Tag Archives: lower-body strength

Strength Training Improves Change-of-Direction Speed

7 Jun

Regardless of the sport you play, strength and speed are “difference makers.”  And, although linear sprint speed is important, most athletes will need to change direction while moving at high-speed.

This is another area where strength training becomes important to an athlete’s development.

The development of strength and power through the core, hips, and lower extremities has a positive effect on change-of-direction (COD) performance.  Research shows a high correlation between 1-repetition maximum/body mass and COD in exercises like squats and deadlifts.

In addition to the squat and deadlift exercises, the leg press and split squat are also beneficial to the development of hip and leg drive.

Single-leg exercises, like the single-leg squat, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat, add an element of balance and stability to your lower-extremity strength development.

Plyometric exercises, like box jumps and depth jumps, can help you build explosive power, improving the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground.

Since long-term (>2 years) strength training improves COD performance, it is recommended as early as childhood and adolescence.  Consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength and conditioning professional for guidance regarding an age-appropriate, well-designed, and well-supervised program.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Weak Men Can’t Jump

12 Dec

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw last summer while at Cedar Point with my daughters and their friends.  Obviously, it’s a clever play on a similar phrase.  But it’s also true, with regard to the relationship between lower-extremity strength and explosive power, and vertical jump.

Whenever I acquire a new client, I like to discuss his or her training goals.  I feel that the better I understand an athlete’s motivation for training — and what he or she hopes to derive from it — the better I can be a resource for that individual’s development and, ultimately, success.

I’ve found that tops on the list of basketball and volleyball players, and track and field “jumpers,” is the desire to increase their vertical jump.  My advice is always the same, based on volumes of research from the field of exercise science and human performance:  If you want to improve your lower-body explosive strength and increase your vertical jump, hit the weight room and focus on heavy-weight/low repetition squats and squat type exercises, and plyometrics.

Avoid the vertical jump programs that promise huge increases in your vertical jump in a relatively short period of time.  They’re mostly a waste of time and money.  You have to put in the work necessary to improve anything, including your vertical jump.  Understand that not everyone has the potential to jump like a young Michael Jordan, but everyone does have the ability to improve upon his or her jumping ability.  The goal should be to improve on your own current abilities, and not to compare yourself with what someone else can do.  Make sure you do your “homework” and consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength training professional, who can direct and supervise your training efforts.

Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches); plyometric exercises (squat jumps and box jumps); traditional strength training exercises (squats and deadlifts); and non-traditional strength training exercises (kettlebell swings and tire flips) are all examples of exercises that can help you improve your vertical jump ability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump to Build Your Explosiveness

23 Sep

Hockey-Squat-Jump[1]Most sports require lower-body strength and power, and the ability to generate explosive force — and release it powerfully — with your hips and legs.  The more power you’re able to generate, the easier and faster you’ll run and/or jump past your competition.

Body-weight squat jumps and broad jumps are a great addition to any training regimen.  Both employ forceful “triple extension” of the hips, knees, and ankles.

To perform the squat jump, stand with feet shoulder width apart.  Pull your elbows back, dip and push back your hips, and leap vertically.  When you land, drop into a squat with hips down and back, and knees bent and facing forward.  Complete 3-5 sets of up to 6 reps, with 30 seconds of rest between sets.

To perform the broad jump (standing long jump), use the same takeoff and landing form as the squat jump, but jump forward as far as you can.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Deadlift Exercise: Straight Bar vs. Hexagonal Bar

8 Jun
Straight Bar Deadlift

Straight Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

The deadlift exercise is commonly performed to develop strength and power, and to train the lower-body and core.  It is widely used by athletes of many sports to enhance power and strength.

The deadlift exercise is particularly useful because it is a multi-joint exercise that activates several large muscle groups – including the legs, hips, back, and torso – and involves the lifting of heavy loads.  This elicits a larger stimulus to which the body must adapt, making it ideal for enhancing muscular strength and power.

Traditionalist and “hard-core” lifters would argue in favor of the straight barbell deadlift but, at our facility, we favor the hexagonal barbell.

We work with a diverse variety of athletes, ranging from professional athletes to young, scholastic athletes, and we’ve found that using the hexagonal bar for the deadlift exercise simply makes more ergonomic sense.

The athletes’ ability to grip the hexagonal barbell at their sides – as opposed to in front of them, with a straight barbell – leads to a safer movement pattern/range of motion (less inclination to lean forward and over-activate the lower back, keeping the emphasis of the exercise on the hips and legs), and the ability to lift more weight safely.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared muscle activation and power characteristics while performing the deadlift exercise with straight and hexagonal barbells.  In the study, researchers corroborate and confirm the benefits of the hexagonal bar deadlift, stating that “… the hexagonal barbell may be more effective at developing maximal force, power, and velocity.” (Camara, K., et.al.)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Core and Legs to Throw Harder

31 Aug

It may seem counter-intuitive, but ball speed relies on lower-body power, according to an Ohio State study.

There’s nothing new about this information, and the rationale is pretty simple:  Pitchers who throw hardest put more force into the ground.

“A strong, stable core helps transfer energy through your hips and up your trunk to your arm,” says lead study author, Mike McNally, CSCS.

Lower-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute-ham raises, and Romanian Deadlifts are great for strengthening your hips and legs; while plyometric training can add explosive power.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article also supports medicine ball training — throws and slams — as another effective way to improve throwing velocity.

Since medicine ball throws and slams, performed properly, require considerable core and lower-body engagement and activation, these exercises are an ideal complement for athletes wanting to improve throwing velocity.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Increase Strength and Explosiveness with the Isometric Squat

22 Jul

squats-strength-training[1]Want to improve your speed, agility, vertical jump, and overall lower-body explosiveness?

Try adding the isometric squat to your training, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which found a strong correlation between an isometric squat — performed at (knee flexion angles of) 90° and 120° — and strength and explosiveness.

The isometric squat is performed by pausing in (and holding) the “down” position for some period of time (for example, 1-4 seconds).

As with any squat exercise, you can use body weight, a dumbbell or kettlebell (goblet style), or barbell (front or back squat).

  • Start in upright position, with hips and knees fully extended
  • Slowly lower your body by pushing your hips back and toward the ground
  • Keep chin and chest up, and heels on the ground
  • Pause when knees are bent at 90° to 120°
  • Return to starting position by pushing hips forward, and extending hips and knees
  • Repeat for pre-determined number of repetitions

Please see related articles, Get Stronger with Isometric Exercises and Add Isometric Exercises to Your Training Regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get Stronger, Faster with Triple Extension Training

15 Dec

squat-jump2[1]“Triple extension” refers to a type of exercise training movement used to develop lower-extremity explosive power and force production. Triple extension training involves the hips, the knees, and the ankles. When executing a triple extension movement, all three sets of joints move from a flexed (bent) position to an extended (straight) position.  Thus, triple extension movements involve the flexion and subsequent forceful extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

I am an advocate of triple extension training for the development of lower-body strength, speed, and explosive power, for virtually all athletes. Triple extension training is important for all athletes, as this movement is executed when running, jumping, kicking, swimming, throwing, hitting, blocking, and tackling.  Specifically, jumping in basketball and volleyball: pushing off the back leg to throw in baseball and football; driving through a block or tackle in football; even pushing off during swimming and diving are examples of how this movement applies to sports. Because of its broad application, triple extension training is a great way to prepare and develop the body for such explosive movements by conditioning the muscles and ligaments for these types of movements.

Ultimately, triple extension exercises build lower-extremity strength and power, increasing the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, providing the means to run faster, jump higher, etc.

The following exercises are a few examples of movements that employ triple extension:

  • Olympic lifts, such as cleans and snatches
  • Plyometrics, such as squat jumps and box jumps
  • Traditional strength training exercises such as squats and deadlifts
  • Non-traditional strength training exercises, such as  kettlebell swings and tire flips

Because these exercises are higher intensity and require greater energy expenditure, they should be performed at the beginning of your workout, after an appropriate warm-up.  Don’t go overboard with the amount of weight you use to perform these exercises. The benefits of triple extension exercises can be realized with relatively light weight. The key is to employ a full range of motion and try to execute each rep under control. Any of the exercises (above) performed with light-to-moderate weight can improve your strength and power.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Speed and Power with Posterior Chain Exercises

14 Nov

maxresdefault[1]

Glute-Ham Raise, with Spotter

Improvements in athletic performance begin with lower-body strength and power development.  Hip/quad exercises, like squats and leg presses, are great but, if you’re not working the muscles of your posterior chain, you’re only doing half the job.  (please refer to, Don’t Neglect Your Glutes and Hamstrings)

Your posterior chain includes the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings.  Your glutes are responsible for hip extension, while knee flexion is a function of the hamstrings.

Why is it so important for athletes to perform exercises that focus on the glutes and hamstrings? Here’s the deal: The glutes are a primary muscle group involved in virtually every sports movement — including sprinting, jumping, throwing, kicking, and swinging. The hamstrings are important for eccentric muscle movements, like decelerating when you slow down, stop, or change direction; or land after jumping.

Glute-ham exercises should be incorporated into your training regimen, every time you workout.  Working these two important muscle groups can help athletes improve speed and power; enhance balance and stability; and reduce the risk of injury.

Two of our favorite glute-hamstring exercises are the Glute-Ham Raise and Romanian Deadlift (RDL).  We like our athletes to perform them as an agonist-antagonist paired set (superset), combining them with a hip/quad focused exercise like a squat or deadlift.

A typical superset might look something like this:

  • Barbell Back Squat, 6 reps at about 80% 1RM
  • Body-weight squat jump, 6 reps (more advanced athletes can hold dumbbells at their sides when doing this exercise)
  • Body-weight Glute-Ham Raise, 6 reps (focus on lowering movement; lower body to a 4-second count; assist to upright position; this exercise can also be weighted, for more proficient athletes)

All three exercises should be performed consecutively, with little or no rest between them.  Rest for 10-15 seconds between sets (after Glute-Ham raise).  Perform 3-4 sets.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Improves Change-of-Direction Speed

29 Jan

thCA0WWFVVRegardless of the sport you play, strength and speed are “difference makers.”  And, although linear sprint speed is important, most athletes will need to change direction while moving at high-speed.

This is another area where strength training becomes important to the athlete’s development.

The development of strength and power through the core, hips, and lower extremities has a positive effect on change-of-direction (COD) performance.  Research shows a high correlation between 1-repetition maximum/body mass and COD in exercises like squats and deadlifts.

In addition to the squat and deadlift exercises, the leg press and split squat are also beneficial to the development of hip and leg drive.

Single-leg exercises, like the single-leg squat, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat, add an element of balance and stability to your lower-extremity strength development.

Plyometric exercises, like box jumps and depth jumps, can help you build explosive power, improving the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground.

Since long-term (>2 years) strength training improves COD performance, it is recommended as early as childhood and adolescence.  Consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength and conditioning professional for guidance regarding an age-appropriate, well-designed, and well-supervised program.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Weak Men Can’t Jump

9 Sep

athletic-gear[1]First of all, I must admit that I “stole” the title for this blog from a t-shirt I saw this summer while at Cedar Point with my daughters and their friends.  Obviously, it’s a clever play on a similar phrase.  But it’s also true, with regard to the relationship between lower-extremity strength and explosive power, and vertical jump.

Whenever I acquire a new client, I like to discuss his or her training goals.  I feel that the better I understand an athlete’s motivation for training — and what he or she hopes to derive from it — the better I can be a resource for that individual’s development and, ultimately, success.

I’ve found that tops on the list of basketball and volleyball players, and track and field “jumpers,” is the desire to increase their vertical jump.  My advice is always the same, based on volumes of research from the field of exercise science and human performance:  If you want to improve your lower-body explosive strength and increase your vertical jump, hit the weight room and focus on heavy-weight/low repetition squats and squat type exercises, and plyometrics.

Avoid the vertical jump programs that promise huge increases in your vertical jump in a relatively short period of time.  They’re mostly a waste of time and money.  You have to put in the work necessary to improve anything, including your vertical jump.  Understand that not everyone has the potential to jump like a young Michael Jordan, but everyone does have the ability to improve upon his or her jumping ability.  The goal should be to improve on your own current abilities, and not to compare yourself with what someone else can do.  Make sure you do your “homework” and consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength training professional, who can direct and supervise your training efforts.

Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches); plyometric exercises (squat jumps and box jumps); traditional strength training exercises (squats and deadlifts); and non-traditional strength training exercises (kettlebell swings and tire flips) are all examples of exercises that can help you improve your vertical jump ability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: