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Learning to Fly

The other day I wrote about understanding the fundamentals of speed. The main premise being that you must get stronger and be able to produce more force if you want to increase your speed. So if getting stronger is the first step, the second part to the speed equation is being able to produce force quickly.

The ability to produce force quickly is often referred to as power and the most common form of power or explosive training is plyometrics. When talking about developing lower body power, plyometrics often consist of different types of jumps. While it is true that jumping is a great way to develop power unfortunately as often happens people skip steps and want to get right to the big pay off without instituting the proper foundation first. In the case on jumping everyone is only concerned with how high or how far they can jump, in other words the concentric phase of the movement. In reality if you want to be fast and powerful it all starts with the landing. In order to be able to accelerate quickly and explosively in any sport whether it’s jumping or changing direction you must be able to decelerate efficiently. The ability to decelerate effectively is what puts the athlete in the proper position to able to accelerate.

The foundational drill that we use for athletes when teaching them how to land or decelerate properly is what we call altitude landings, a phrase coined by strength coach Eric Cressey, in which the athlete simply steps off a plyo box and lands on the ground in a good balanced athletic position. If done properly this position should have the athlete land softly with slight hip and knee flexion and  their ankles, knees and hips all stacked over their feet. When in this position of controlled deceleration the athlete is now in the best possible position for them to be able to produce force through a sprint or jump. Much like the old saying you must learn to walk before you run you also must learn to land before you jump.

If you are planning on employing jumping into your training routine to help develop increases in power be sure to make use of this often overlooked tool to maximize your ability to decelerate efficiently and effectively in turn giving you the power to fly.

Understanding Speed

As a person who works with athletes all the time I can tell you that the single most sought out athletic attribute is speed. I think that most athletes, trainers, coaches would all agree with that statement, the part where they would not agree is how to obtain that speed.

Like any topic in the fitness field there is a large amount of conflicting information surrounding the topic. Although the topic of speed can be very extensive when you get into the finer details the foundation of it is simple. Speed like every athletic attribute is based on strength. In other words if you want to get faster you have to get stronger first. Speed is dependent on force production; if we want to get faster we have to produce more force, to produce more force we have to get stronger. A lot of people equate strength training to being big and slow. This is not necessarily their fault there is information out there that definitely would lead them to believe this. Hence the existence of a countless number of so called “speed camps” being run every summer where kids spend hours on end running through ladders and around cones. Now don’t get me wrong, ladder and cone drills can help with co-ordination which is always important especially with athletes going through prime developmental years in their early teens. But if the athlete has done nothing to increase their strength, so they can increase their force production they will not increase their speed.

Strength training has many progressions and like anything else the progression at which you start should be relative to where you are at. At Focus Fitness we break our strength work into 5 basic movements: push, pull, squat, hinge, and carry. Every exercise ever invented falls into one or more of these 5 categories and each category has countless variations and progressions of exercises. Strength training is appropriate for athletes of all ages because it starts with body weight movements and then progresses up from there. Sport at its foundational level is being able to move your body efficiently and effectively. An athlete should never be put under a load until they can move their body weight effectively.

It is imperative as an athlete looking to get faster that you start strength training and set the foundation for not only your speed but all your athletic attributes to grow. This article is not by any means a complete guide to speed there are many other steps such as technique, mobility, and training to produce force quickly but hopefully it directs people down the right path and they take up a proper strength program in their quest for speed.

If you have any questions about the article or would like more information about the programs offered at Focus Fitness please call AJ Zeglen(Manager and Head Strength Coach) at (204)770-2059

Quote of the Day: May 20

“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”

– Arnold H. Glasow