Strength training has long been a vital part of training for sports and for a very long time it was thought that speed was something that was inherited from good genes. But not until recently did we discover that speed is a skill and it can be taught. Now we are dealing with how to teach speed and learning the correlation between speed and strength and the results have been phenomenal with many records falling in all sports from track and field to basketball, football and home run records being shattered in baseball.
At this point in the world of training methods it’s no secret that a good and well designed weight lifting program has a direct impact on an athletes performance, but what is still absent is the importance of a good special strength program otherwise known as Plyometrics.
Personally, I’m a big fan of plyometrics because they are, or at least can be, specific to the sport you doing. In my case, track and field and sprinting, is the sport of choice so I always need my plyometrics to be as specific to sprinting, jumping and hurdling as close as possible. This is where the gap is closed between speed training and weight lifting. Plyo’s are that direct correlation between sprinting and lifting by providing a specific movement that the athlete can execute and it can be directly applied to the movement that is also executed in the sport. So with the inclusion of all three factors into a training program you now have sport training-specific skills dedicated to a specific sport, plyometrics-power development and special strength related to the specific movements of the specific sport and strength training-maximum strength (absolute, power, etc) dedicated to the overall strength gains of the individual in athletics.
Plyometrics can break down and isolate particular movements so that the athlete understands what is required for certain moves. Just because an athlete can lift heavy weights doesn’t always mean that they can, let’s say, get out of the blocks with extreme amounts of force and power or that they will accelerate properly although having a good weight program can help with those applications, there are plyometric exercises that really isolate the movement and pattern of starting and accelerating and this is how plyometrics bridges the gap between speed and strength; by isolating movements specific to a particular skill set.
So how can a program like this be set up to get someone faster? It first depends on what part of the training year you are working in but for fun let’s just say that you are starting from the beginning and working with novice athletes (because I doubt many of us are working with high profile elite athletes, but if you are…hey…great!). The first thing we want to remember is that they are novice athletes! The base foundation that needs to be laid is one of short jumps that develop power speed. This can be done with multi jumps that teach the body to fire and teaches force application.
Sample Week for Plyometrics:
Day 1 (plyo’s are done on the same days as sprinting/central nervous system training)
-Tuck jumps (jumping in the air, bringing the knees to the chest, landing and repeating fast)
-Split jumps (in the lunge position jump in the air, switching legs in mid air)
-Squat jumps (squat to parallel and explode up, repeating fast)
-Standing Long Jump (both feet together, jump forward as far as you can)
-Single Leg Standing Long Jump (starting with one foot and landing on both feet, same as SLJ)
No more than 3-5 repetitions of each exercise with only 2-3 sets.
Day 2 (Acceleration development)
-Repeated hopping exercises
-Single Leg Hops (bring the heel to the butt and cycle over)
-Straight Leg Bound (short and fast)
-Straight Leg Bound (long)
No more than 2-3 sets of these and these can go over a distance, so between 20-30 meters in length and these are for strength endurance.
Now if you do these exercises for 3-4 weeks, you allow the athlete to become adapted to them and you allow the exercises to help hip extension and flexion and ankle stiffness thus resulting in enhancing leg power and stride length. This will result in the athlete having better power levels when it comes to sprinting and you will see more fluid rhythms and more explosiveness when the athlete practices.
There’s plenty more to talk about, particularly about long bounding, hurdle hops, resistance runs and much more so stay tuned.
Continue in knowledge my friends!