Contributor: Justin Smith CPT and FNS
To become a more explosive athlete, you want an exercise program tailored to the key attributes that make for a better athlete in your specific sport or area of focus. This includes a program that concentrates on increasing stability while simultaneously enhancing strength, power, speed, agility, and coordination, among other skills. Whether you’re focused on becoming a better football, basketball, or baseball player, track & field athlete, wrestler or any other athlete that is looking to enhance these elements, then thinking in terms of force and velocity is paramount to success.
Force is generally defined as the strength or energy it takes to perform a specific action or movement. Velocity is broadly defined as the speed of something in a given direction. An example of a high force, lower velocity movement is a power lifter maxing out during a barbell deadlift. He is likely to struggle to generate a high amount of velocity as he slowly drives the barbell up from the ground to a full hip extension at the top of the movement.
Alternatively, a sprinter doing the 100-meter event at a track competition is generating much higher velocity as she runs her event, but is unlikely to produce as much force as the power lifter does during his max deadlift.
In order to maximize athleticism and excel in your given endeavor, it is prudent to figure out which attributes are primary to your sport and position within that sport. For example, a football player that plays wide
receiver will want to focus on maximizing speed, agility, and quickness to begin with. In order to do this, building a training program that optimizes for velocity first, emphasizes force second will be ideal (i.e. sprints, squat or lunge jumps, generating higher velocity when performing barbell squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and clapping push-ups). This is not to say that he will want to avoid programming higher force and lower velocity training such as heavier power lifting to build max strength and muscle mass as well.
These exercises are equally significant as they can have a profound impact on the football players ability to excel in ripping through defensive backs/outside linebackers jamming at the line of scrimmage, cutting during route
running, and breaking away from would-be tacklers. Additionally, there are many other exercises and training programs that emphasize core stability, balance, and hand-eye coordination, which are vital for football players and many other athletes. The following 4 exercises are a great starting point for workouts that will maximize your athleticism. You can modify these to focus more on force or velocity depending on your sport/position specific needs at any given time.
1. Barbell Box Step-Ups
Muscles Targeted: glutes, hams, quads, abs
Exercise Description: Place barbell across your upper traps as if you are about to do a back squat. Stand facing a plyometric box or similar elevated stable surface. Raise one leg to step up onto box with your foot landing firmly on it. Your lead leg should be forming a 90-degree angle with its thigh parallel to the floor. Drive your lead heel into box to the point where you can drive your back leg/foot off the floor in as controlled of a manner as possible (at this point you have the option to either fully stand up on the box with both feet on top of it). Or for a greater challenge, dynamically balance on your lead foot and pause with your back leg in the air. Step back down, and repeat, but this time leading with opposite leg/foot.
2. Barbell Walking Lunges
Muscles Targeted: glutes, hams, quads, hip flexors, adductors, abs
Exercise Description: Place a barbell on your upper back in the stand-up position. Stand tall and engage your core. Extend your dominant side leg in front of your torso, land softly with your front heel firmly planted in the ground, bend at the lead knee, and lower your body until your back knee is nearly touching the ground. Ensure your legs are forming 90-degree angles and your front knee is aligned with your ankles and not out in front or beyond your toes. Also, make sure your torso is upright with your abs still engaged. Slowly extend upward and balance your body as you extend your opposite leg forward and repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
3. Barbell Deadlifts
Muscles Targeted: back, glutes, legs, forearms
Exercise Description: With flat feet beneath the bar, squat down and grasp the bar with shoulder-width or slightly wider overhand or mixed grip. With your butt low, chest up, core engaged, and head facing forward, lift the bar by extending your hips and knees to full extension. Keep shoulders back. Return weight to the floor by bending at the hips and allowing the knees to follow. Keep a natural and slight c-curve in your spine and avoid rounding
or hyperextending your back as you lower the weight to the ground.
4. Barbell Power Clean and Jerk
Exercise Description: Begin in a deadlift stance. Pull bar up off floor by extending hips and knees. As bar reaches knees vigorously raise shoulders while keeping the barbell close to the thighs. When the barbell passes
mid-thigh allow it to contact thighs. Jump upward extending your body. Shrug shoulders and pull barbell upward with arms, allowing elbows to flex out to sides, keeping bar close to body. Aggressively pull body under bar, rotating elbows around the bar. Catch bar on shoulders before knees bend lower than 90-degrees. Stand up immediately so thighs ride no lower than parallel to the floor. Inhale and position chest high with core engaged.
Keeping pressure on heels (drive into ground), dip body by bending knees and ankles slightly. Explosively drive barbell up and off shoulders as you
simultaneously drop body downward by bending at the waist and splitting one foot forward and the other backward with as much velocity as
possible. The bar should be positioned directly over ears at arm’s length with back straight. Lower bar back to shoulders as you bring feet back to normal stance. Lower the bar in a similar manner to a deadlift.