The Missing Components to Court Based Athletes (Volleyball & Basketball)
Ten times out of ten when speaking to youth athletes and their parents, the most common request is to increase their vertical and make them faster. Great goals since the expressed qualities are essential to being successful on the court.
Unfortunately, the majority of my high school athletes begin with me lacking three major components to athletic development.
1B. More Strength
2. Movement Variety
Most performance facilities lay out agility ladders, jump boxes, and hurdles with the promise of improving athletic performance. Even though it looks sexy, those tools alone do not provide the stimulus needed to properly develop the qualities needed to excel on the court. Each of the respective sports of volleyball and basketball contain speed based work within the game itself. Combine early specialization and the normal state of "training", this group of athletes have more than likely tapped out on their speed variable on the strength-speed continuum.
The Importance of Strength Development
When you seek training to improve vertical jump and speed, you're essentially asking to improve your overall power. Power is expressed by force x velocity. Stated simply, strength (force) multiplied by velocity (speed). A combination of strength and speed equates to a powerful athletes which is the holy grail of athleticism. In order to become truly explosive you want the two to meet at the top of an inverted U curve. As stated in the previous paragraph, most kids have tapped their speed threshold and the only way to improve athleticism is pushing up the strength (force) portion. To get an idea of this, I will list exercises that exist on this continuum.
Absolute Strength (What is lacking the most)
- Upper Body Pushing/Pull exercises
- Olympic Lifting and their variants
- Weighted Jump Squats
- Med Ball Throws & Tosses
- Box Jumps/Hurdle Hops/Ladders
- Broad Jumps
- Assisted Jumps
- The game itself
In first onset, I have had tremendous success with improving vertical jump and speed by getting my athletes stronger. It sounds, and is, very simple but so many miss the boat in this area. Foundational strength is the basis of athletic success all the while being the largest missing component from my observation.
Early specialization has placed kids into sports where they are performing repetitive motions day in and day out. Therefore as performance coach, it is imperative to add a variety of movement patterns to help athletes become more robust humans with the vision to prevent overuse injuries that occur in early sport specialization. Hammering away at a joint in the same direction daily will eventually wear down and cause dysfunction which is being noted to a large degree. Training is essential to offset these issues. Strength, mobility, training the joint through it's full range of motion, tissue quality and stability (especially of opposition muscles that do not get used),
When I suggest that young athlete should take a week off of hitting a volleyball, parents look at me as if I have committed the largest sin possible. Even if the kid is showing early signs of injury. Again, repetitive motions of the body wears the joint down and shortens the musculature that operates around the joint. I often times suggest that a kid takes time off of heavy, high volume practice to devote on developing their strength so that their body can have much more output. Many times, the kids just need planned downtime weekly with extended periods (1-3 weeks) where they aren't taking the ground and pound on a daily basis.
The three most common issues I see with a majority of young athletes coming are lack of strength, movement variety, and rest. Strength makes the individual more resilient, powerful, and more robust as an athlete which elevates their overall output on the court. Movement variety ensures that you are creating physical balance to the musculature that governs movement while aiding in the offset overuse injury. Rest is vital to health, period
In all, get stronger, move better, move often, and prioritize rest to be a high performing athlete/human.