A Key Exercise for a More Powerful First Step

There many exercises performance coaches use to exploit power in training sessions, including medicine ball throws, Olympic lifts and the spectrum of Plyometrics. A well thought-out curriculum of training should have all of the aforementioned skills implemented over the course of an athlete’s career. One exercise that has been in my arsenal for years is the “double-leg box blast”. It’s a simple, but complex exercise at the same time; with many unique training factors associated.

Like all of our exercises, you first have to determine if the athlete is physically qualified to perform the exercise. That answer is entirely up to you, but my recommendation is to err on the side of being conservative. Strength / Stability / Coordination are all underpinning qualities that are needed to elicit the speed /power response for this exercise.

What you will need to perform this exercise:

  1. Plyometric box ranging from 4″-12″ (height of box will be discussed later).
  2. The athlete who is mature enough to take sound coaching advice.
  3. A coach who is capable of communicating the intent and set up and execution

Add Power 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the photo above, you will see I have my athlete with one foot on a 12″ box and the other foot on the ground.

Add Power 1 90

If we turned this picture sideways, it would look like a sprinter loading up into the block. The only difference is, we are going vertically and they would be moving more horizontally (must account for vertical gain even though objective horizontal).

The box height will be determined by two factors, the height of the athlete, and the relative strength of the athlete.

Set up:

Usually, my set up is roughly 100-110 degrees at the knee, and 70-75 degrees at the hip (relative to 90 degrees of hip flexion of the leg on the box), where 75% of weight is on the lead leg. The knee should have 180 degrees of extension, with 25% of the weight on the down leg. The torso is erect and vertical, and the arms, bilaterally, are in the pre-loaded position of 65-75 degrees of humeral flexion. The stronger the athlete, the higher the box, and the corresponding joint angle will be closer to >90 degrees.

Execution:

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1. The athlete rapidly initiates a countermovement to further exploit the storage of elastic energy.

2. Once the athlete loads eccentrically (I call this the “fuse to the dynamite”), it is now time to utilize the storage of elastic potential to produce the overcoming effect. From here, the athlete has been taught to initiate the push off both legs for greater synchronization and expression of power. It will be helpful for them to understand that the lead leg will drive through a longer ROM, not unlike blocked starts on the track.

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3. While finishing the push, the athlete must extend the ankle, knee and hip while finishing with arm drive vertical. They’ll also need to simultaneously maintain trunk integrity to most effectively drive the legs. This will also help better control the landing phase.

 

 

 

 

 

Add Power 4 4. Landing preparation is a skill in itself. Teach the athlete to avoid a maximum effort on the jump so they can have more control and consistency of the landing position. The intent is to have both legs land simultaneously and bend into the same joint angles as they did for the counter movement action. Huge emphasis needs to be placed on deceleration and trunk integrity to avoid losing alignment and adding too much joint stress.

 

 

Sets and reps are at the coaches discretion, but I personally never prescribe more than 2-3 sets at 3-5 reps with rest intervals of 2-3 minutes. Make sure that implementation is post warm-up or speed session to avoid compromising the CNS ability and avoiding fatigue states, as injury potential is heightened.

When it all comes together, it should look like this video: Add Power

Over time, you’ll find that adding the box blast into your arsenal of exercises will challenge your athletes’ coordination, and will allow them to express more power as synchronization and timing lead to greater efficiency!

 

2 Responses to “A Key Exercise for a More Powerful First Step”

  1. Shaun Gleason January 24, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Hey stranger. I can believe you just posted this. I was talking with my oldest daughter about finding a great exercise to help create a quicker and more explosive first step. After her being out last year for a fractured back. (PARS). She has her explosive first step she used to have. This just may be the ticket. Thanks and again I’m really proud of all your accomplishments. You come long way from OMNI athletic club. Good times. Shaun

  2. Gene February 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Great job! Thanks for the posting.

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