When most people think of strength training they think of heavy weights and big lifts: squats; bench press; and cleans. If you're an athlete and have done strength training you have likely done these exercises. You also, more than likely, have performed these exercises incorrectly. There has been a lot of research done on the pros and cons of squats, for example. When it comes to young athletes, many of them lack the core strength and/or the range of motion to do a proper squat. This often results in lower back pain or, worse, suffering an injury.
Another inherent problem with squats is that the movement itself doesn't transfer or add benefit to the movement pattern required by the athlete to be successful in their sport. For example, traditional squats fail to address the movements that our football athlete Stephen requires. Performing squats actually targets a completely opposite movement pattern because you have to sit back on the heels to take the load. Stephen, while playing football, primarily uses the ball of the foot when it comes to running, jumping, and tackling - these are functional movement patterns. When working with athletes we should be choosing exercises that not only make us stronger, but that are suited to the functional movements the athlete uses in performing their sport.
At Reform Athletics, we use the Accelerating Isokinetic machine( Iso ) to reinforce these movement patterns. The Iso machine is set on a fan blade and the speed of this machine increases with an increase in force applied by the athlete. The greater the force the athlete produces, the greater the resistance the athletes receives in return from the fan blade spinning faster. This trains the athlete to produce and improve upon the rate of force production (Explosive Power)which is one the most important aspect in sports performance. Most sports do not require the athlete to adjust to the load being placed on them, as in traditional strength training. Movement in sports revolve around the athlete trying to generate the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time. The ability to generate this explosive power is often what separates good athletes from the elite athletes.
Take any movement in sport, an example could be tackling in football, think about how explosive a tackle must be in a game situation- trying to generate the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time. In traditional strength training, performing squats, the load is placed on the spine and must be done slow and controlled or there is a greater chance of injury. There is nothing explosive about that!
In the video below, using the Iso machine, Stephen is doing squats on the balls of the feet which is a more functional movement pattern especially for his sport in football. Note that this exercise allows for triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip. This improves upon traditional, heavy weighted, squats that do not allow for ankle extension. As we have stated many times, the ball of the foot and ankle extension are vital in generating power and explosiveness.
Our system of training not only improves upon movement patterns, we also develop different types of strength. An athlete needs different types of strength for sports performance such as: speed strength; accelerating strength; and explosive-reactive strength. In your traditional gym athletes focus on absolute strength. Absolute strength is important but as we have stated before speed, agility, and power are what makes a better athlete in their sport. Therefore, sport specific training that address the different types of strength will get you further ahead when it comes to the start of your season.
Another advantage of training at Reform Athletics is that our athletes have access to unique machines we use to improve all the modes of strength. In the next installment of our blog series, we share how our equipment such as the Supercat and Dominator (pictured right) are more effective in developing the power and explosiveness that all athletes strive for.