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Creating Quick Strength.
Focus on Pillar 2 of Performance Training


by: Jeff Higuera CSCS, CPT, HFI

Pillar 2 focuses on the development of quick strength. This equation equals "power." How many times have you said to yourself or heard from others, "If only I could jump a little higher," or "If only he was a little quicker, he'd be an all-star." What we are talking about is the body's ability to generate power. The actual equation for power is force x velocity. Force being the force generated by muscle contractions and velocity being the speed at which you do it with. Creating quick strength can be done specifically with learning to produce as much force as you can in the shortest amount of time. Developing strength by performing squats and leg press will help you develop one side of the equation…strength. The equation for developing power looks like this:

FORCE x Velocity = Strong Legs

where FORCE is (Increased Leg Strength)
and Velocity is (The same as it's always been)

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What we are going to do is add what is called explosive resisted training. Explosive resisted training is similar to traditional "Olympic Lifting." Olympic lifting has been used over the past century benefiting athletes by:

  1. Increasing the quickness of developing force in a short amount of time
  2. Increasing the amount of time peak force is applied
  3. Increases the ability to overcome body weight inertia
  4. Increases the quickness of reaction in the neuromuscular system
  5. Increases power using body movements and positions that are similar to sports.

Common Olympic lifts are the clean and jerk, snatch, and hang clean. These lifts have been adopted in sports performance as critical lifts for developing athletic power. These lifts are more common in power sports such as football, but because of the effectiveness of the ability to create total body athletic power, they are now being taught and used in all sports. I often say, if I only could have an athlete perform 1-2 lifts per day I would have them do explosive resisted training. So, instead of just leg press and squats, perform a single arm dumbbell floor snatch and a dumbbell hang clean. The new equation implements the velocity factor to the equation and will look like this:

FORCE (Loading the Snatch and Hang Clean with weight) x Velocity (Moving the weight as quickly and powerfully as possible through the complete range of motion) = QUICK AND POWERFUL MOVEMENTS

Many people see these giant Olympic lifters performing these exercises on TV and think that young athletes cannot perform them. Contrary to this belief, you can start developing the "quickness of the nervous system" very early in a child's life. You do not even have to put weights in their hand. You just have them create a movement from a stationary position as quickly and powerfully as possible. The goal is to increase the speed of the neuromuscular system during an explosive athletic movement. How do I know if you are ready for explosive resisted training? Explosive resisted training can come in many forms. Body weight jump squats are a form of explosive resisted training that I use for many of the young (8-12 years old) athletes I train. If taught and performed properly, you can begin performing explosive resisted training at the same time you are introduced to weight training. I tend to use dumbbells instead of barbells as the main tool in performing these exercises. Dumbbells are more functional, easier to learn on, and give you more variance with your exercises. With dumbbells you can use single arms, rotate arms, stagger stances, perform on a single leg, and add rotation. While with barbells you primarily have to use a parallel stance and perform only in one plane. Here are 3 reasons you should include a correct explosive resisted training program into your training.

  1. Explosive Resisted Training makes you jump higher: By creating more force in a quicker amount of time you teaching the neuromuscular system to respond quicker when called upon. Most natural jumpers and athletes who are naturally quick have a genetic ability to create force quickly. But even if not genetically inclined for this you can teach your body to become more powerful. And for those inclined to jumping higher and moving quicker, this is just like pouring gasoline on a fire, you will even have more power in your game.
  2. Explosive Resisted Training helps you start, jump, accelerate, and change directions quicker: Some people can jump higher then others yet still seem to be slower. Why?? Because though they may be able to jump high it takes them forever to get there. I frequently use a rebounding example. Some people who are shorter may be able to rebound more effectively because when they decide to go after the rebound they get their quicker than anyone. Some people can jump high, but the scary ones are the ones who can jump high and get their quicker than anyone. Take for example Vince Carter or Steve Francis. It seems as though they are off the ground and smashing the ball through the rim in a matter of milliseconds. Or players like Ben Wallace or rebounding great Dennis Rodman, who playing in a game dominated by seven footers seemed to out rebound everyone because he get to the ball quicker.
  3. Explosive Resisted Training gives you an advantage: An athlete who can increase their quickness and jumping ability will increase their success in many aspects of the game. And even if your fundamental basketball skills aren't as good as the next guy, your coach will have to find a place somewhere for you to use your power. Most people do not use or understand the importance of developing athletic power. Think about how many athletes you know and how many use it. Now think about if you developed your athletic power the advantage you would have over your opponents. And remember like I said before, you can start developing your athletic power at a very early age.

Exercises for Establishing Quick Strength
These exercises will help you begin establishing quick strength. Add these exercises to your training regimen 1-2 times per week.

  1. Dumbbell Jump Squat: To increase leg power and quickness of the neuromuscular system from athletic position
    Execution: Begin with dumbbell hanging to the side and in an athletic position. Make sure that your stomach is drawn in, shoulders are back, and feet are shoulder width apart. Quickly drop the hips, maintaining good posture, and reverse the movement exploding from the hips, knees, and ankles vertically. Jump as high as you can.
  2. Single Arm Dumbbell Hang Clean: To increase full body power and quickness of the neuromuscular system.
    Execution: Begin in an athletic position with one dumbbell hanging at the side of the hip. Make sure that your stomach is drawn in, shoulders are back, and feet are shoulder width apart. Quickly drop the hips and explode through the hips, knees, and ankles vertically, simultaneously explosively curling the dumbbell. Land in the original athletic position with the dumbbell resting on the shoulder.
  3. Single Arm Dumbbell Floor Snatch: To increase full body power and quickness of the neuromuscular system from a deep squatting position.
    Execution: Begin in a deep squatting position with one dumbbell directly in between your legs in alignment with the balls of your feet. Make sure that your stomach is drawn in, your back is flat, and your feet are shoulder width apart. Quickly explode through the hips, knees, and ankles, simultaneously moving the dumbbell from the floor to over the head with the arm locked out and stabilized. Keep the dumbbell close to the body as you move it from the floor to above the head.
  4. Single Arm Dumbbell Hang Snatch: To increase full body power, quickness of the neuromuscular system as well as shoulder stability and strength.
    Execution: Begin in an athletic position with one dumbbell hanging at the midline of the body right in front of the groin area. Make sure that your stomach is drawn in, shoulders are back, and feet are shoulder width apart. Quickly explode through the hips, knees, and ankles, simultaneously moving the dumbbell from the floor to over the head with the arm locked out and stabilized. Keep the dumbbell close to the body as you move it from the floor to above the head.
  5. Dumbbell Push Press: To increase full body power, quickness of the neuromuscular system as well as shoulder stability and strength.
    Execution: Begin in an athletic position with one dumbbells resting on the shoulders. Quickly drop the hips and explode through the hips, knees, and ankles vertically, simultaneously moving the dumbbell from the starting point to directly over the head. When the exercise is complete the arm should be locked out and stabilized over the head.
  6. Single Arm Dumbbell Explosive Upright Row: To increase full body power, quickness as well as shoulder stability and strength.
    Execution: Begin in an athletic position with one dumbbell hanging at the midline of the body right in front of the groin area. Quickly drop the hips and explode through the hips, knees, and ankles vertically simultaneously moving the dumbbell in an upright row movement (dumbbell to chin, elbow out and moving towards the ceiling). Keep the dumbbell close to the body during the execution.

Keys to Explosive Resisted Training Exercises
When performing these exercises remember these key points

  1. The goal is to create power. You should think about getting the dumbbell from point A to point B as quickly as possible
  2. Keep dumbbells close to the body as they move. If you do not you will have a much harder time moving resistance due the increase in length of the lever arm.
  3. Explode with the hips. The majority of the power of these exercises will be done by having a stabilized core, and your ability to generate force through the big muscles in your hips (glutes/quads/hamstrings).
  4. Have someone show you how to do theses exercises. Do not just read this article and go start performing these exercises. These exercises can be dangerous to the athlete if not done properly. Have a strength and conditioning specialist show you how to appropriately perform these.
  5. If you are a young athlete, you can perform these with no weight. I recommend squat jumps, split squat jumps, and other exercises that require no external resistance to be placed upon you.
Conclusion
This article has given you the basics of what it takes to start developing explosive power to improve your performance as a basketball player. Remember that these exercises are NOT an exercise prescription and that you should consult with a physician before attempting any exercise program. Every athlete is different and every athlete must take his own individual approach when developing his athletic ability.

Jeff Higuera is the Sports Performance Team Leader for RDV Sportsplex in Orlando, FL. RDV Sportsplex opened in February 1998 and is a 365,000 square feet, $60 million state-of-the-art fitness, wellness, sports and recreation facility owned by RDV Sports and Florida Hospital. It features a full-service athletic club, tennis center, sports performance center; two ice rink center, pro shops, café, salon & spa and numerous medical offices. In addition, it houses the corporate offices and training facilities for the NBA's Orlando Magic. RDV Sportsplex is open to member and non-members.

You can contact Jeff via email at the following address: jhiguera@rdvsportsplex.com or by phone at 407.916.2518

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