When Going Backwards Is a Good Thing: The Up Two, Back One Drill

Share This:

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of one of my most favorite people in the world, Jen Sinkler. She, along with strength & conditioning coaches Angie Brambley-Moyer and Tim Moyer are releasing their new strength, speed, & agility training product Lightning & Thunder.

I’ve just started playing with the program myself (my wife and I went to BU on Sunday to move around a a bit, photo evidence HERE), and I gotta say…I really, really like it.

It’s elegant in its simplicity, and will compliment pretty much anyone’s training whether they’re an athlete or not.

Check out Jen’s gleaning example below…

When Going Backwards Is a Good Thing

When it comes to training for speed and agility — a worthy endeavor whether you’re an athlete or not, in terms of power and movement efficiency — you may think about zig-zagging from side to side explosively and working on your go-forward locomotion, but just as important is the ability to quickly transition from forward to backward and vice versa.

“Forward-to-backward movement is what athletes do poorly at first. It’s the most likely skill to be untrained and un-coached,” says Angie Brambley-Moyer, MS, MSCC, assistant director of strength and conditioning for Princeton University.

This is a critical error.

In many sports, the ability to switch from offense to defense and back again is paramount, adds Angie’s husband, Tim Moyer, MS, CPT, head volleyball coach of Philadelphia University and longtime strength and conditioning coach.

“Agility is the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in opposing directions in rapid succession, and unless you’re training these key movement patterns by focusing on movement quality over speed at first, breaking down skills into smaller parts, and getting feedback (from a coach, a video, or motor recognition) from rep to rep, your mechanics will remain slow and sloppy,” Moyer says.

Form equals function. The better your form the better you will function.” That means patterning proper mechanics from the get-go.

“From an injury prevention standpoint, you are only going to be as fast as you can stop and change direction,” says Brambley-Moyer. “In many sports, you have to change direction every three to five steps, and the ‘Up Two Back One’ drill closely mimics that. It’s important to master these short direction changes before increasing the distance (which increases intensity).”

This is one of Brambley-Moyer’s favorite drills for working on forward-to-backward-to-forward agility. Incorporate it at the very beginning of any conditioning work you do, performing three total sets and using a 1:3 work-to-rest ratio. Start slowly and focus on really nailing the mechanics of footwork and body position, picking up speed only as your form improves.

Moyer refers to one of the special forces’ mottos, saying, “Remember: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

Up Two, Back One: Forward Sprint to Backpedal Instructions:

The Up Two, Back One drill is performed like it sounds: You will first run forward to the second cone, come to a stop, backpedal one cone and then repeat by running up two more cones before backpedaling again. You will sprint and backpedal a total of three times before transitioning to your last sprint and coasting to a stop.

For the set up, place five cones three yards apart in line with one another. Completing the drill as outlined above counts as one set. To ensure you’re performing each set with the proper intensity and technique, take three times the rest as it takes you to run the drill, in a 1:3 work-to-rest ratio.

Coaching Points:

To start, use a staggered stance (with one foot slightly in front of the other) as your starting position for the drill. Direct your head and shoulders toward your target by leaning forward, and then take off into a sprint.

Decelerating at each cone starts by lowering your center of gravity toward your base of support (your feet). You will also increase the length of your ground contact time by taking a number of smaller, choppier steps until you come to a complete stop next to each cone.

This drill’s focus is accelerating quickly, decelerating quickly, and then transitioning into the backpedal before moving forward into another sprint. To ensure you’re staying low and using proper acceleration and deceleration mechanics, touch the ground at each cone when performing this drill.

Ideally, you will touch the ground with the opposite hand as the foot that’s in front. Meaning, if your left foot is the front foot at the transition point (sprint to backpedal or backpedal to sprint), your right hand should touch the ground.

After your last backpedal, focus on proper arm- and leg-drive mechanics through the final cone and coast to a stop.

Lightning & Thunder will help you become a force of nature.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you don’t have to be an athlete in order to train like one.

Athleticism is one of those things where the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” becomes inevitable. As adults we often become more enamored with adult-like things. Things like balancing checkbooks, going to bed early, and binge watching Netflix.

Too, in the context of training, as adults we sometimes (not always) tend to “pump the brakes,” and training goes from this:

To this:

And the most athletic thing many people do on a day-to-day basis is chase down the 66 Bus after work.

That being said: athleticism is important yet it is something that intimidates a lot of people; especially for those who participate in more fantasy sports than actual sports.

However, you don’t need any fancy equipment or complicated periodization schemes in order to train athleticism.

Lightning & Thunder is a brand new strength, speed, and agility program written by Tim Moyer, MS, CPT, and Angie Brambley-Moyer, MS, MSCC, with Jen Sinkler, personal trainer, fitness writer, and former U.S. national team rugby player.


Moyer, Brambley-Moyer, and Sinkler have teamed up to get you stronger, faster, and more agile. You don’t have to have any experience playing sports, and you don’t have to play any in the future, either, if you don’t have the inclination. You only need to be interested in training like an athlete, in moving like one and looking like one.

Make no mistake, though: this program is perfect for athletes too.

In it, you’ll get:

  • A comprehensive training manual that lays the groundwork for this philosophy of training for both the strength and the speed and agility (SAQ) programs.
  • Both beginner and intermediate 12-week SAQ programs.
  • Both beginner and intermediate 12-week strength programs, with an explanation and calendar on how to combine the strength work with the speed work.
  • A complete exercise glossary with written coaching cues and images for every single strength and SAQ movement. This detailed description of 180 moves is a resource in and of itself!
  • A streamable video library of more than 25 speed and agility demonstration videos. In the videos, Tim and Angie coach the athlete through the fundamentals of their SAQ patterns and drills, allowing them to know what they need work on whether they are watching from home or watching it as they hit the gym.

Here’s the best part. To celebrate its release, Lightning & Thunder is on sale for HALF OFF now through midnight Friday, June 3rd. For more information click HERE.

About Jen Sinkler

Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer and personal trainer who talks about all things strength related at her website, UnapologeticallyStrong.com. The former editorial director of fitness for Experience Life magazine, she writes regularly for a variety of national health magazines. She’s a certified RKC 2 kettlebell instructor, and a powerlifting coach through USA Powerlifting. She also holds coaching certs through Ground Force Method, Progressive Calisthenics, Onnit Academy, and DVRT (Ultimate Sandbag).

A lifelong competitive athlete, Jen played rugby for 13 years, many of those on the U.S. women’s national 7s and 15s teams. She co-owns The Movement Minneapolis with her husband, David Dellanave.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • Thomas Hlubin

    Awesome article Jen! I've never seen a type of drill such as this before. Nevertheless, it seems to be very effective! Nicely put together. http://www.fitnessinterest.com/

    June 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Edmond Dante

    Really interesting article Jen. Forward-to-backward-to-forward agility is very important in all most any sport. I can remember that when I was in my high school soccer team...as a left back I always had to do that. It was a bummer in the beginning but later I managed :) It need practice to keep the balance. Even after all those years I still do that sometime when I jog. boostintensity

    June 2, 2016 at 6:00 am | Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment