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NFL Combine Series, Part 2, Multi-Directional Drills

By: Steve Yahns, MS, CSCS, NASM-PES Assistant Director of Performance, Lead Methodology Educator Spectrum Sports Performance The 5-10-5 drill, or called the pro agility, is a great test of lateral agility and rotational power, and is another test where combine scouters would like to see a fast time. Importance is put on this test because straight ahead speed (40 yard dash times) doesn’t tell the whole story of speed and quickness with the athletes. A lot of guys can run fast in a straight line, but struggle to drop their hips and change direction, on the other hand, some guys move great side to side, but lack straight ahead explosion and absolute speed. Another multi-directional test of importance is the 3 cone or ‘L’ drill. The 5-10-5 requires a crossover out of a base to 5 yard sprint, another crossover to sprint for 10 yards in the opposite direction, and a final crossover for 5 yards back to start line. The ‘L’ drill requires a more standard 40 yard dash start with a 5 yard spring followed by a crossover back to the start line, another crossover turn followed by a rounded turn, another 5 yard sprint, another rounded turn, and finally a sprint around the second cone and a sprint through the start line. Both of these tests are dependent on the ability to drop the hips and change direction.

Hip Mobility

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, some football players struggle to drop their hips in order to change direction. Since change of direction movements require an athlete to be in a ‘base’ position, hip immobility in a common reason why athletes struggle to change direction quickly and effectively. Immobile hips can cause the athlete to compensate the ‘base’ with excessive lumbar flexion or a rounded lower back. Simply put, the athlete borrows mobility from the lumbar spine instead of the hips because they are immobile. Power comes from the hips and ideal kinetic chain alignment (see 40 yard dash blog), a ‘loaded’ lower back means the hips are loaded and my kinetic chain is drastically misaligned. This can directly affect power and quickness, and can slow down my ability to change direction. In addition, an immobile athlete may simply try to change direction without attempting to get into a base at all. Basically trying to change direction standing up!!! Good luck with that. Since the 5-10-5 requires a crossover to sprint for 5 yards, another crossover to sprint for 10 yards in the opposite direction, and a final crossover for 5 yards back to start line, the ability to quickly and powerfully change direction is of upmost importance. Loosen up those hips and the change of direction will be quicker and more powerful.

Run as little as possible

This might baffle some. Run as little as possible? It’s a speed and agility test, right? What else should I do, if I can’t run? What I mean by this is to try and get as much out of your crossover turns as possible. Think about it this way, the more steps you take the longer it takes to cover distance. As mentioned during the 40 yard dash blog, stride length and frequency is important. An athlete should try and keep each stride long and fast, to improve running efficiency. This applies to the 5-10-5 and ‘L’ Drill as well since there is a five yard sprint, followed by a ten yard, and another five sprint through the finish line. Beyond that, one should try and get as much distance from each turn, so that they have to take as few strides as possible. During each crossover turn, a quick powerful push with the inside leg, followed by a powerful second step (acceleration step), will help cover more distance, and in turn, the athlete will have to actually run less! Good turns will help the athlete a ton. A big key to this is to keep in mind that we are trying to run strictly side to side, not forward in anyway. Whether it is from hip tightness, or from a poor multi-directional base position, if an athlete has too much weight on the anterior section on the body, the tendency is to fall forward. So, when we make our turns, we step forward and to the side, not just straight to the side (which is the direction we are trying to go!). Once again, why would we want to go in the wrong direction during a timed test? Pushing, and turning laterally, the way we are trying to go will get us there faster, every little bit we fall forward, we get there slower.

Base Position

As mentioned earlier, a multi-directional base position is essential in moving side to side. This applies on the start of both drills and on each turn. This is not an ideal position to go forward, but it is ideal to go side to side with power and to grab distance before the first step of acceleration. Poor hip mobility is a cause of this, as it may difficult to load the hips when they are immobile, or having an excessive forward lean is another cause. A straight line running from the shoulder to the knee to the foot is a more ideal position to move multi-directional. The ability to quickly drop into this position is of upmost importance as well. Some athletes simply just spin and try to run without any powerful crossover turn. This can lead to extra acceleration steps and a much slower time.

Once again, Use your arms!!

Not only do the arms help accelerate and run, they help us turn and crossover. As opposed to driving the arms straight back when accelerating, driving the outside arms across the body and back, while driving the inside up and towards the target is a more efficient use of the arms. If one can apply this during the start and on each turn, the hips can spin around quicker and with a substantial amount of power, with will help cover more distance on the crossover turn. More distance on the turns equal less required running.
As mentioned earlier scouts compare 40 yard dash times to 5-10-5 times. A difference of about .4 seconds between the two ideal, with the 5-10-5 being the quicker of the two. For instance, if a guy runs a 4.5 40, he, on average should run a 4.1 5-10-5. If the difference is greater than .4 he has better multi-directional agility than straight ahead speed. In turn, if the difference is less than .4 he has better straight ahead speed than lateral agility. Of course, this is a very simplified look at the two tests, and there are many other factors to considerate when evaluating times. Regardless, both the 40 and 5-10-5 drills are highly looked at and considering when evaluating combine performance.

Edited by Courtney VandeStreek

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