The lower body power movements are organized into jumps, bounds, hops, shock or hybrid.
See below for everything we take into consideration while organizing & selecting the different lower body power exercises for our athletes.
Progression process (relative to the athlete’s training level)
Unilateral (Single Leg)
We will introduce unilateral explosive exercises early on in the training process. The context is most important and we take into consideration the athlete’s sport, time of year and training level. We don’t follow the typical progression of bilateral (2-leg) to unilateral (1-leg) or vice versa. Both 2-leg & 1-leg are used concurrently & follow the above progressions.
An in-season athlete will still follow our progression process, but the major difference is that every landing will be on an elevated surface.. The athlete will still get the desired training effect and adaptation, without over-stressing their system (less impact).
As an athlete reaches the intermediate to advance training level, we get more specific and individualize the power movements with a force (strength) or velocity (speed) emphasis. We determine if the athlete has a force or velocity deficiency. Once this is known we train and attack the weakness or opposite quality.
We also incorporate additional equipment or change in surface that will complement our progression protocol and appropriate for the individual. For example:
It’s important to have a systematic approach when planning and organizing all of the different qualities (speed, power, strength, suppleness, capacity, etc…) that need to be addressed in an athlete’s physical preparation process. Proper progressions and exercise sequencing will set the athlete up for long term success.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with athletes from various backgrounds, it’s they all are individually different. These individual differences determine the programing and coaching style that works best for them. No two athletes are alike. One movement or training regime might work well for one individual, where that same exercise or program might be the complete opposite of what the other individual needs.
“You can’t fit a square peg in a round whole”. Determine the athlete’s jumping style and train them accordingly.
Strength Jumper (Force Dominant)
A strength dominant jumper is naturally stronger, has more muscle mass and thicker joints. The athlete will tend to have a more forceful take off with less “spring” when they jump. They will require more of a knee bend and will spend longer time on the ground. This type of athlete will benefit complementing their strength work with more plyometric and complex/contrast methods.
Speed Jumper (Velocity Dominant)
The elastic style jumper will naturally have longer leverages (bones & tendons) and smaller joints. This athlete will have more of an effortless take off with a lot of “spring” when they jump. They will take full advantage of the stretch shortening cycle and will spend less time on the ground. This type of athlete will benefit from complementing their plyometric drills with absolute strength and strength-speed movements.
Understanding that the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach will be detrimental to an athlete's short term and long term development. Individualization and specificity are two of the major principles that our training system is built upon.
The sport of basketball consists of various bio-dynamics and bio-motor abilities. It is quite obvious that in the sport of basketball an athlete needs to improve their speed and power qualities. More specifically the athlete needs to be efficient with their multi-directional speed (changing direction and velocity) and vertical explosiveness.
This can be accomplished through different speed and power drills, but if your in a situation where you have limited space, equipment and/ or if the athlete performs high amounts of volume with the competitive movements (during the off-season) then incorporating the eccentric method would be very beneficial.
It is very important to note that every dynamic movement seen in basketball will always begin with an eccentric action. The eccentric phase of a movement is known as the lengthening or yielding portion caused by the force of a specific load. While increasing an athlete’s eccentric strength, there are two neuromuscular processes that need to be developed. The first is known as the stretch reflex and the second is the stretch shortening cycle (SSC), both are very important for the increase in force production.
The stretch reflex is one of the most powerful responses within the human body. This reflex consist of 2 proprioceptors, muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTO). The muscle spindles primary function is to measure the changes in length and communicating to the brain about the proper amount of muscle contraction to overcome the external load. The GTO is the opposite and tells the brain when the muscle should relax by measuring the change in force. The GTO is very important because it will inhibit and prevent serious muscular damage (autogenic inhibition). But can also be detrimental to an athlete trying to produce high levels of force specific to the sporting demands.
Here are three major reasons an athlete should incorporate the eccentric method:
First, the autogenic inhibition can be decrease via the eccentric method. While focusing on the eccentric phase, the athlete is training both proprioceptors. The primary training effect is to improve the neuromuscular system with the neural pathways between the muscle spindle, CNS and muscle. Simultaneously decreasing the GTO activity, which will allow the athlete to absorb higher levels of force.
Second and often overlooked is the ability to absorb force. In my opinion as coach the athlete needs to efficiently absorb force before producing force. An athlete who can absorb more energy via the eccentric phase will have a greater ability to produce more concentric force. This is accomplished by the stretch shortening cycle. A great analogy is the stretching of a rubber band. As the rubber band is stretched or lengthened, there is an increase in stored elastic energy. The same is true for the an athlete, the more energy absorb eccentrically, the more energy will be applied concentrically. This will teach the athlete how to efficiently decelerate. This will have a greater training effect than some of the common “agility” or “ladder” drills. On a side note, I am not a fan of the so called “speed or agility ladder”. Teaching an athlete to perform different drills in a confined environment will not improve an athlete’s linear and multi-directional speed. It actually reinforces poor technique and limits the athlete’s ability to put enough force into the ground.
Third, increasing the intensity of the movement without having to increase the load. If an athlete is constantly performing a high amount of volume with their competitive exercises, the coach needs to manage the training parameters. Incorporating the eccentric method will allow the athlete to train with sub-maximal loads, but at the same time the relative intensity is increased. Also in my opinion the eccentric method will follow a low to medium volume scheme. A by-product of emphasizing the eccentric phase, is improving the execution of the movement. Controlling the tempo and decreasing the eccentric portion will give the athlete the ability to improve their technique.
The eccentric method is extremely taxing on the athlete, I recommend programming this method for a 2-3 week training block during the athlete’s off-season. This method can be performed with maximal intensity (90% +), but in my opinion the risk to reward is not going to benefit the athlete. I suggest that the intensity stays with in the 50-70% range and volume will be determined by the athlete’s preparedness/ training level. Previously stated, I suggest keeping the volume low to medium. The tempo of the eccentric phase will be determined by the movement, but should be performed with 4-6 seconds count. It’s important to know as a coach if you tell an athlete to perform a 4 second eccentric, the athlete will usually perform a 3 second eccentric. This will primarily occur with novice athletes and/ or when the athlete becomes fatigued. My two recommendations are having the athlete perform the movement with a coach’s command or a clock count. If there is a lack of equipment or if the group is very large, I suggest telling the athlete to perform a 5 second eccentric. By increasing the count by 1 second, this will leave some room for error and then the athlete will perform the correct tempo prescribed. Lastly, each eccentric emphasized repetition should be completed with a dynamic or explosive concentric. This is crucial because the eccentric and concentric phases are used by two different neurological pathways. As a coach it’s imperative to cue the athlete to accelerate the concentric phase as fast and explosive as possible. This will correctly train the athlete’s nervous system and increase a positive transfer to the sport of basketball.
The primary goal with a quality physical preparation program is to increase the athlete’s performance levels with proper training methods/ means that will elicit the correct adaptations. Increasing the athlete’s eccentric strength levels will have an impact on their force production. It is essential that an athlete efficiently transitions from eccentric, isometric and concentric phases. This will allow the athlete to complete movements with greater force and higher velocities on the court.
*It must be noted that I am no way trying to “reinvent the wheel” in the strength and conditioning world. All of the knowledge and information that I have collected over the past 5 years has been through trial and error. I am a firm believer that coaching is an art and the only way to be successful is through application. You need to interact face-to-face (not over the internet) with athletes of all levels, 8 years old to first round draft picks. I am still continuing to grow and evolve as a coach, and will give recognition and credit when necessary.
This will be an introduction to what goes through my head, while planning a program for an athlete. There are 3 major categories that I must address before anything else. These include managing stressors, dynamic correspondence, and addressing limitations.
First, managing stressors is the most important aspect and the most overlooked part of organizing a program. This topic has been addressed by Chad Smith (Juggernaut Training Systems), James “The Thinker” Smith (Power Development Inc.), Buddy Morris, and the late Charlie Francis (Legend). All of these resources have done of a great job explaining the importance of balancing stressors. But it still amazes me how very little actually apply this knowledge. My primary clientele are hockey athletes of all ages and levels. The “hockey culture” in Massachusetts is by far the hardest working and driven group of athletes that I have ever had the pleasure to coach. Their mentality of more is never enough has continuously developed elite prospects year after year. But at the same time a lot of these young athletes are developing injuries at an alarming rate. It should also be noted that there could be even more of these top prospects, but most of these “kids” burn out at a young age. Anyways, my role as a strength coach is to assist in the player developmental process. Consolidating stressors is simply putting all off the high intensive sessions (both on and off ice) on the same day. So if an athlete has an easy skate or day off from the ice. Then on that same day the off ice training will be more extensive. This will allow for full recovery and a high level of preparedness for competition. This becomes more critical as an athlete gets older and more advanced within their specific sport. The time of year (off-season vs. in-season) will also play a role, but that can be for another post. I just wanted to make it clear the more is not always better. As a strength coach my goal is to find the least amount of stress that causes a positive stimulus. Training smart is training hard!
The second piece is the importance of dynamic correspondence. This is a fancy term for movements that have a high transfer to the specific sport. With any type of programming no matter the training level or sport, there should always be a progression from general to specific movements. Now remember the actual movements, whether general or specific will differ between athletes, but the end result stays the same. To keep it simple and to the point I will use the sport of hockey as an example. An athlete playing for a local U14 team would start off by doing a bodyweight lateral squat and throughout the off-season progress to more of a reactive lateral bound. It must be noted that throughout the year I will have my athlete perform some type of jump and throw variation. The two things that change are the amount (volume) and type of jumps and throws (low vs. high skill level). Now with an athlete playing in Hockey East, I could have that athlete start with a Weighted Lateral Squat and throughout the off-season progress to a ISO Split Squat Reactive Lateral Bound (Got this from Kevin Neeld). There are also many variables that take part with exercise selection, training methods, etc… but for this post understand that the goal of any quality program is to use movements that will have a high transfer to whatever sport you play.
The third component is to address any of the athlete’s limitations and weaknesses. In my situation, the hockey season is very long and demanding. Therefore I have a quick assessment to address any structural and soft tissue problems that might have been developed by the volume of skating and contacts. This will determine the do’s and don'ts when it comes time for exercise selection. I will also include some mobility and stability movements as fillers in between the warm-up sets of there primary exercises. This is athlete specific and once the athlete has no pain and is moving properly, I will decrease the volume and the importance of the filler as we progress through the program. Another way to attack these limitations is prior to every training session my athletes go through a specific warm-up that will continually address all of the problematic issues that are common for that sport. This would be a great time to note how I didn’t use the word “corrective exercise”. I know there are many different schools of thought from the “functional” to the “power-lifter” type coaches. Please remember everything we do from mobility, stability, power, strength, and/or energy system development is a form of corrective exercise. Being a strength coach, my primary responsibility is to keep my athlete’s healthy as I help them with their goals on the ice.
As for attacking an athlete’s weakness whether its strength, power, speed, work-capacity, and/or body composition. The majority (especially with the athletes I coach) will need to improve basic strength capabilities. There should always be an emphasis on developing strength. Remember everything is built upon strength, a stronger athlete will be more explosive, faster, and more likely to stay injury free. Please note I do understand there are many strength qualities and depending on the training level and time year will dictate which quality you will focus on. But at this time the take away message is that with a quality program an athlete’s weakness should be transformed into one of their strengths.
These 3 components are critical in developing a quality training program that will generate results. There are many other variables that I did not cover, but start thinking about these 3 and your setting yourself up for success.