difference in your explosiveness. The quickest people in the world usually have a shin angle of less than 45 degrees during their first few strides. Having your knee further in front when your foot comes in contact with the ground allows you to explode forward farther and cover more ground. This requires a big emphasis on proper form and a tremendous amount of explosiveness.

To improve force application, it can be beneficial to have your form videotaped and analyzed by a skilled coach. This will highlight areas where you may be wasting energy during the running motion.

Mjp First Step Quickness
Mjp First Step Quickness 2

Hip Mobility

Although often overlooked compared to more glamorous attributes like strength and speed, athletes’ ability to move their hips through a full range of motion helps improve force application and agility quickness. Most training modalities, including strength training and sport-specific practice, can tighten the hip capsule and reduce flexibility. But hip flexibility can make a real difference in performance.

To maintain hip flexibility and ensure optimal performance, incorporate these drills as a warm-up before a workout, practice, or competition. Perform 10 reps of each exercise on each leg.

  • Fire Hydrants
  • Fire Hydrants With Forward and Backward Circles
  • Lunge Walk with Twist
  • Hurdle Step Overs
  • Lateral Hurdle Step Overs
  • Walking Leg Swings
  • Lateral Leg Swings


First-step quickness is a key indicator for athletic success. The ability to get a jump on an opponent can make a huge difference in the course of a game. To be more explosive from the start, focus on improving your relative strength, refining your technique for force application, and maximizing your hip mobility. All of these elements are critical for improving performance and blowing by opponents.

Ramon Williams

Ramon Williams

Ramon is the Youth Athlete Coordinator at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Texas, working daily with the MJP coaching staff to ensure they are implementing the correct methodology desired by MJP. He has been a member of the MJP team since 2014. Originally from New Jersey, Ramon graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a B.S. in Physical Education.​

One Comment

  • Jaffar sharief khan says:

    I want to join mjp.As mjp is the best coaching institution in world,i know that i can achieve far behind my capabilities. I want to opt coaching for middle distance running and i am an indian national ,state level athlete. Thank you

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