When an athlete plants their feet into the ground when jumping, sprinting or cutting, the muscles go into a lengthened contraction (a good analogy is to imagine pulling back on an elastic band).When the athlete then goes to “push off,” the muscles quickly go into a shortened contraction (now imagine letting go of the elastic band, it shortens quickly). This is called the stretch-shortening cycle. This is exactly what your muscles do when you play sports; they lengthen and shorten when you are moving. Many athletes have a high rate of stretch shortening which is characterized by being very fast and explosive and many athletes have a slower rate of stretch shortening which is characterized by being slower and not as explosive.
In today’s society, sports require higher levels of speed and strength for athletes to be able to compete and not get left behind. If an athlete doesn’t have adequate levels of strength and speed and are playing sports year round, it’s very difficult to execute sport skills over and over again with proficiency, athleticism and at a reduced risk of injury.
The stretch shortening cycle is one of the most important ingredients in an athlete’s training program to develop to improve explosive power (muscle elasticity). We all have a certain degree of genetic elasticity in our muscle tissue but with proper training, improving elasticity directly coincides with more explosive speed and power on the playing field. Just playing and practicing sports doesn’t develop the necessary levels of explosive power (elasticity) and in fact can reduce power output because if you play too much, you begin applying force slow when running, cutting and jumping due to fatigue and muscle breakdown.
By doing proper hopping, jumping and throwing exercises with an emphasis on being quick and forceful off the ground, athletes will become more explosive and be able to execute their sport skills more efficiently.
We routinely see athletes doing this type of training wrong by performing exercises that are too advanced. Examples are doing hopping and jumping exercises on boxes that are too high, pushing a heavy sled across the field or doing advanced exercises on one leg which cause athletes to apply force slow which leads to the wrong outcome and less muscle elasticity. It’s important that athletes perform exercises that are developmentally appropriate for their age, body type and strength level so they improve muscle elasticity versus feeding their ego through improper training .
Since 2004, Premier has helped over 20,000 athletes improve their speed and strength for enhanced sports performance. Sign up for your free trial session today at www.premierfitnessoh.com.