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A Really Simple Way to Increase Power

I have a really simple way that we can tweak our programming to increase power development.  And it’s is backed up with scientific evidence that shows you can get a quick increase in power, as well as enhance it even more by training this way over time.

Want to know what it is?

Simple.

Show the person their results.

If you want someone to jump higher, throw harder, or any other power-based movement, simply show the athlete how high they are jumping, how hard they are throwing, or how powerful their movement was.

I wrote a recent 3 Ways Baseball Pitchers Can Use a Radar Gun to Enhance Performance for Elite Baseball Performance that discusses a little bit of this concept for baseball players.  But this can easily apply to anyone looking to improve their power.

Have you ever played around with a vertical jump test to see how high you can jump?  No matter high you jumped on that first attempt, what did you do every time on that second jump?

Try to jump higher, right?  Of course you did, we all do!

 

Extrinsic Feedback and Knowledge of Results

In the motor learning world, this is a form of extrinsic feedback is referred to as “knowledge of results.”  This can be used to give immediate feedback to the person to enhance their technique, but also to provide motivation.  We see this all the time, especially in athletes who are competitive in nature.

We know that using external feedback and knowledge of the results in the sports performance world helps increase power output.

For example, one study using external feedback and knowledge of results was shown to help improve vertical jump performance.  In a 2014 study the Journal of Human Movement Science, it was shown that using feedback of vertical jump height performance results in an immediate increase in vertical jump performance, as well an 18% improvement in jump height over a 4-week training period.

In a recent study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, it was shown that if athletes were able to see their throwing velocity, the players were able to enhance their velocity by 4x more than if they did not know their speed.

Another past study compared the throwing velocity of youth when instructed to “throw the ball hard” vs the same instruction with knowledge of results using a radar gun.  Again the study showed that simply instructing the athlete to throw the ball harder does not increase velocity as much as when they can visually see the results.

In another interesting study in tennis players, it was shown that training for 6-weeks with feedback of serve velocity had a significantly greater improvement in velocity than a group that did not know their results.  But what is most interesting, is that this same group stopped training with external feedback of their velocity and still showed that the velocity improvements were retained 6 weeks after the program.

So it’s pretty clear, showing a person their results:

  • Has an immediate increase in power
  • Has a larger increase in power when performed over time with a training program
  • Has carry over to maintaining enhanced power even after stopping the training program.

Looks like a win, win, win to me.

 

Increasing Power with Velocity Based Training

So how do we do this in our programs?  We try to make sure our clients know their results.

This concept isn’t new, its essentially velocity based training.  The team over at Science for Sport have a great article on velocity based training that you can check out for more details.

There are several devices on the market that can accomplish this for the strength and conditioning world.  Vertical jump test kits, jump mats, the G-Flight unit, and others are all great.  Some devices like the Keiser units show the power output on a screen.  There are some devices that can be applied to a barbell like the Tendo Unit or GymAware.  There are some newer accelerometer based devices that can also be used for a wider variety of activities, such as the PUSH band.

These are all great but come with various budgets, you’ll have to see what works for you.  But one thing most of these don’t do well is help with rotational power.  Maybe I am biased as I work with a lot of baseball players, overhead athletes, and golfers, but this is a huge area to focus on at least in my world.

One way that we apply this knowledge with our rotational athletes is with medicine ball power drills and a simple radar gun.

In this video, you can see we are using a radar gun set up to monitor the ball velocity.  The athlete is encouraged to ramp up his intensity on subsequent throws until he reaches his maximum velocity.  We’ll record this and try to improve over the course of his program, just like we would by recorded weights during his lifts.

We work with a lot of rotational athletes at Champion, so we use a lot of medicine ball drills.  So using radar guns is super simple.

I’ve personally been using the Pocket Radar in the gym and think it’s perfect.  Compact, simple, and affordable.  We’ve compared it to the more radar expensive guns, and it’s always just as accurate, but so much easier to use.

The new Smart Coach model is awesome, it can connect to an app on your phone or tablet via bluetooth, or even an external display.  This is what we’ve been using at Champion and everyone has loved it.

 

A Simple Way to Increase Power

So keep this in mind when you are building programs that are designed to enhance power.  A simple, effective, and scientifically backed way to get even more out of your programs is to make sure the person know’s their results.  By using this form of external feedback, you’ll not be able to track progress better, you’ll also get more power out of your clients.

What other methods or devices have you used to take advantage of the knowledge of results external feedback mechanism to enhance power?

 

 

 

How to Perform Lower Body Plyometrics

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on How to Perform Lower Body Plyometrics is now available.

How to Perform Lower Body Plyometrics

This month’s Inner Circle webinar is on How to Perform Lower Body Plyometrics.  In this presentation, I demonstrate the different types of plyometric exercises you can perform for the lower body and show some of my favorite progressions.

This webinar will cover:

  • The different types of plyometric exercises you can perform for the lower body
  • How I progress from two leg to one leg drills
  • How I progress different planes of motions
  • The keys to choosing the best exercise for your goal

To access this webinar:

How to Perform Upper Body Plyometrics

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on How to Perform Upper Body Plyometrics is now available.

How to Perform Upper Body Plyometrics

This month’s Inner Circle webinar is on How to Perform Upper Body Plyometrics. In this presentation, I demonstrate the different types of plyometric exercises you can perform for the upper body and show some of my favorite progressions.

This webinar will cover:

  • The different types of plyometric exercises you can perform for the upper body
  • Ways to use different medicine balls and exercise tubing for different goals
  • The keys to choosing the best exercise for your goal

To access this webinar:

Inner Circle members click here to access the webinar
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How to Choose the Right Medicine Ball

Medicine balls are commonly used for plyometric and power development drills.

The two most common types of medicine balls can be categorized by how well they bounce, high bounce or low bounce.

There’s a time and need for both, but choosing the right medicine ball can easily make or break the effectiveness of the exercise.

A medicine ball that bounces can effectively trigger the stretch-shortening cycle of a plyometric exercise, while a medicine ball with low bounce will place the emphasis on the concentric power output.

How to Choose the Right Medicine Ball

In this video, I discuss this more and show the different emphasis that different medicine balls will produce:

Get More Performance Therapy Tips

I’ve really been publishing a ton of great videos on social media lately, including this series of “Performance Therapy Tips.”  Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to get them all!

 

The Science of Plyometrics

If you want to learn more, check out my Inner Circle presentation that overviews the neurological basis, phases, and science of plyometrics:

To access this webinar:

 

The Right Way, and Wrong Way, to Do Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises have been used for decades in both the rehabilitation and sports performance settings.

I love how plyometrics can effectively be used for power development, but are also valuable in the rehabilitation setting to gradually apply load to healing tissue while working on both force production and dissipation.

To truly perform plyometric exercises and get the most out of them, you must understand the science behind the stretch-shortening cycle.  I talk about this in detail in an Inner Circle presentation on the Science of Plyometric Exercises.

To fully maximize the benefit of the stretch-shortening cycle, you have to quickly transition from the eccentric loading phase to the concentric explosion phase of the drill.

If you perform the drills to slow, you’ll reduce the effect of the stretch-shortening cycle and decrease the efficacy of the plyometric exercise.

 

The Right Way, and Wrong Way, to Do Plyometrics

Watch the quick video below to see what I mean:

The Science of Plyometrics

If you want to learn more, check out my Inner Circle presentation that overviews the neurological basis, phases, and science of plyometrics:

To access this webinar:

The Science of Plyometrics

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on The Science of Plyometrics is now available.

The Science Behind Plyometrics

The Science of Plyometrics

This month’s Inner Circle webinar is on The Science of Plyometrics.  In this presentation, I overview the foundation behind plyometric training so that you can perform them effectively,

This webinar will cover:

  • The goals of plyometric training
  • How the muscles spindles and golgi tendon organs interact
  • The 3 phases of plyometric exercises
  • The right way, and wrong way, to perform plyometric exercises

To access this webinar:

3 Ways to Improve Throwing Velocity by Enhancing Lower Body Force Production

Pitching a baseball takes a tremendous amount of skill to throw with velocity and accuracy.  Improving velocity tends to be the primary concern of many pitchers, especially youth baseball players.  In order to learn how to enhance velocity, it’s more important to study scientific evidence than to rely on anecdotal information and traditional baseball concepts.

pitching velocityA recent study was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine by a group of researchers in Japan that compared how youth and college pitchers use their trunks and legs during their pitching mechanics.

They found that youth and college pitchers threw with similar biomechanical kinematics, meaning that their mechanics were similar.

However, what they did find was that momentum and force generation were higher in the college pitchers.  College pitchers exhibited:

  • Greater push off on the pivot leg during stride
  • Greater pelvis and trunk rotation throughout the pitching sequence
  • Greater stride leg control during acceleration
  • Greater stride leg extension explosive force approaching ball release

It should be noted that the data was normalized to body mass to take into consideration the lower weight and size of adolescent pitchers.  This make the comparison fair.

These results correspond well to a previous report by the same authors that showed college pitchers with higher velocity also showed greater ability to produce force in their legs and trunk in comparison to college pitchers with low velocity.

In addition, the results were also similar to what Glenn Fleisig, Dr. James Andrews, and ASMI showed in regard to the upper body and trunk when comparing youth and older pitchers.

 

To Maximize Velocity, Generate More Force with the Legs and Trunk

Again, mechanics of youth are similar, but their ability generate force is different.  Generating more force with your legs and trunk results in greater velocity.

But getting stronger probably isn’t enough.

Based on these two studies it is apparent that getting stronger isn’t the only thing needed to increase your pitching velocity.  You also need to be able to generate more speed and power.

Part of this is simply getting older and bigger.  A stronger body and a longer arm generates more force, that’s just simple physics.  But there are also some tweaks you can perform to generate more force.  Here are three things youth baseball pitchers can train to improve their pitching velocity based on this new scientific evidence

 

Improve Strength

Leg and Trunk Power VelocityWhile strength probably isn’t enough alone, strength is probably the first factor youth should focus on to improve velocity.  To develop more power, you need to be stronger.  The more force you can exert, the harder you will throw.

Based on these studies, lower body strengthening is an area that deserves a lot of attention.  The legs are used during the early phases of pitching, so the amount of force produced early in the delivery will result in more force being developed and transferred through the body for the rest of the pitching sequence.

Take a look at professional baseball pitchers.  The majority that look like they throw effortlessly have big legs, hips, and butts.  Jon Lester is a great current example, and Roger Clemens is probably a great former example.

The shorter and smaller framed pitchers tend throw with much more effort.

The bigger and stronger your legs, the more force you can generate, which has been shown in numerous studies to correlate to velocity.

 

Enhance Speed

medicine ball pitching velocityI think a lot of youth baseball players stop at strength, and that can actually be detrimental.  Research in the strength and conditioning world has shown that training certain qualities, like strength and speed, results in adaptations of the body.

Better stated – train slow and you’ll throw slow. [Click to Tweet This]

Once a baseline of strength is established, I tend to focus on “intent.”  What I mean by that is you want to develop the athlete’s ability to explode.  This is an area that many youth do not understand.  They don’t know how to explode.

Once a young athlete understands how to move a heavy weight slowly, you want them to transition this to moving a moderate weight faster, and eventually a lighter weight even faster.

Exercises like plyometric jumps, medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, and speed trap bar deadlifts are all very effective in this spectrum of training.

On the baseball training side of the equation, this is where long toss and overweight/underweight balls become important for pitchers (there is a right way and wrong way to implement these).  I’m not sure any of these develop “arm strength” as much as they develop “arm speed.”

Big difference.

 

Maximize Stability

youth baseball velocityLastly, and probably the least well understood and implemented, is training for stability.  To improve throwing velocity, you need the proper motor control and dynamic stability to stabilize both the arm and the stride leg.  People to tend to understand the arm more these days, but I wouldn’t ignore the stride leg.

To properly transfer force that is developed from your pivot leg, you need a strong AND stable stride leg.

You need stride leg stability for force transfer, but don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury.  If the stride leg can’t stabilize the force, theoretically you body won’t allow you to develop the force.

This also goes for the arm, and I believe why using weighted balls the WRONG way can be harmful, especially for youth pitchers.  Your arm needs to be able to withstand the force to produce the force.  Otherwise, your brain is smart enough to regulate force development.

To maximize velocity, you need to train the body to develop and withstand force.  Too many of us only focus on developing force alone.  This can result in ineffectiveness of training programs as well as injury by pushing past your physiological limits.

 

Understand that maximum velocity in a baseball pitcher occurs through a combination of many qualities.  Work on enhancing each of these will result in a maximum amount of velocity while reducing the chance of injury.

 

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Does Stretching Really Decrease Performance?

Static stretching has really taken a beating over the last several years after the publication of several studies that showed a reduction in strength, power, speed, and athletic performance.  Many in the strength and fitness communities took this info and ran with it, condemning stretching before athletic competition.

As with any research, though, a careful assessment of the literature will show you that the concept of stretching before competition isn’t that simple.  Saying that “stretching” causes something, either good or bad, is too simplistic without carefully describing the type of stretching and subjects that were in included in studies, and other similar variable.

 

Does Stretching Really Decrease Performance?

does stretching really decrease performance

Image by Istolethetv

Conflicting reports only further complicate the issue, with a recent review showing that 69% of studies on stretching have reported no significant reduction in strength, power, or speed.

Recent studies and meta-analyses have been conducted to look at the this concept more closely and determine, does stretching really decrease performance?  The results are certainly interesting, and it appears that there may be a time and a place for static stretching in our pre-event warm-up, especially considering the research that static stretching can help reduce muscle strain injuries.

 

Duration of Stretch is Important

One of the biggest factors behind reduced performance after stretching appears to be related to the duration of the stretch.  A recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise performed a meta-analysis of 106 published studies to specifically look at the impact of stretch duration on performance.

When carefully breaking down the results of studies based on the duration of stretch, it appears that stretching for less than 30 seconds does not correlated to decreased performance, while stretching for more than 60 seconds does decrease performance.

The authors report that only 14% of studies reported a significant decrease in performance when stretching for less than 30 seconds, and 61% when stretching for more than 1 minute.  You can see a large difference and what I would consider a relatively low risk when stretching is performed for shorter durations.  Still, when stretching over 1 minute, results do not indicate that stretching reduces performance 100% of the time.

 

Timing of Stretch is Important

Another potential factor in decreased performance is the timing between a session of static stretching and the start of athletic competition.  Many of the commonly published studies have looked at the immediate response to stretching, but how often do we stretch and then immediately run out onto the field and play?

Timing is an issue and this has led some authors to recommend a 5 minute period of time between stretching and the initiation of competition.  This makes sense to me and something that I recommend.

 

Integration of Static and Dynamic Stretching is Important

After the initial knee jerk reaction to some of the stretching studies, many people immediately shifted to dynamic stretching instead of static stretching before sports.  This led to the development of better dynamic warm up routines, which is certainly a good thing.  But recent research has shown that combining the two may also be beneficial.  In fact, the negative effects of static stretching were absent when combining both static and dynamic stretching.

It is hard to tell if the dynamic warmup was the factor that led to the change in findings in this study or simply just the 15-minute duration that occurred between the static stretching and testing protocol.

Regardless, I feel this is a great reason to include both static stretching and dynamic stretching, as this combination may be effective or at the very least it allows more time between static stretching and competition.

 

How and Why You May Want to Perform Static Stretching

In light of all the combined information above, it appears that there may be a proper way of incorporating static stretching into our routines if this is something you want to include.  In my mind there are two different reasons where I would want to perform static stretching.

The first is for someone who obviously has a restriction that would benefit from stretching.  Another major limitation to the stretching research is that it is predominantly performed with healthy individuals.  But what about someone who has a past injury or deficits?  In this situation we need to assess if addressing the restriction is more important than the potential risk of decreased performance.

I think static stretching is needed for these individuals and a part of a proper injury prevent program in this group.  That doesn’t mean a global generic stretching routine, but rather focus on what needs to be stretched.  However, I would still us the above principles in regard to duration, timing, and integration with a dynamic warm up.

The other scenario that I use static stretching before a competition is when an athlete just feels stiff or sore from past games, especially when in a sport that plays 162 games in 180 days, for example.  Add some bus trips, flights, bad hotels, and plenty of overuse to the mix and our athletes are going to feel pretty stiff.  Heck, I feel stiff and I’m not even playing.

In this scenario, I am not aggressively holding a static stretch for the intent of elongating tissue.  Rather, I am just trying to neuromodulate tone and the athlete’s perceived stiffness.  I often perform 3-5 reps of a stretch with holds between 3-5 seconds and essentially just pick up the tissue slack without torquing into end range motion.

I also don’t want running, throwing, or jumping during competition to be the first exposure the athlete’s body gets to the dynamic movement so just getting them lightly moving is helpful at times, I’ve discussed this briefly in the past.

I simple refer to this as a “fluff” stretch.  In all honestly, I can’t remember the last time I held a stretch for 30 seconds let alone great than a minute.  In my experience we stretch our athletes, many of which are already loose, too often and aggressively.  I almost always prefer to stretch less.

Perhaps the best approach is to combine the two scenarios by stretching only what is needed and fluffing the rest?

I’m not sure the best answer but it does appear that if you hold static stretches for less than 30 seconds, include a dynamic warm up, and assure that at there is some time between stretching and competition that stretching will not decrease performance.  (Click Here to Tweet This)

Regardless, I don’t think we need to fear and avoid static stretching before athletic competition is performed correctly and in the right scenario.

 

 

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