Does Your Athlete Need to Get Stronger?

strength training training Apr 09, 2024

In our Athlete Evaluation and Data Interpretation Masterclass one of the biggest questions we aim to answer is “where do we start?” with our athlete(s). This starting point can be as specific as which exercise to program, likewise the answer can be zoomed out to the binary answer of yes or no.

Does the athlete need to improve their vertical jump?

Does the athlete need to improve their broad jump?

Does the athlete need to get stronger?

General thought would have us thinking that “you can always get stronger”. Which, in my opinion, is worded poorly. I think a better answer is that once an athlete gets strong enough, they can manipulate strength into more advantageous categories.

"Once an athlete gets strong enough, they can manipulate strength into more advantageous categories."

Categories like speed-strength, absolute strength, submaximal long-lasting efforts, and such. The use of these categories are sometimes referred to as ‘special strength’ by some and are heavily dependent on the athlete’s sport needs and of course, training time of year.

After that heady introduction, I think the point has been made. Does your athlete need to get stronger?

How strong do you need to be to express speed?

I think we can be a little more specific in our answer. Rather than say ‘you can always get stronger…we should dissect further what is required to effectively express speed.

If you’ve taken any of our Masterclasses, you know Parisi is big on identifying the non-negotiables.

The non-negotiables to express speed:

  • Single leg stance
  • Hip lock
  • Effective application of force

Before you start naming off all the things you think I left off the list, I would ask you to look at the 3 points above and think about where those ‘missing’ concepts may fall.

High amounts of relative body strength is important for speed. I would say that relative strength ratios fall under an effective single leg stance.

Triple extension is an important joint action, which helps co-contraction at the hip, driving a hip lock position.

Rate of force production is critical, but only if you can apply it. Energy leaks and mechanical inefficiencies is what we teach, Coach!

"Rate of force production is critical, but only if you can apply it."

The non-negotiables are big buckets that have many subcategories or bullet points that fall within them. Which can be a good thing, lots to work on. They are also a bad thing, lots to work on.

But back to the question at hand…

Does your athlete need to get stronger?

If your athlete can’t demonstrate a single leg stance with strong quads to drive knee extension, a torso that has the strength to fight rotational forces, and lats that help keep the athlete’s rib cage stacked over their pelvis while their arms aggressively create arm action, then yes, your athlete needs to get stronger.

If your athlete can’t achieve full triple extension, in a vertical or horizontal plane of motion, yes, they need to get stronger. There is a strong chance that they lack the relative strength for their body size and length to propel them into flight long enough to achieve this critical athletic position.

If your athlete doesn’t know what hip lock is, they won’t be able to achieve this position. I’m not so sure that the weight room is the best way to teach hip lock either. One of our big mantras at Parisi is ‘locomotion problems need locomotion solutions’. This non-negotiable is a great example of how the weight room doesn’t cure all speed ailments.

However, the weight room can go a long way in addressing single leg stance and application of force.

How do you know if your athletes are strong enough?

Second shameless plug for our Athlete Evaluation and Data Interpretation Masterclass. We talk a lot about easy standards and what testing metrics are below average/ average/ good/ excellent.

I like to keep it easy. I want to be able to interpret results on the fly, as quickly as needed, to have coaching dialogue with athletes, teams, or sport coaches.

There are three metrics I use to know if an athlete is strong enough to express speed:

  • Their standing vertical jump must be their age.
  • Their 1-hop broad jump must be their height.
  • Their split time from 10 to 20 yards must be their fastest interval. To know this interval, you must be able to test an athlete at least 20 yards, but 30 yards is most ideal.

Vertical Jump

Remember, in Parisi Nation we work with athletes from age 7-17. If you work with anyone up to age 20, I’d say this metric works well.

The reason it works is because an effective display of vertical power is a bilateral stance with proper force application. Those are two raw materials you can extrapolate to a single leg stance and the same vector of force. If the athlete can’t jump their age, there could be a technique flaw that once corrected improves their ability to express strength and speed or maybe they do indeed need to get stronger relative to their size and frame. Either way, you’ll know!

Broad Jump

Similar to the vertical, the reason the broad jump works is due to its specificity of horizontal propulsion, but specifically, it’s a dumbed-down version of the vertical. There is significantly less skill required to do a broad jump. The forward trajectory is a more natural push of the athlete’s center of gravity, and there isn’t a reaching/swiping/striking action of hitting a vert-tec. Even if the athlete can’t stick the landing (which is a mechanical deceleration problem, not on our list of non-negotiables) you could eyeball where their heels landed and get an accurate enough measurement for assessment purposes.

If the athlete scores less than their age on the vertical jump, but jumps their height on the broad jump, they may lack the technique and skill for the vertical jump test, but still may be strong enough to express speed.

That’s why you need something speed-specific as part of the assessment as well…

10-Yard Split

Note, this is not a flying 10. The 10-yard split requires you to compare splits. Less ideal would be comparing the time from 0 to 10 yards. Most ideal would be to compare the time from 20-30 yards.

Simply put, if the athlete’s 0-10 yard time is faster than 10-20 yards, something is wrong, very wrong. I can’t tell you what is wrong without seeing it, but an athlete should be accelerating through 3 to 5 steps, and be near maximum speed running from 10-20 yards…not the other way around!

Most ideal would be to compare the time from 10-20 yards with the 20-30 yard split time. They should be within 5% of each other, if not near identical. However, if the 10-20 yard split is faster, that means the athlete is probably losing maximum velocity principles as the sprint carries on, that is a technique issue that can be addressed regardless of strength demands.

If the athlete’s 10-20 yard split time is fast, and they check off boxes on the two jump tests, they have adequate strength. Can they get stronger? Sure. But the purpose of these assessments is to determine if lack of strength is a limiting factor, to which it is not.

So, does your athlete need to get stronger?

The better question is, “do strength levels limit your athlete?”

If the answer is no, then proceed with training as usual. If the athlete needs strength to unlock the non-negotiables, better express speed qualities, and score better on our quick and dirty assessment?

Then get them in the weight room!

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