Strength, power, and hypertrophy. This is what most people train for. But what about all-around athleticism? Wouldn't the ultimate goal be to look like a top natural bodybuilder and move like an elite athlete?
Well, you can have it all. In fact, improving your "movement capacity" will make building muscle and getting stronger that much easier. Here's how to do it.
Look at any athlete: The ones who typically do the best in most sporting events are those who possess the best movement capacity. That means they can adapt to a rapidly changing environment with fluid transitions throughout all planes of motion.
Now, I work with mostly performance athletes. Walk into our facility and you'll see them putting up some pretty respectable weights. But if all we've done is help them increase their squat numbers then we've failed them. A real athlete must be able to take his newfound strength and power and express it in competition.
When you get down to it, the athlete has to know how to move. In fact, anyone who dedicates hours in the gym to self-improvement needs to know how to move. It's just foundational. And we all have trainable qualities that should be considered in our programming.
Now don't get me wrong, programs rooted in strength principles are the most effective for broadening your potential. Nothing will replace variations of squats, deads, presses, and pulls. However, boosting your movement preparedness is the best way of actualizing that potential.
Most exercises that focus on strength and power development follow very rigid paths of motion. They don't offer an appreciable amount of dynamic stabilization to which the athlete can adapt.
Even typical range of motion and mobility drills have limitations because the rate and velocity of movement is drastically different than what you'd find out in the real world. While familiar mobility is important (think dynamic range of motion, static range of motion, foam rolling, and activation drills), there are unique exercises that can significantly enhance your motor potential.
Building a strong combination of stability and mobility will produce optimal movement. Because of the "triphasic" nature of all dynamic muscle action, it's important to become proficient in handling the unique demands of each phase. Our solution is to sometimes isolate a certain phase to eventually become better at the process of blending.
This first drill requires the athlete to work on range of motion, proprioception, tonic and postural roles, along with basic muscle mechanics.
Since this drill is basically a series of unilateral isometric or quasi-isometric holds, it's best used to excite the nervous system, wake up dormant musculature, help correct posture, and get in some nice range of motion work as well.
An added benefit is that it helps with rate of force development so that you'll be able to reach peak levels of force faster in power exercises. Rehab clients recovering from lower-body injuries will find it useful as well.
Altitude drops are the most useful tool for developing stronger, more fluid, and more reactive athletes. They showcase your ability to rapidly stretch connective and elastic tissues, and they demand dynamic stability in a concerted manner.
Through eccentric muscle contraction and force absorption, we're laying the foundation for better-stored elastic energy and increased concentric strength potential. Force and power will increase during the overcoming portion of the action.
Tumbling was first introduced to me by my Olympic lifting coach over ten years ago. It offers tremendous benefits for athletes, weekend warriors, and even bodybuilders, including body control, ROM, agility, coordination, timing, leg power, and core activation.
And since tumbling is so versatile and easily paired with other movements and drills, the levels of difficulty are endless. The following combine tumbling with other drills:
After your regular warm-up, try this progression for starters:
- Rx Single Leg Progression, 15-30 seconds per position for 1-2 sets
- Pick one altitude drop exercise and perform for 10-15 reps
- Choose three tumbling drills and perform 3 sets of 5 reps of each
Remember to keep it simple, quality over quantity of reps, and make sure you feel amped and ready, not flat and fatigued. Performed correctly, these drills will enhance the subsequent work for that day.
Most people only concern themselves with the concentric portion of the movement – the lift – which is understandable because we typically judge the success of that movement solely on that portion.
But by spending some time mastering the other two phases, you'll maximize your concentric ability. Without increasing your force stabilization and absorption, it'll become quite difficult to reach your force redirection and projection potential. As your concentric action improves, your training goals (strength, power, or hypertrophy) will soon be reached.
Whether you're interested in breaking up the monotony of training or becoming more athletic, you should give these drills a try. Exposing yourself to different challenges will provide a more enriched training environment and ultimately impact your level of productivity, both in the gym and out.