Fast Forward

By Ted Spiker; Photographs by Pier Nicola d'Amico

Have you ever truly tested your athletic limits? If you're like most men,the answer is no. Sure, you go to the court and dribble till you're winded, or to the track and run till you're dripping wet. But you won't find your limits there—team sports and workout routines are all about, as the adage goes, "playing within yourself." Testing your limits is about playing beyond yourself. It's about actively seeking your physical boundaries, pushing down those walls, and raising your game to a level you never thought possible.

Meet one of the world's best athletes—Dwayne Wade. At the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, he beat some of the game's best (LeBron James, Steve Nash) at the Skills Challenge. His 26.1-second completion of the on-court obstacle course was just .3 seconds short of the all-time record. Expect Wade to make another run. ("Vegas, here I come," he said, referring to next season's host of the annual contest.) He's used to looking ahead. Call it force of habit: for Wade, success would never have come had he stopped pushing when he met resistance.

Learn his strategies and you'll soon be busting through your personal barriers. You may not earn a ticket to training camp, but you will end up in the best shape of your life. After all, it's all about making that quick first step.

The Great Equalizer


You might say it's better to be fast than good. If you're too slow to beat your man, you'll never have a chance to showcase your skills. (Remember Damon Bailey? Didn't think so.) And for those short on talent, speed can level the playing field. But sports speed isn't just about maximum velocity. It's also about how fast you can accelerate and decelerate—that is, go from standing still to your top speed, and vice-versa. And because every 10th of a second matters, even small improvements can make a major impact on your performance.


The 40-yard dash is one of the best measurements of speed and acceleration, which is why it's a highly regarded test at the National Football League (NFL) combine.

How to do it: You'll need a partner and a stopwatch. Mark off 40 yards on a track or grass field. Get into a comfortable stance—a four-point sprinter's stance is typical—and instruct your timer to start the clock as soon as you move. The clock stops when any part of your chest crosses the finish line. 3 points: 4.49 seconds or less 2 points: 4.5 to 4.99 seconds 1 point: 5.0 seconds or longer


Get a running start. Mark a starting line and a finish line 20 yards apart. Begin running about 20 yards behind the starting line and progressively build up speed so you're at top speed as you pass it. Maintain that intensity until you cross the finish line. Rest for three minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets. "This drill reinforces the running mechanics and acceleration you need to switch gears and pick up speed when you're already in motion," says Bill Hartman, PT, CSCS, a sports-performance specialist in Indianapolis. Do this workout twice a week, resting at least a day after each session.

Step on the gas. To develop fast starts, try this ball-drop drill from Tom Shaw, CSCS, speed coach of the NFL's New England Patriots. Have a workout partner stand on a hard surface, holding a tennis ball at eye level. Stand about five yards away in a three-point stance. When he drops the ball, sprint and catch it before it bounces a second time. Have him move back a yard or two and repeat the drill until you can't get to the ball in time. The biggest gap Shaw's ever seen closed? Fifteen yards, by star cornerback Deion Sanders.

Sock it to your core. Abs are critical to speed. Strengthen yours with this situp routine: Lie on your back and rest your heels on a wall so that your legs are straight and at a 45-degree angle to the floor; extend your arms straight above your head. Lift your torso and touch your toes, then rotate to the right and touch both hands to the floor. Now rotate to the left and touch the floor on that side. That's one repetition. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds, rest 30-60 seconds, and repeat. Stop when you can't match the reps of your previous set. Perform this workout two or three times a week.

Dwyane Wade
Shooting Guard/Miami Heat

Ask Dwyane Wade who's the best player in the NBA, and he'll tell you LeBron James. That's not humility. It's strategy. "I like it better that way," says Wade. "I need a rabbit to chase. Because if I keep fighting, I'll only achieve greater success."

Before Wade entered the NBA, his rabbit was the league. College recruiters labeled him a kid from the ghetto who couldn't pass the ACT test, and his failing grade (by a point) scared off all the big schools. Still, Tom Crean, head basketball coach at the small and academically driven Marquette University, paid Wade a visit. He was one of only three coaches who recruited the future fifth pick in the NBA draft. "He saw I had character and the will to be someone, to do something others didn't expect," Wade says of his mentor. So Wade became the first partial qualifier in Marquette's history—meaning he was accepted to attend class, but couldn't play ball until his sophomore year, grades permitting.

It was that year of ineligibility, of being relegated to the practice squad, that prompted Wade to explore his boundaries. "I played the role of our upcoming opponent's star in every practice," he says. "One day I had to be a point guard, the next a post player, the next a three-point shooter." Wade learned every position on the court, which is why he excels at every location today. — David Schipper

Wade's Breakthrough Strategies

Embrace deception. You can make yourself seem quicker if you master the holdback. "I can't always go 100 mph, because defenders will get used to my speed," Wade says. "But if I go slow at first, they'll get caught when I decide to blow by them."

Beware of hesitation. There's a difference between patience and hesitation, and it depends on confidence. "You can't be underconfident when your teammates are putting the ball in your hands," Wade says. "Remind yourself that others are depending on you."

Be a quick study. "No matter how bad or good you are, if you're a great listener, you're going to respond to coaching and surpass your limits," says Wade. "During practice, I always want the coach to say I picked up the play quicker than anyone else."


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