Monday, July 22, 2013

Jumping and Weightlifting: Part 2

In Part 1, I laid out why jumping and weightlifting are very much related due to nearly identical mechanics in both the explosion and the landing phases. Because of the biomechanical similarities, I will be discussing the importance of using the Olympic lifts when training jumping athletes in Part 2.

When it comes to athlete's who jump, sprint, accelerate and decelerate, it's a Sports Performance/S&C coach's responsibility to increase rate of force development for their athletes.  There is no better movement in a coach's tool box in terms of developing rate of force development than these lifts.  The second pull of a clean, for example, produces a total average power output of 6,981W.  Conversely, the deadlift, a more absolute strength exercise, only produces a total power output of 1,274W. (1)  If you aren't incorporating these potent movements into your program, you're doing your athletes a huge disservice.

One of the best ways to test power is through a vertical jump test.  Studies suggest that the snatch and C&J are "beneficial in improving power," so in order to improve vertical jump test results and in turn power development, train by performing a "vertical jump with extra load" (i.e. a snatch or clean & jerk)! (2)

Since jumping involves all aspects of the lower extremities in a sequenced event, then movements that "stress the body in a similar fashion, such as the power clean and snatch, hang clean, or plyometrics, should be chosen."(4)  This particular study also suggests that "care should be taken to emphasize the second pull, as this is the portion that most closely replicates the jumping motion." (4)  This point here stresses what was discussed in Part 1 - proper mechanics.  Mechanics are king, and it's something that is a big miss with most coaches who deal with athletes.  Take the time to learn it properly.

If you are using or teaching improper mechanics in the pull of the snatch or clean, (i.e. not readjusting the knees back under the bar in the second pull, bringing your shoulders back too soon, using your back and arms as opposed to your legs, staying back and driving through your heels, etc.), the benefits of force production that these lifts provide are not being maximized.  Again, one of the biggest priorities of training athletes is to maximize their rate of force production and efficiency.

It's also recommended to incorporate the lifts for athletes who need to improve jumping skills because they help with "neural learning of optimal motor unit recruitment patterns for the activity, which is needed for rapid increases in propulsion force magnitudes...rather than simply increases in muscular strength."(3)  Strength only matters so much when you are an athlete.  What truly matters is the ability of an athlete to express strength fast and powerfully.  A 227kg/500lb back squat doesn't mean crap if you can only clean 100kg/220lb.  That's an athlete who either has no ability to generate power, or has no idea what they're doing...or both.

Jumping is a skill in and of itself that is often overlooked because there are many athletes, even at the highest levels of their individual sport, who do not have excellent coordination when it comes to transferring energy from the legs through the body and into the arms.  You have to be coordinated in order to efficiently perform the lifts, and utilizing them as much as you can in training will expedite the development of coordination and kinesthetic awareness in athletes.

It is also the Sports Performance/S&C coach's responsibility to make athletes more durable and minimize the chances of injury.  Most sports injuries don't happen because of acceleration, they happen because of deceleration, or rather poor deceleration.  This is where the impact phases of jumping and weightlifting comes into play.

The impact of a jump, especially when done on one leg or off balanced in a game such as basketball or volleyball, can be very stressful to the muscular system (4), and if not trained to absorb the impact properly, injuries can happen.

A study reported that the knee extensors (quads) were the greatest contributor to lower extremity work in the impact phase of a jump, and in order "to absorb energy in landing activities, strength of the knee extensors is critical." (6) The Olympic lifts, especially the clean, are second to none in developing the strength and flexibility of the lower body in order to absorb the shock of the impact phases of landing, and therefore, should be incorporated in an athlete's program.  Additionally, the study reported that "knee flexion angle was not different between the power clean and jump landing."(6).  This is a big reason why it is crucial to teach athletes a solid catch position, i.e. proper MECHANICS.

In conclusion, the Olympic lifts are king when it comes to developing rate of force development.  Couple that with the nearly identical mechanics of a vertical jump, and you have a potent training tool when integrated into the program of jumping athletes.  The Olympic lifts can also improve an athlete's durability due to the ability to absorb large impact forces.

Ultimately, if proper mechanics aren't taught or used, an athlete won't gain the full benefit these lifts can provide.  It's the responsibility of the coach to gain the knowledge and skill of not only being able to teach the lifts correctly, but first and foremost, being able to do the lifts properly and efficiently themselves.

Now go learn, implement, and coach!

No comments:

Post a Comment