Why Dots: The Dot Drill
Josh Everett

My first experience with the dot drill came about in my high school football off-season strength & conditioning program. I remember one day as we went out to the track for conditioning seeing a whole gang of white dots spray-painted on the asphalt leading to the track. The football coach showed us a routine and I was hooked. Of course anything that is turned into a competition or race highly motivates me. In this article I’m going to briefly discuss how and why I use the dot drill as part of my strength & conditioning programs for college athletes.

Let’s start with where the dot drill came from. The Bigger, Faster, Stronger outfit didn’t invent the dot drill, but they did popularize it—it’s impossible to think dot drill and not associate it with BFS. Kim Goss at BFS was kind enough to let me use their nifty diagram for this article. I’m going to go off on a small tangent here, but over the years I’ve heard a lot people go out of their way to knock Bigger, Faster, Stronger in particular and other strength & conditioning programs in general. My questions are 1. Why bother? and 2. What have you done for the world of strength & conditioning? I’m a fan of Adam Corolla who has a morning talk radio program here in Southern California. Corolla has a philosophy of “If it doesn’t bring you happiness or money, don’t burn calories on it.” That’s the way I feel about this topic… don’t burn calories on picking apart every strength & conditioning program out there looking for the negative and then complaining about it to anyone who will listen. Instead burn calories on examining programs out there and finding the best ideas and practices of that program. Wake Forest Strength coach Ethan Reeve once told me to develop and stick to my own philosophy of training but keep an open mind and constantly search for new ideas that fit your philosophy. I’m constantly borrowing from other coaches & programs to make my program better. So my advice is stop looking for and hammering on the negative and start searching programs for the good ideas… the dot drill is one of many good ideas from BFS.

Back to the dot drill. The first question I’m going to answer is why I use it. Like Bigger, Faster, Stronger advocates, I often use it as a warm-up. The drill consists of low-level plyometrics and going through the routine certainly raises the heartrate and body temperature. I’ll generally follow the dot drill with a series of calisthenics (think Greg Amundson Crossfit warm-up) then a barbell warm-up… after that we are ready to start our Olympic lift for the day. In addition to a warm-up, it’s a great drill to develop quickness, agility, and ankle strength. Also I use the drill as a way to teach proper landing and cutting mechanics, which involve keeping the knees and hips slightly flexed. Approximately 90% of ACL tears happen when the knee is locked out completely straight. The dot drill is a time when we teach the athletes and have them then practice to land and cut with a bent knee and to never get caught with a locked out knee. This is particularly important for female athletes who tend to be quad dominant and perform these movements with their knees locked out. This is one reason they have up to a 9x higher ACL tear rate then men, and simple drills that teach them to cut and land properly have been shown to reduce their rate of injury. Also performing the drill with slightly flexed knees and hips allows the athlete to help carry their weight and control the movement with their posterior chain rather than only their quads, which is safer, more efficient and more powerful. And the beauty of the whole thing is that it’s timed—progress is measurable, and competition is a strong motivator. Not bad for a 60-second warm-up.

Now the second question to answer is how I use it. Most of the time I have my athletes do the patterns advocated by BFS (described below). In addition to this I have my dots lined up in a row and we will do “dot sprints” horizontally down that row utilizing a pattern similar to the first up & back pattern in the diagram, but instead of going back, the athlete continues forward to the next set of dots. The student-athletes love this as we will do individual and team races. Lastly you can also do a reaction drill numbering or lettering each dot and call out patterns they have to react to. As for set up, you can buy the pre-designed mats from BFS, or you can just spray paint some dots on concrete, asphalt, or your rubber gym flooring.

As a college strength & conditioning coach who has limited time with my athletes, I need to get as much bang for my buck as possible. The dot drill covers a lot of bases for me in a short amount of time.

The Drills

The following drills are courtesy of BFS. Each drill is performed six consecutive times.

Up and Back

A. Start with feet on A and B.
B. Now jump quickly to C with both feet
C. Then jump and split feet to D and E.
D. Come back the same way jumping backward.
E. Repeat 5 more times.

Right Foot

A. Your feet from up-and-back should end on dots A and B.
B. Now go to dot C with your right foot.
C. Now go in order: Dot D, E, C, A, B.
D. Repeat 5 more times.

Left Foot

A. You will end the right foot drill on Dot B.
B. Now go to dot C with your left foot.
C. Now go in order: Dot D, E, C, A, B.
D. Repeat 5 more times.

Both Feet

A. You will end the left foot drill on Dot B.
B. Now go to C with both feet.
C. Now go in order with both feet: Dot D, E, C, A, B.
D. Repeat 5 more times.

Turn Around

A. You will end the Both Feet Drill on Dot B. Now go to C with both feet.
B. Now go to dots D and E spread apart both feet as in the up-and-back (Drill #1).
C. Now quickly jump 180° clockwise to face the other way. You should still be on D and E.
D. Hit C with both feet and then A and B with feet split.
E. Now turn quickly again with a 180 spin to the left with your feet still on A and B.
F. Repeat 5 more times.

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Brian Spiering
October 2 2008
Nice article.

Here is a video of the dot drill :
October 2 2008
Awesome! I am going to try and get these painted at Crossfit San Diego!
November 17 2008
The dot drill makes me think of this:
Aaron M
March 30 2013
Did this all through highschool as well. One thing we did was add time for every dot you missed. I think just one second per miss. Talk about added incentive. Pun intended.