Regardless of the sport, there are many things that make a big difference in an athlete's performance...strength and speed being the two most common. However, sometimes we get so caught up in the latter, that we miss the former. And the former is way more important because it's the base of the athlete.
Dan John (a well known strength coach) says your strength is a glass, so let's say speed is the liquid. The smaller the glass the less liquid you could potentially put in it. So for people that want to get faster, you MUST get stronger.
Consider these past couple of paragraphs as a disclaimer. This list that I've made is by no means objective. That being said, I wanted to look at the big "rocks" of training if you will. For athletic performance it's hard to find someone that will say Olympic lifts, jumps, throws and sprints are not important for athletic performance. Because, well, they are. But in the grand scheme of things, I find that these are just the liquid, and what we want is to make the glass bigger.
7.) Decelerate - Let's start this with a bang. Every athlete knows how to accelerate. All it is, is get faster. Deceleration though is more important. For starters, if an athlete can't land or stop then they're just going to get hurt. I hearken back to the Mighty Ducks when Mendoza can't stop. Every time he is on the ice he's crashing into the walls, goalies, nets, etc.
The truth is, being able to stop goes even further than not getting hurt. The faster we can come to a complete stop the faster we can change direction. Along with that, our body will only go as hard as it trusts its brakes. We're not going to jump as high or run as fast as possible if, subconsciously, we don't think we can handle it.
In order to get faster we must learn how to stop. And this is why strength is so important.
6.) Squat - I can't emphasize the importance of squatting enough. It's deceleration 101. If you're going to land or stop properly you're going to essentially be performing a squat. Not to mention squatting can go a long way in improving many athlete's vertical jumps.
The issue with the squat is that many trainers load an athlete up before they actually teach them to hinge, to use their glutes, and to brace their core. They assume the athlete will figure it out, which they usually do, for the most part. But often, more times then not the athlete ends up needing back surgery.
The squat, when done right is remarkable for building the quads, mobilizing the hips, and teaching an athlete how to load under a weight. But an athlete needs to learn to do so properly.
This seems like a good place to stop. In part two I'll talk more about the hinge and the hips and how to strengthen them properly for improved performance. But for now I want you to really think about Deceleration and Squatting, because the proper way to do both are two very overlooked things in many young athlete's programs.
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