This article provides a “slow cooker” strategy for power development in young athletes that supports change over time, rather than a “microwave” approach with the potential to cause injury.
The Foundation of Power: Strength
Building strength is particularly important for young athletes. It’s the foundation to power training and other components of the systemic method of training methodology model that I have prescribed to over the years called the Pyramid of Athleticism. Dr. Caterisano originally developed the model and we included it in our initial book, A Chance to Win. We modified the model in recent years to include mobility training to demonstrate the importance of lifetime mobility for athletes.
The base of the pyramid, strength, is the foundational component of training. Strength is defined as force x distance. It has the greatest impact on other components, and for this reason, should receive much of the time and focus of athletic performance preparation. On the other hand, power is defined as force X distance divided by time. What this means is that to target power training, velocity should be introduced into the training model.
Slow Cooker Strength Training
When I talk about strength training, I’m talking about exercises that allow for normal increases of strength, such as:
– Resistance training such as bodyweight exercises, free weights, exercise machines, suspension training
– Bilateral and closed chain exercises such as the front or back squats
– Open chained iso-lateral exercises such as the single leg, leg curls or extensions
The athlete should increase the resistance or the number of reps as the body adapts by getting stronger. I can’t emphasize enough that we’re talking about small increases done consistently over time. As mentioned above, think of it as a “slow cooker”, rather than a “microwave”.
Introducing Power Based Exercises
I recommend introducing young athletes to power training through bodyweight exercises that involve the quick extension of the ankles, knees, and hips either singularly or together in “triple extension.” These bodyweight movements like hops, skips and jumps accompanied by appropriately dosed traditional strength movements like squats and presses performed quickly, with lighter loads.
After the young athlete learns how to perform the traditional absolute strength exercises safely and has demonstrated good overall strength gains, I recommend that they perform the same exercises later in the week, with lighter weights and with greater speed that will enhance the power output of the athlete.
The introduction of power specific exercises should be introduced systemically from low injury risk exercises with simple execution to more complex exercises. As the athlete appropriately increases his strength, the results will be evident in an increase in power, speed and agility performance tests. This increase in power isn’t a linear projection, but in time, the introduction of more power and speed specific training to accompany the ongoing strength training will yield greater results.
The remainder of this article focuses on bodyweight and box jump progressions and variations. Next week, we’ll explore some resistance training progressions and variations. In my opinion, lower intensity exercises such as rope jumping or dot drills may be performed with greater frequency (daily) in contrast to more intense exercises such as box jumps and plyometric box jumps which are best once or twice a week, on the same day as direct leg work. These higher intensity exercises shouldn’t be introduced until after at least six months of successful practice of strength work and entry level power based exercises like the ones mentioned here.
Exercise Progression Examples
(starred* examples are included in the videos)
Bodyweight Exercise Progressions
– Rope jumping while stationary with both feet to single leg variations *
– Rope jumping while moving- running, double leg hops to single leg hop variations *
– Dot Drills, double leg progressing to single leg
– Speed ladder hops double leg forward to lateral shuffle variations progressing to single leg hop variations *
– Standing stationary tuck jumps, to standing scissor kick jumps, etc.
– Double leg long jumps, from individual jumps to a series of double leg jumps
– Single leg speed hops
– Speed Skips
– Power Skips
– Mini hurdle jumps. Double leg hops forward, and lateral.
– Stationary double hops laterally over Mini hurdle.
– Mini hurdle single leg hop variations.
– Football Bag Jumps- Double Leg Hop variations progressing to single leg hop variations
Box Jumps Exercise Progressions
Single leg explosive box step ups – Start with one foot up on the top of a lower height, stable box. Explosively extend the leg while ripping the opposite arm up in a motion similar to a layup in basketball. Land on top of the box with both feet. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps for each leg.
Lower height box jumps – Non-Plyometric double leg jumps stepping off the box *
Increased height box jumps – Double leg jumps stepping off the box
Lower height plyometric box jumps – Double leg jumps rebounding off the floor as quickly as possible into the next jump *
Increased height plyometric box jumps – Double leg jumps rebounding off the floor as quickly as possible into the next jump
Double leg plyometric lateral box jumps – Standing close to the lower height box, laterally double leg jump to the top of the box and immediately down to the floor on the other side, immediately laterally jump off the floor and continue for the prescribed number of reps or time. Remember the number of contacts with the top of the box and work to improve on subsequent sets. *
Double leg, three-way plyometric box jumps – Stand with a lower level box immediately to your front and by your sides. On coach’s command jump laterally to the box on your left down and immediately to the box in your front and down and immediately back up laterally to the box on your right. Continue by reversing from right to left, etc. until the time is exhausted.*
Series Box Jumps —Place a series (3-5 boxes) of lower level boxes in a row approximately 4-5 feet apart. Stand on top of the first box in the series jump down on both feet and immediately jump off the floor to the top of the next box until all boxes are jumped. If a group of athletes is doing this drill together be careful to build in adequate distance and time between athletes doing the drill. *