Do Young Athletes Need “Power/Speed” Training?
A little bit of drama this morning!
I received a question from a reader (below) which was a little time sensitive, and being the cool guy that I am, I wrote back a response immediately.
About ten minutes later I received a “FAILURE” notice in my inbox that the email that I sent couldn’t be delivered. DOH. Stupid internet!!!!
Anyways, rather than come across like a major a-hole and make this guy think I was “big leaguing” him and couldn’t be bothered to respond , I decided to make this into a short blog post today.
So, Bob Carlton, I hope you’re reading this!
Q: Tony, Real quick, could you list the top 5 exercises for producing power in athletes? I have a presentation for parents and players of our baseball team and I want expert support to help with my conclusions.
Real quick? REAL QUICK???? This is a topic that entire books have been written about, and you’re putting all this pressure on me to come through with one simple email? Okay, deep breaths. I can do this. People like you, Tony. You’re good enough, strong enough, and………
I think before we get into the actual exercises, we need to address the big, fat, purple elephant standing in the room. Which is: the assumption that dedicated power/speed drills are what most athletes need in order to, well, get faster and produce more power.
My business partner, Eric Cressey, wrote a fantastic blog post last year titled “Make My Kid Faster“ so I won’t belabor many of the same points here because he already did most of the work. And, speaking truthfully, there really isn’t much more I can add to what he already said.
But to give an analogy that I’ve used before (and I believe I stole from Mike Boyle), whenever you have parents asking what you (as the coach) will do to make their kid “faster,” they’ll almost inevitably be referring to dedicated plyometric drills and/or those cute speed ladder exercises that you see a lot of other speed schools or the like using.
For me, when working with a young athlete, that’s almost (though not all the time, just like 99% of the time) a complete and utter waste of time. It’s akin to taking a Ford Focus – no offense to anyone reading who owns one – giving it all the sweet specs that make look all nice and purdy (spoilers, an epic paint job, chrome tires, a sound system that registers a 5.0 on the Richter scale) and expecting it to win a NASCAR race.
I’m sorry, but the cast of Jersey Shore is more likely at winning a Nobel Prize in Macroeconomics than that car is at winning a race. Unless you actually increase the horsepower of the engine, you can paint the car all you want, it’s just an illusion, and it won’t perform up to par.
On that note, force production is all about how much of it one is able to generate into the ground. Sure, there are a multitude of exercises we can implement that will help (more on this in a bit) and will undoubtedly get the ball rolling in the right direction, but if an athlete is weak from the start (has no horsepower), there’s really no reason to get cute programming.
Get your kids stronger and that will automatically help them get faster (and more explosive)!!!!
What good is it going to do to tell little Jonny to work on his foot speed if, once he’s out on the playing field, he can’t even change direction without crumbling to the ground like a Jenga game gone awry? How is a ladder drill going to help someone throw a ball harder?
Now, I’m not throwing all these types of drills under the bus – there is a time and place for them, of course. But, when we’re talking about young athletes and even upwards on up to the high school and collegiate ranks (and yes, even the pros), learning how to squat or how to perform a push-up properly takes more precedence in my eyes than running against a parachute.
So, to answer your question, I feel all the key players come into play here – nothing fancy or out of the ordinary:
Side Note: And yes, I’ll throw the Olympic lifts in here as well, but given how technique heavy they, the amount of time it takes to actually coach them properly, and the joint distractions that come into play (especially in the shoulder) they’re probably not my first choice when working with baseball players.
All the same exercises that we’d focus on when trying to get athletes stronger, to move better, and to (hopefully) prevent injury are the ones I’d highlight to the parents. It’s not a matter of making them a better baseball player per se, rather, it’s about making them a better athlete all around.
Moreover, these types of exercises (and the above is by no means an exhaustive list) are the ones that will help generate more power because the athlete is not only getting stronger, but more stable as well.
Digging a little deeper, however, when it comes to power development, what many people tend to gloss over is the fact that it’s plane specific.
Which is to say, working on a pitcher’s vertical jump won’t necessarily equate to a Nolan Ryan’esqe fastball.
Specificity does play an important (if not mandatory) role here. Instead, we like to incorporate a lot of heidens into the mix with our baseball guys.
And lastly, we also utilize a TON of med ball work at the facility which bodes well because 1) most everyone can do them safely, and 2) they’re very similar to the hitting and pitching motions we see in the sport.
Whew! I know that was brief, but hopefully it sheds some light on my train of thought. It’s certainly not an all-encompassing stream of thought, but in my defense you did ask for quick! More importantly, hopefully it falls in line with what you were going to relay to the parents you are going to speak to.
If not, oopsies, my bad……;o)