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  • Writer's pictureBaldMarauder

Keep Developing: Simple Development Ideas During Isolation – Part 1

Our new reality may force athletes of any age to work from semi-isolation, which will require equal parts education and intrinsic motivation. As players, parents, and coaches; there are key items to focus on during this downtime that will ensure that each athlete comes out the other side in the best position to be successful. The information below is sports agnostic and will be of benefit to anyone that engages in ‘confrontational’ events (football, basketball, soccer, boxing, etc.). We are all in this together; I hope this information is helpful to you and the athletes in your life.

Top 3 Athletic Areas of Opportunity:

1) Core Transfer

2) Explosiveness

3) Change of Direction

These three ideas are intertwined within our movement system. This progression will allow us to stack one trait on top of another in our development chain.

Power Transfer is the Key to Efficient Movement -

The ability to transfer power from the ground (solid base) to/through your body is made most efficient through a strong, stable core.

Basics – in ground-based sports, power is transferred from the point of stability (ground), through a system (our bodies), and realized at the point of output (punch, throw, kick, sprint stride, etc.). There are a number of efficiency leaks available to the human body, mainly muscle imbalances and imperfect movement patterns. These leaks may be small, but can add up to minimize your output and maximize physical stress. When you watch a world class sprinter - they are a picture of efficient movement: erect posture, arms and legs inline with direction of movement and in sync with one another. Alternatively, we have all seen the heavy sweaters in the group training classes. These individuals may be in a lesser state of health as the rest of the group, but they are also less movement efficient. That lack of efficiency accumulates during a training session as extra energy spend. We are not able to conjure up the maximum amount of energy required at any given time if we are constantly losing it to efficiency leaks.

The area of our bodies we generalize as our core is most responsible for transferring lower body energy to be realized in the upper body. In the athletic world we like to think in terms of stability and mobility. In the human body we can visualize this by looking at our legs (ankle is highly mobile, knee stability is paramount, hip mobility is championed). As parts of the whole, our lower limbs are mobile, core is stable, and upper limbs are mobile. The more stability you have in your core, the better you can exploit the power and mobility in the other areas of your body.

Sit-ups and crunches, side bends, twists – everything has its place. But if we are trying to stabilize our core, then we need to consider anti-rotation, anti-flexion, and anti-extension exercises that promote energy transfer between our feet (ground), and our upper body.

How to Improve - I am a huge proponent of mimicking ground-based transfer in our core exercises by spending a significant time training core from an athletic position. While planks have merit and I use them as well; feet-in-the-ground core exercises are more effective for dynamic, confrontational sports. We want to think of our core as a tree trunk; it does not actively fight against flexion, extension, or rotation. Instead, it presents as an solid structure, unyielding to external forces.

At Home Stability Training

If you have a weight set, kettlebells, and bands - great. If not, we can find ways to make due using water jugs, belts, and rocks or scrap wood. BE CREATIVE!

Movement Emphasizing Anti-Flexion/Extension: pick one every day

1) Suitcase Carry: weight should be taxing, but light enough to allow you to walk with a normal gait. For this we can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, gallon jug filled with sand, etc. Four sets of 20-25yds up and back, switching hands at the turn. I also like to use this as a metabolic exercise, going for ten minutes straight and changing hands as necessary.

2) Goblet Walk: Easiest thing to do is hold a KB by the horns, but can also use dumbbells or a gallon jug. This exercise challenges us to hold a tight position without rolling forward or hyperextending to reduce the load. Depending on the weight used, you can extend your arms away from your body to manipulate the lever arm and increase difficulty. Four sets of 20-25yds up and back.

3) Squatting Landmine Hip to Hip: Landmine lifts can be substituted with plates, dumbbells, or hanging bands. From base position, barbell resting under chin, squat into bottom position, maintaining tight posture at knees, hips, and lower back. Press end of barbell overhead so that arms are straight. Athlete is rotating barbell from hip to hip, emphasizing the change of direction at each hip. Cues are tight core, posture, and change of direction. Three sets of 8/side.

4) Kneeling Woodchops – you can use any weight in place of the band, but the resistance will increase as you travel down to your hip. Key to this exercise is that we maintain a 'tree trunk' core while moving hands from hip to hip. Start tall, finish tall - hands are the only thing moving. Three sets x 8-12 each direction.


4) Med Ball High to Low Slams: Excellent exercise to demonstrate core stability while transferring power. In this case, a stable core allows the arms to maximize force downward. Starting with a medium weight medball overhead while standing in an athletic position; athlete slams ball down with force while maintaining core tightness. The ball will be released to floor, athlete will finish in a position much like landing from a jump. We will fully reset after each rep. Three sets of 8 reps.

Anti-Rotation Work: Choose one per day

1) Anti-Rotation Hold/Press: This can be done using resistance bands, or done as an isometric exercise against a solid surface (wall, pole, pillar). From an upright athletic position, grab band (if available) with outside hand and clasp with inside hand. Walk away from post until resistance is high but possible. Screw feet into ground, tighten posterior chain (backside) and core. Extend band to arm’s length so that you have a square angle from arm to band to post. Hold for twenty seconds and rotate, or retract to stomach on a one count, hold for one, and extend for one. 3 sets of 8 presses OR 20 second holds each direction.

2) Bear Crawls: I know this isn’t upright, but I think this is an incredible movement to emphasize power transfer between cross limbs! For these bear crawls, your hips and shoulder are aligned, back flat like you are trying to balance a glass of water during the movement. Opposite hand, opposite foot moves at the same time and distance. Forward and backward three sets of 10yds up and back. Sideways bear crawls are either same foot, same-hand movement, or cross-over with opposite hand, opposite foot. Again we do three sets of 10yds up and back.

Core Board Training

1) Figure Eights – if you have a core board, this is a great exercise that will visualize the power transfer between upper core stability and lower body mobility. Start with a weight that can be moved smoothly through pattern. From base position, weight held in front of body with arms at ninety degrees – rotate weight in a ‘figure 8’ vertical pattern for eight reps, then repeat the opposite direction. When performed correctly, the rotational motion of the weight will transfer into the athlete’s feet and force the core board to rotate. Three sets of eight reps each direction.

2) Med Ball Extended Holds: This partner exercise can also be performed with no weight, or a light dumbbell, kettlebell, or similar object. Athletic position med ball extended straight out in front of athlete. Partner applies vertical or horizontal pressure on the ball in each direction. Goal is for the athlete to apply the ‘core is a tree trunk’ mentality and not allow the ball to move from the starting position. This is a great exercise to progress to eyes closed with. Three sets of 8-12 seconds.

3) Stick Fighting – (partner drill) from base position standing on core board, athlete holds a wooden dowel or broomstick handle with outstretch arms on the horizontal plane (hands at shoulder width). Partner grabs dowel outside of athlete’s hands, and will perform a series of twists, attempting to move the edges of the dowel towards the athlete. Athlete is to keep the dowel still using his core, forcing the core board to rotate away from the direction of implied force. Three sets of 10-12 seconds.

If athletes tackle one exercise from each of these lists every other day, they will be in a much better position to transfer power into the ground and realize that power across their entire body. Next time we will get into the second area of opportunity: detailed footwork.

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Michael Wahle

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