As a strength and conditioning specialist my key role in training athletes is to determine what their end goal is and develop a plan to help them achieve it. The belief that a strength coach's role is solely to make an athlete stronger is outdated.
We now know that if you want to be a top athlete, in any sport, you need more than just strength. Depending on the sport, athletes may need to combine strength with flexibility, balance, agility, speed, or endurance. Many athletes believe they need to improve strength when improving power and explosiveness is what is actually required to get the results they desire. They also mistakenly believe that being stronger is what will make them more powerful and explosive.
To improve power and explosiveness athletes require exercises that will target the muscles used in the movement patterns that are specific to their sport. At Reform Athletics we use different types of plyometrics to improve upon athletic performance. Plyometrics were created by the Russians in the 1960s. The father of plyometrics, Yuri Verkoshansky, developed depth jumps or what he called the shock method to improve running and jumping with the athletes he trained.
When doing a depth jump, athletes stand on a box, step off, and in turn would bring about a forced eccentric contraction on landing on the ground and then immediately switched to a concentric contraction as the athlete jumps upward. The landing and takeoff are executed in an extremely short period of time, in the range of 0.1–0.2 second. The shock method is the most effective method used by athletes to improve their speed, quickness, and power when they have a strong strength base.
A strong strength base is key before attempting to do depth jumps. Athletes must first learn how to jump properly in a coordinated sequence that can generate the most power. Teaching athletes how to jump is sometimes overlooked, but is the most important part when learning to move faster. Another component of a plyometric movement that is sometimes missed is the period of time between the eccentric and concentric contraction- the amortization phase. If this phase is too long then energy is lost and so is the point of the exercise. The unfortunate part is some trainers will train their athlete to the point of exhaustion which defeats the purpose of explosive movement.
In training Stephen, the subject of our blog series, I first introduced simple jumps like squat jumps and lateral jumps to teach how to push off the ball of the foot and coordinate with arm drive. When doing a jump we want the triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. We then progressed to more difficult jumps using boxes or hurdles, or knee tuck jumps that Stephen is doing in the picture below.
We then progress to the Supercat machine which is a unique piece of equipment at Reform Athletics. We use the Supercat to train for power and explosiveness where most gyms would use box jumps and medicine ball throws. Using the Supercat, we teach the athlete throwoffs, starting with two feet, then progressing to one foot, then alternating which mimics a running motion. The benefit is we are able to train for specific movement patterns they need in their sport.
If you have been following this blog the first video I put up of Stephen was his introduction to two foot throwoffs on the Supercat. These were done on his third training session. To track progress, another video of the same exercise was done on his twelfth session. Some people might notice the intricacies of the improvements but there is a marked improvement in his rhythm, timing, and extension of his legs- all important components when trying to improve your speed. With this exercise, we are teaching Stephen to catch the weight and throw it up in the air, which is neurologically training his body to produce force in the shortest amount of time.
At the end of the 12 session block Stephen had shown improvements in his broad jump from 7”11’ to 8”3’ and his 20 yard shuttle from 5.21 seconds to 4.79 seconds. On top of that he had gained 4 pounds from 153lbs to 157lbs. This is a good improvement when considering it was only from training 12 sessions. The positive results confirm the effectiveness of this training. The added benefit of having improvements in their testing is that athletes are more confident performing their sport because of how they feel both physically and mentally.
As we close this blog series following our football athlete, Stephen, I would like to share his perspective on the training at Reform Athletics:
"I enjoyed training with Gord this offseason because Reform Athletics provided a different way of training. Using sport science technology, Reform Athletics provided me with explosiveness and speed at the hockey rink and for football. When I began training with Gord, many questions crossed my mind including, "Why am I taking off my shoes?" or "Why am I doing such strange exercises?". And my answers were explained through sport, as I became faster and more explosive. Alongside the exceptional staff at Reform Athletics, this excellent training centre is perfect for anyone wishing to rethink the way they train, rebuild something they have injured, or to restart exercising from a fresh start. Thanks again Gord, your time has been much appreciated. " - Steve
Thank you Stephen for being a willing case study for this project. Congratulations on achieving your goal in making the U18 Provincial team. It was a pleasure to have been a part of your off season training. I wish you all the best in your upcoming football season!
Even though this particular case study is finished, this blog will continue as we will be touching on other subjects with regards to strength training, sports performance, nutrition, and other related topics. If there is something you would like to see us feature on the blog, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org