Tag Archives: power

Improve Performance With Single-Leg Exercises

6 Oct

Bulgarian Split Squat (down)

Bulgarian Split Squat (up)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we know it’s important to incorporate single-leg exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  We alternate, weekly, between bilateral and unilateral exercises, to improve strength, power, mobility, and balance/stability.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that all athletes might need to do more single-leg exercises.  In the study, researchers discovered that both jumpers’ (e.g., basketball, volleyball) and nonjumpers’ legs were not equally strong.  The natural tendency is for athletes to shift their weight, to some degree, to their dominant leg.  According to the study, that contributes to a strength imbalance that can hurt performance and lead to injuries.

Try different single-leg exercises, like lunges (stationary or walking; forward, backward, or lateral).

At APTC, we favor the single-leg squatsingle-leg pressstep-up, and Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated).  Perform 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but reasonable.

As you might imagine, the same principle applies to upper-body strength training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Boost Your Performance with Contrast Training

19 Apr

There are various differences in the physical demands of sports, based on factors such as the sport, itself, and positional differences among and between athletes.  Different sports require athletes to move through unique movement patterns which, for training purposes, can be categorized into vertical, linear, and lateral.  Exercises that focus on strength and power development, in these three areas, should be at the forefront of every athlete’s training program.

One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase the athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time.  Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Dynamic Warmup is the Most Effective Pre-Activity Strategy

5 Apr

You can add another study to the overwhelming and growing mountain of research supporting dynamic (movement-based) warm-up — and not static stretching — before engaging in competitive power sports.

This study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, sought to compare and quantify the effects of static stretching and dynamic warm-up on jump performance in NCAA DI female college volleyball players.

As expected, dynamic warm-up was found to result in a significantly higher level of jump performance than static stretching, especially when performed closer to the time of competition.  Athletes’ subsequent jump performance was better when the dynamic warm-up was done within 5-10 minutes preceding competition compared to 25-30 minutes prior to competition.

Hundreds of studies corroborate dynamic warm-up’s similar impact on strength, power, speed, and agility performance.  Athletes, coaches, trainers… get with the program.  Improve performance by eliminating pre-activity static stretching and implementing a dynamic warm-up that reflects the demands and movement patterns of the activity – before workouts, practices, and games.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Train for Performance

6 Jan

performance-training-squat1For most young guys, “fitness” is about being as big as possible.  As we mature, we realize that fitness has little to do with the size of our biceps and more to do with how we function and perform.

Performance training involves determining what your body needs on a given day (based on your activities), setting performance goals, and creating – and executing – a plan of action that’s aligned with your goals.

Performance training is movement-based training, not muscle-based.

Performance training is about getting stronger, not bigger.  It’s about becoming more powerful, faster, and improving your endurance, mobility, and joint stability.

Trust me, you’ll get the aesthetics you’re looking for from training for performance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Squat vs. Leg Press: Impact on Strength and Speed

25 May

squats-strength-training[1]mKv16aCWBRPf7Ne2uLJQUaA[1]Many sports require athletes to execute powerful movements – those that require strength and speed.

Speed-strength performance can be defined as the execution of a movement that requires the development of large forces and high movement speeds.

Obviously, strength training has a positive impact on strength and speed.  Recently, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research took a look at two exercises – the back squat and leg press – and compared their relative effects on sprint and jump performance.

“Both exercises train nearly the same muscles of the lower extremities, but in some aspects, they are different.  The leg press has less requirements concerning balancing the weight, and therefore, less muscle activity contributes toward stabilization compared with the squat.” (Wirth, K, et.al.)

“Despite the maximal force production through many of the same muscles, squat and leg-press exercises are distinctly different and produce different specific neuromuscular adaptations because of diverse movement patterns.”

“Compared with the squat,… the hip extensors are not trained within the extension range” of the leg press exercise.

In this study, the authors found that the back squat exercise improved sprint and jump performance more effectively than the leg press, because of the better transfer effects.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Confuse Motion and Progress

11 Apr

tumblr_m1bwfq9uOV1qi2f8bo1_500[1]“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” – Alfred A. Montapert

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

Some players — and coaches — are enamored with “hustle” — bodies flying all over the court or field with reckless abandon.  To some, it looks like a lot of effort is being expended.  Unfortunately, as I observe scholastic sports, much of this activity lacks purpose… there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of it is nothing more than a lot of frenetic energy that, ultimately, doesn’t accomplish much.

Whether you’re practicing, playing, or training… have a goal.  Understand what it is you want (need) to accomplish and what is required of you to achieve the desired result.  Think situationally about the “why,” “what,” and “how.”  Your practice, game-play, and training should be purposeful.

For example, when you practice ball-handling and shooting, don’t just randomly dribble and throw the ball at the basket.  Work on your “off” hand, and practice moves that help you create your own shot (hesitation, step-back, etc.).

When you take batting practice, don’t just swing the bat to make contact.  Practice bunting, hitting behind the runner, hitting to the opposite field, and hitting the ball in the air (sac fly).

When you train, don’t just do random exercises.  Perform exercises and drills that are aligned with your goals, and reflect the demands and movement patterns of your sport(s) — whether they be strength, speed, power, agility, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Case for Single-Leg Squats

14 Mar

DSCN1897 DSCN1898At Athletic Performance Training Center, we like to incorporate single-leg exercises to complement bilateral exercises like the squat.

Exercises like the step-up, Bulgarian (rear leg elevated) split squat, and single-leg squat are routinely integrated into our athletes’ training.

Research tells us that the (back) squat is well-established to improve strength and power; as well as sprinting, jumping, and change-of-direction performance.

But movements like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction are performed either unilaterally, or with weight transferred to one leg at a time.

Therefore, it would be logical to expect that some aspects of athletic performance could be improved with unilateral exercises, which offer more specificity and may be more similar to athletic movements.

Unilateral exercises can also improve balance and stability, decrease lateral strength disparities, and maximize transfer between training and competitive performance.

In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, Speirs and colleagues found that “bilateral and unilateral training interventions may be equally efficacious in improving measures of lower-body strength, speed, and change of direction…”

In the study, the unilateral group squatted exclusively with the Bulgarian split squat, whereas the bilateral group trained only with the back squat.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Contributing Factors to Change-of-Direction Ability

23 Nov

marshall_faulk[1]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 the athlete’s development.

According to a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “Change-of-direction ability… would be best improved through increases in an athlete’s strength and power while maintaining lean muscle mass.” (Delaney, et. al.)

Since change-of-direction ability is heavily dependent on relative strength and power, the development of these attributes 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?

Focus Your Training on a Specific Goal

11 Nov

308_1[1]Here’s a cool idea from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR), via Men’s Health:  Focus your training on a specific — and different — strength and conditioning or fitness goal each month.

According to the JSCR, concentrating on a specific strength and/or fitness goal each month can lead to greater overall gains.

You can also vary the equipment you use — barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, suspension trainers (TRX), and resistance bands.

In addition to being productive in the gym, you’ll also add variety to your training, keeping it fresh and avoiding boredom.

Give it a try by choosing a monthly goal — for example, strength, power, cardio-metabolic fitness, or endurance — and dedicate two workouts a week to achieving it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Flexibility Overrated?

24 Nov

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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