This blog is based on my opinion. I base the opinion on research and experience, recognizing that you may have different research and different experiences.
We have so many options available to us as strength and conditioning coaches in 2017; we must analyze and prioritize our training methods based on the age and experience of the athlete, time of the training year relative to the sports season, training time constraints, equipment availability, etc.
I’d like to make a case for the five training staples that I’d recommend when training explosive team athletes from Basketball to Volleyball.
1. Squat Variations – The movement of the squat, when done with good posture, technique and proper weight, should be included in virtually all athletes training. The muscles of the glutes, lower back, and secondarily the hamstrings and quads are muscles that all explosive athletes should develop. The actual movement of the squat is replicated to partial depth as athletes come out of their athletic stance to jump or sprint. Notice I didn’t say barbell squat or back squat though I love the barbell back squat. I also didn’t say the exercise had to be trained to failure or a maximum, though there can be solid reasons to do so.
Squat variations can include: back squat, front squat, box squat, interval back or front squats, speed squat variations, to more exotic Zercher squats, goblet squats, etc.
Truthfully, all of these variations and others can be integrated into an athlete’s yearly training model successfully.
I am also a huge fan of iso-lateral leg exercises such as box step ups, lunge variations, and single leg squat variations such as Bulgarians, suspension system, pistol squats, etc.
One day of squat variation and one day of single leg free weight exercise per week is an excellent training model both in season and off season, as long as the volume and intensity is correct.
When the athlete squats regularly and correctly, he can put more force on the ground and run faster in short distance sprints. He or she will jump higher than before training and will be increasing muscular hypertrophy in training affected areas. Actually, the squat movement is such a hormonal stimulator due to the number of muscles worked that overall muscular hypertrophy is stimulated.
The benefits of squatting are great, if the exercise is programmed and performed correctly.
2. Power Based Training – An explosive athlete must be both strong and powerful in their hips (rotary hip drive) to jump and sprint to their potential. Build on the movement pattern and strength developed from squatting variations, and train the same motor pattern with velocity, will increase the athlete’s ability to put force into the ground quickly, resulting in higher jumps and quicker sprints.
Exercise examples: Box Jump variations (plyometric or nonplyometric). Single leg explosive box step ups without weight, broad jumps, power skips, standing triple jumps, Olympic lift variations, trap bar jumps (light weight), kettlebell swings, etc.
3. Acceleration Drills or Resisted Running – Most team sports require athletes to be effective accelerators. This one element of speed training will pay the most dividends in our speed training drill package, in my opinion.
I encourage you to work on these drills throughout the off-season, at least once a week. Continue to switch up the drills, distances, resistance amounts and overall volume.
Short uphill sprints, sand pit runs, sled pulls, and sled pushes, board pushes, bleacher runs, etc.
4. Short Sprints – The majority of our conditioning should be specific to the energy systems and activities used in our sports. The majority of our team sports are played in short explosive sprint bursts. They are mostly reactive in nature and involve acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction. Start with repeated short sprints with a 4:1 rest to work ratio and progress to a 3:1 rest to work ratio. Perform the sprints once or twice a week after strength-power training. Be wise in your volume, hydration, and sports medicine support. Whether called long shuttles, gassers or suicides, short sprints that include deceleration and change of direction are more specific for most of our team sports athletes.
5. Agility Drills – Programmable and Reactive – Because we’re training athletes to improve their athleticism and athletic success, it’s important to practice athletic movement skills at a high tempo. The programmable drills such as various cone, circle, and bag drills allow the athlete to know what the movement patterns are before starting the drill. These drills can allow the athlete to slow down and perform the movements more precisely if the coach instructs. These drills are particularly valuable to young athletes just learning the movements. Other examples of programmable agility drills include 5-10-5 shuttles, L- Drills, etc.
Reactive drills in which the athlete must react to an unpredictable stimulus are super valuable and fun for the athlete. All athletes should enjoy competition, and these drills allow competition, either between athletes or against the clock, tennis ball, coaches directions, etc. Examples of reactive agility drills include; 2 pt.wave drills, tennis ball reaction drills, cone reaction drills with a coach, tag games, etc.