Top 4 Speed Drills For MMA, Combat and Military Athletes

By: Brandon Richey,B.S.,CSCS

Since the beginning of mankind, speed has been a physical trait that has been highly sought after. This has always been the case whether it involved a hunter taking down a wildebeest, man outmaneuvering the enemy on the battlefield, or a fighter getting the jump against an opponent in the ring. There’s no doubt speed is critical for survival and for performance in regards to MMA, Combat, and Military needs. The point is that speed has had many faces and speed has served many purposes.

There is no question that all of these scenarios demand the quality of speed. Speed is a physical characteristic that has always excited us. Speed is the trait that will make you stand up and cheer, speed saves lives, and speed is something man is always working to improve in one form or another. This is why I’m going to cover 5 killer speed drills to enhance your MMA and Combat fight performance right here in this article.

First…The Definition of Speed

When you are looking at building on athletic speed, you first must recognize what methods are most efficient in developing it in the first place. In order to do this, you need to understand the definition of speed. Speed involves increasing the rate at which an athlete can perform a certain task. This means that you want to train your body to increase the rate of force production.

Strength Is The Foundation of Speed

As a caveat strength is at the foundation of building speed. It should go without saying that the more efficient you are at building strength and mastering control of your body the better you will be at escalating skillful movement. In short once you are able to perform a task with greater confidence and ability then you can also perform that very task at a faster rate. This is the definition of power. Power can be referred to as strength speed.

Additionally, strength is a necessary component and a key mechanism in helping an athlete to obtain the specific speed elements of acceleration, deceleration, and lateral speed. It will also foster your ability to hit an efficient sprinting stride for linear speed during performance. Otherwise a weak athlete may try to make a cut or abruptly stop on the field of play, or in another physical scenario, and the body will breakdown and fold up like a tent.

There are four types of speed that any versatile MMA, Combat, and Military athlete must develop in order to be competitive:

  • Acceleration Speed: From stop to go
  • Deceleration Speed: From go to stop
  • Lateral Speed: From side to side
  • Linear Speed: Running in a straight line

Developing these different types of speed depends on a number of variables. But all these types of speed stem from the initial foundation of strength. Keep in mind this is only accomplished by placing proper stress on the body and subsequently producing specificity of a certain type of power output to foster the development of speed as it relates to these four given elements.

Now that you know what all is involved in the different types of speed development I want to cover 5 speed and agility performance drills here to help transform and elevate your MMA and Combat performance needs.

The 8 Cone Acceleration/Deceleration Drill



If the name doesn’t give away the hint, The 8 Cone Acceleration/Deceleration drill sort of kills two birds with one stone with training your ability to both accelerate and decelerate quickly within a short distance. This is particularly important for you if we’re talking about honing your ability to get the jump on your opponent in the ring, or if you’re on the battlefield and in need of getting from hostile point A to hostile point B quickly and with precise measure.

Being able to takeoff from a dead stop fast is incredibly valuable, but being able control your momentum and bring everything to a dead stop quickly is also vital and requires great athleticism in order to pull it off. This 8 cone drill is great for helping you to do just that.


Set up 8 cones (or some other type of marker) at about 18 inches apart in a straight line. Stand at the one of the end cones and take 3 strides backwards off that cone. From here accelerate with all out effort to that first end cone and rapidly stop at that cone.

From here immediately backpedal and accelerate to the second cone and so on until you reach the last end cone. Repeat the cycle coming back.


A single repetition is counted once you run from one end to the other and back. Perform 2 to 3 runs on your speed training days. For greater intensity you can load with a 15 to 20 lb. weighted vest.

The 8 Cone Lateral Shuffle Drill


This drill addresses your lateral speed needs by forcing you to work through the frontal plane of motion. Sure being able to laterally shuffle will help you on the basketball and tennis court, but it is also great at helping you to be more agile for fighting and combat by training you to move around and work your opponent in any direction all over the ring, or any other fighting situation for that matter.

Being able to strongly and quickly move to both your right and left sides with confidence is a comforting feeling as some fighters (and other athletes for that matter) hate advancing movement to their weaker side. After implementing this drill you won’t have to worry about that.


Set up the 8 cones the same way as stated in the previous drill. From here start facing down the line of cones from one of the end cones. From here take three full lateral strides away from the end cone. To begin the drill shuffle back to the lead cone and immediately take three full shuffle strides off that cone and advance to the second cone Repeat this down the line of cones until you reach the end.


A single repetition is counted once you shuffle from one end to the other and back. Perform 2 to 3 shuffles advancing towards the cones on both your right and left sides on your speed and agility days. For greater intensity you can load with a 15 to 20 lb. weighted vest.

Downhill Sprints


Downhill sprinting is a true version of speed training for you to employ and it doesn’t require any equipment. Just to clarify what I mean when I say downhill I’m not referring to running down the side of a mountain. To be more specific I’m talking about sprinting in a straight line down a slight downhill grade of about 5 to 6 degrees for about a 30 to 40 yard distance.

Now even though uphill sprints will help you to develop significant leg strength for sprinting… downhill sprints are known as overspeed, or assisted speed training. This is beneficial for you because running that downhill grade will force you to run faster than you are capable on a typical flat surface and it will force adaptation to your sprint gait and stride tempo.

This will truly dial in your neuromuscular system for developing some serious speed development as your muscles will adapt to being able to produce a rapid firing pattern. If you want to get faster for anything related to fighting and combat you need to start including these into your training. This should go without saying, but this ability to produce rapid firing patterns will also translate very well into rapid striking patterns for your combat skills.


Find a straight running lane with a slight downhill grade. Mark off 30 to 40 yards of sprint distance. Sprint the designated distance with quality sprint and running mechanics.


Perform 15 to 20 runs focusing on the speed more than conditioning during the runs. Scale your runs based on this criteria and implement these on your speed days.

Resisted Speed Sprints


Resisted speed sprints involve performing sprints by adding an external resistance to the body. This can be in the form of a sled, a harness, a bungee cord, or even a weighted vest.

Remember the definition of speed is being able to increase the rate at which a task is being performed. Keeping this in mind the resisted sprints shouldn’t be too much resistance which might result into transforming the drill into slow resistance drags. This would make for a great strength drill, but it would defeat the purpose of producing speed.


Decide on a resistance that you can move at a high velocity. If you use a harness attached to your torso for dragging a sled, or a training partner make sure that you both are able to scale the resistance so that when you are sprinting you both can initiate rapid knee lift and elbow drive for an optimal sprinting gait.


Mark off a distance of 10 to 20 yards. Perform your resisted sprints (regardless of the implement) by initiating rapid elbow and knee drive. Perform 10 to 20 runs for the given distance here so that you can optimize speed development.

In Closing

If you’re serious about optimizing your performance as a fighter (or for any athletic endeavor) then you need to incorporate speed training into your MMA and Combat workouts. The drills listed here do not include every method to help you to develop speed, but they are a great start.

Are you incorporating any speed training into your current MMA, Combat, and Military training?

If so please post up in the comments below.

If you liked this article and want to learn more make sure to visit me at my site: Brandon Richey Fitness.




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