While most of the training world is preoccupied with their aesthetics and how they “appear” to be strong, there are a select few that dare to put function over form. Needless to say if you choose to do your talking on the field (or court) then it is inevitable that your training consist of developing some of the special strengths necessary for developing POWER (and more importantly FORCE). The following article is a small guide into training your lower extremities for ultimate function. But please do not mistake function for so called “functional training.” We will not be learning how to do a back flip off a Swiss ball, landing on a bosu ball in a single leg squat position. After all it would be very uncool if we had 1000lb legs and a ten cent squat!
First, force is defined as mass times by acceleration. Where mass is roughly the weight you are using and acceleration (also related is deceleration) is in reference to increasing the speed at which we progress through the exercise. In order to become more forceful we can:
1) Become stronger by increasing the loads we move (absolute strength), and
2) Increase the speeds at which we move the loads (sub maximally and maximally).
A real life example would be if two athletes (given same height and weight) can squat 500lbs with the difference being that player A completes his lift in 1.5 seconds while it takes player B 3.5 seconds. In this case player A is more forceful because his lift is completed with the same mass but in 2 seconds less time due to poor acceleration. Player A also holds the potential to move sub maximal loads at a faster rate and possibly has left many pounds on the table given he did not have to strain for long. So a true test of player A’s absolute strength may not have been validated.
What also needs examination is the comparison between each players ability to absorb force. This is also known as DECELERATION. This is important to note because if one does not possess the proper abilities to store energy then the delivery or release of energy will be hindered to a related degree.
In laymens terms we must train 3 main aspects of force in order to develop explosiveness. This does not necessarily mean that we demonstrate explosiveness all of the time, but our intentions are to execute special strength training with maximal efforts. A rough plan would include:
1. Increasing absolute strength through executing maximal attempts with 85%+ loads.
2. Maximally accelerating every sub-maximal load and releasing the load if the weight is between 30-50%.
3. Maximally decelerating loads through the use of lowering overloads very slowly, abruptly stopping sub maximal loads at given points, and landing from depths concentrating on stopping quickly.
With these aspects in mind one can develop a proper explosive leg training protocol. The protocol options are limitless and only bound by the limits of your imagination. The exact programming will vary from person to person depending on their specific goals, but if you use the basics as a cornerstone and expand upon their use from there then you will have legs that not only look good, but perform as good as they look.