In part 1, I discussed the components of a movement-based, performance training program. An athlete must train for movement qualities such as stability and mobility. Athletes also need strength training to produce force to meet the demands of sport, and move in every direction, not just forward and back. Now, I'll break down the movement itself and go over some training tips to help boost performance. This system will work for any movement, but today I'm going to focus on just one..
There are many different variations of the squat, barbell back squats, front squats, overhead, etc. My personal favorite is the RFE (Rear Foot Elevated) Squat, aka Bulgarians. In this version, the rear foot is elevated, placing the focus on one leg, with the added challenge of balance, core stability, and flexibility. Whatever variation you choose, it still breaks down into a knee dominant movement, and the demands are roughly the same.
Step 1 - Identify the moving parts
Movement doesn't happen in the muscles. Muscles contract to create movement in the joints. In a squat, those moving parts include ankles, knees, hips, and the spine. Now take a look at what is demanded of those moving parts
- ankles - mobility
- knees - stability
- hips - mobility
- lumbar spine - stability
Step 2 - Movement Prep
This is the most important step in performance training and the key to building good movement quality. As the saying goes, "failing to prepare, is preparing to fail". If your idea of a warm up is a few toe touches and jumping jacks, don't be surprised when squats hurt you. So here are some movement prep techniques that can help you get ready for a legit training session.
- ankles - mobility: myofascial release, active isolated stretching
- knees - stability: myofascial release, glute activation, reactive neuromuscular training
- hips - mobility: myofascial release, active isolated stretching, dynamic flexibility
- lumbar spine: myofascial release, core activation
Step 3 - Eccentric, Isometric, Concentric Strength and The Force Velocity Curve
Don't make this too complicated. There is plenty to go over when it comes to these phases of training but lets just keep it simple. Eccentric strength is the ability to decelerate a load or force in the negative direction. In a squat, you want to be able to control the weight downward as you load. On the field, this translates into the ability to quickly stop and change direction. Isometric strength is the ability to hold and maintain your position without movement. Again, a quality that translates directly onto the field. Concentric strength is the one most are familiar with. This is the ability to accelerate or produce enough force to create movement in a positive direction. This brings us to the the force-velocity curve which I'll break down into just two categories: Max Load and Max Velocity. These two qualities are directly connected and athlete needs to train both. Max Load means moving as much weight as possible. Max Velocity means moving a very light weight, as fast as possible.
Step 4 - Energy Systems Development
Once again, plenty to discuss here, but lets keep it simple. First, its important to understand there are two categories for muscle fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch muscle fibers don't produce a lot of force but last for longer durations. Fast twitch muscle fibers can produce much more force but don't last very long. Depending on how much power you need and how rapidly you need it, the body will use a combination of these two types along with various energy systems to meet demands. Its similar to a hybrid vehicle that is powered by both gas and battery. When the vehicle needs to create power during acceleration, it will use gas. When its cruising, battery. Still with me? For athletes, a training program needs to address both maximum power output and the ability to sustain power over the course of a game or match. A sprinter would lose in a marathon, but a distance runner doesn't have a chance in the 100m dash. For a sport like soccer or basketball, both power and endurance is needed.One without the other isn't good enough.