Training Athletes on Retreating Speed: Why This is Crucial For Performance

10/16/2023 4 min. reading

Speed training isn’t always about moving forward and side to side, also known as lateral transitions. Retreating speed is equally crucial for performance. 

In other words, in a competitive game and training, an athlete needs to be as skilled going backward and retreating as going forward and transitioning laterally. 

This post covers retreating speeds and how coaches can train players to be as confident going backward as forwards and side to side. 


What is Retreating Speed? 

Retreating speed is an important concept to understand when considering the movement and momentum of an athlete. 

Let’s say in soccer or American football, a player is running towards the ball, hoping to get it from an opponent and take it forward towards the goal. But then, it gets kicked or passed to another player on their team; now, your team is on the offensive as they’re getting closer to your team’s goal. 

This is when retreating speed kicks in. Your players need to react quickly, also known as being able to transition fluidly and explosively. Hence the need for retreating speed. Going in reverse is often as useful as sprinting (top-end speed) and sustained running, even if it’s a skill that’s not needed as often.   


Why is Retreating Speed Crucial for Performance? 

When it comes to speed, there’s linear and game speed. 

Retreating speed is a crucial part of game speed and, therefore, athletic performance in a game: the ability to retreat and transition fluidly. 

Linear training and ensuring an athlete can reach top speed is absolutely essential. However, more coaches need to train and teach athletes in the ability to achieve high levels of retreating speed. Change of direction drills are often done without context and thrown in as an afterthought. 

Your athletes need to understand how to break down movements into simpler, modular progressions to make changing speed and direction easier. This way, they can manipulate speed, angles, and movement patterns when a sudden reversal is needed. A foundational element is the hip turn, and we’ll explain more about that and plyometrics next. 


How to Train Athletes on Retreating Speed? 

One of the most effective ways to train an athlete on retreating speed is to show them how to do a hip turn. 

A hip turn is an easy way for players to transition backward. The hips pivot to the side, going in the direction an athlete intends to move, with one foot striking the ground, providing the explosive energy and traction to reposition the hips in the direction of travel. 

Another way to train athletes is by using plyometrics. 



Applying Multidirectional Plyometrics to Improve Retreating Speed 

Retreating speed is an important aspect of physical fitness that can be improved through the use of plyometrics. Plyometrics involve explosive movements that require a great deal of power and speed, and when applied correctly, can help to improve retreating speed by increasing the power of the muscles used. 

Multidirectional plyometrics, such as jumping, hopping, and skips, involve movement in multiple directions and can help build muscle power, which is essential for improving retreating speed.

In addition to building muscle power, plyometrics can help improve balance and coordination, which are important for maintaining an effective retreat. Incorporating plyometrics into a fitness routine can also help improve overall fitness levels, essential for a sudden and successful retreat. When done properly, plyometrics can help to improve retreating speed significantly.

For those looking to improve their retreating speed, incorporating plyometrics into a fitness routine can be an effective way to teach this. By focusing on explosive movements and multidirectional exercises, building muscle power, improving balance and coordination, and increasing overall fitness levels are possible. With consistent and proper application, plyometrics can help to improve retreating speed significantly.


Where Does Retreating Speed Fit Into Speed Training?

Speed training is an essential and often overlooked part of any athlete’s training plan. 

It’s important to include a structured speed training plan into your routine, as this will help you develop a faster and more efficient running technique and improve your overall running performance. 


Key Takeaways: Understanding Retreating Speed

Speed training should always be incorporated into your training schedule in several ways, either as a dedicated session or as part of a broader training plan. 

It’s important to tailor your speed training to your individual goals and needs and to adjust it over time to ensure you are getting the most out of it. Doing so will significantly improve your overall performance and give you an edge over your competition.

With effective retreating speed training, an athlete can take more control on the field and be more adaptable to the sudden need to change direction at speed. 


Would your team, club, youth association, or sports association benefit from XPS and its wide range of features? Contact XPS Network if you want to find out more, or Sign-up for a Free Trial today

XPS Network Instagram