Athletic Development in a Nutshell

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Athletic Development in a Nutshell

Almost every kid growing up in America playing sports wanted to be a professional at that sport. Whether it’s idolizing Michael Jordan’s ability to soar through the air, or seeing Barry Sanders juke a defender into an injury, or even wanting to hit a golf ball as far as Tiger Woods. These skills are so elite they seem superhuman, but they are achievable if you become strong and mobile enough with your given frame.

This article is meant to describe the basic approach that one should take to improve a particular ability through training. This could be jumping higher, hitting a golf ball further, throwing a ball faster, lifting more, etc. How could one article cover all of these different activities you ask?  Because they all follow the same basic three steps:

  • Practice the specific activity

If there is one thing we have learned from both improving driving distance and the vertical jump, it’s that you MUST MASTER THE TECHNIQUE.  Tasks that rely more on speed than strength (golf, throwing a baseball) definitely fall into this category even more so. But the point is that the easiest way to get better at something is by actually doing that thing over and over again until it becomes second nature and you don’t have to even think about it.

  • Improve your range of motion in the related muscles/joints

Most people hate to stretch since it is quite tedious, but mobility and ease of movement is extremely important to not only move efficiently, but also to prevent from getting injured.  Having flexibility beyond what is needed will improve your leverage in that movement, the efficiency and smoothness in which you perform it,  and your endurance and power doing it, with no additional effort.  For those who claim flexibility hurts performance, well they probably haven’t actually tried it.  I credit most of my success and health to stretching, and both men and women should work on relieving the tightness in their bodies.

  • Get Stronger

At some point, you just need to put a bigger engine in the car for it to drive faster.  The reason why we made this point last is that too many people use weightlifting to the extent that it becomes more of a focus than the activity itself (this is especially true in football).  If you have all this power from squatting and deadlifting a mountain, but then go to perform a movement requiring a larger range of motion and speed, you can actually CAUSE an injury to yourself because of the force you produce.  Strength is great, but strength through length is even better when it comes to performance and preventing injury.  We found great success following basic strength movements, but suffered countless bouts of lower back pain and shin splints due to the fact we were tighter than a piano string.

And that’s it. Follow these guidelines, and make sure to master the actual ability you are trying to improve and ensure you can move easily and pain free before looking to add power to the movement.