In Cal Dietz's Triphasic Training, he gives a great breakdown of explosiveness. He tells a story of two of his throwing athletes. They both have the same weight room strength numbers but one is an All-American at the sport and the other has very limited success. After some digging, Dietz uncovered the secret. The All-American was able to produce force much quicker than the other. More specifically, he was able to go from the eccentric (muscle lengthening) phase to the concentric (muscle shortening) phase in far less time.
In sports, this pops up ALL THE TIME. It makes me remember running 17s in college where we would all line up on the sideline of the basketball court and have to run from sideline to sideline 17 times in under a minute. I remember constantly telling myself that my ability to make the time all came down to my ability to get in and out of the turn. In other words, I needed to slow my body weight and momentum down (eccentric) and explode back out of it (concentric) as quickly as possible.
Quickness is just that. How quickly can you produce force? How efficient are you at changing directions? Here are five drills you can plug in right away and start improving your quickness.
- Single Leg Eccentric Squat: Training the eccentric component may be the most important part of the quickness training experience. We all know how overused the concentric phase is in the gym and how little attention is paid to the other two types of contraction but with quickness, the name of the game is going to be eccentric force absorption. At all levels of sports, this is the big separator. So if you are not developing eccentrically, you're missing out BIG TIME. As an added bonus, this is HUGE help in injury prevention. Few things have as much impact on injury prevention as eccentric control. I would recommend, getting pretty heavy here and doing a low amount of reps (3-5). Even five may be a bit much. You want to make sure the athlete can lock in and give you 100% effort. 99% effort is no good here. Structure your rep scheme to promote success.
- Slideboard Work: Slideboard is maybe the most underrated tool in sports performance training. It is a constant battle for force absorption and change of direction. I like to make the distance long to make sure the athlete really exaggerates loading and exploding. As a strength coach, frontal plane conditioning exercises should make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Maybe it's just me but man, what an opportunity for development here. This is a nice follow up to all of your single leg stance work in the gym. I'd want to see them load in a beautiful single leg stance position and explode across the board into the other. If you keep the distance long enough, they will have no choice but to load up.
- Heidens with Stick: I almost put squat jumps in here but you know me with my dynamic single leg stance work. I believe life is a dynamic expression of gait mechanics and single leg stance so this just fits better to me. More "functional" if you will. Squat jumps are nice and they work but I'm far more concerned with how well you can go from one stance phase of gait to the other and if you're an athlete, I need to see you do this with power and endurance. Enter heidens. Very similar to slideboard work but not everyone has access to a slideboard (although there are some really affordable and effective knock-offs out there). I like adding the stick here to add a little emphasis on the force absorption and landing in good position. I realize this eliminates the training effect on the stretch shortening cycle but there will never be a shortage of training the SSC throughout my programs. I'd rather focus on the low hanging fruit and the parameters that will make you some big money.
- Altitude Drops: Are you seeing the trend yet? Eccentric force absorption is the name of the game with quickness. Land quietly and soak up all the force. Be careful of being too far forward on the landing though. We want the right muscles getting the training effect.
- Split Squat Hold: There's one more piece of this puzzle. The isometric phase of contraction (holds). Somewhere in between the eccentric control and the concentric explosion is a brief moment of isometric contraction. Athlete's are looking for every advantage they can get and this is another area they can get one. Get into great single leg stance, load and hold. You should be able to feel the ipsilateral hamstring, adductor and abs the entire time or the load is too great. This is a great test exercise to determine where the athlete is at from function standpoint. You can create an entire program based off of how they perform on this.
The important thing to know is the principles here. Train all three phases of contraction with an emphasis on eccentric. Work on explosive exercises where you can land, load and explode. But don't forget, the explode phase isn't the show, it's the efficiency of the landing and loading.
Your next step is to keep in mind which muscles you must emphasize in your programs to maintain and improve quickness/athleticism. You can learn that in this article on vertical jump.
If you want to learn how to design an entire program that leaves no stone un-turned, you can register for the genMAX seminar. This course is designed to show you how to unlock someone's genetic max (genMAX) through a step-by-step process from brain science to exercise programming. Click the link below to take a FREE, 45-minute workshop on how I build a genMAX program.