Jul 5, 2018
Building a Strong Base

Before athletes can take their training to the next level, they have to first build a base level of strength. Once this is established, they can start progressing to heavier weights and more demanding movements, which will help them build the power and athleticism they need to succeed. CJ McFarland, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Onnit in Austin, Texas, and contributor to EliteFTS.com, explains how to make this happen for any athlete in any sport.

“Any athlete, regardless of the sport, needs a base level of neurological and physiological adaptation through an external stimulus,” writes McFarland. “This can be initiated as an adolescent and progressed through the entirety of their athletic career.”

The first step towards building a base level of strength is for athletes to perform relative strength movements, such as push-ups and pull-ups. Though simple, these exercises are effective at improving strength and preparing athletes for other push/pull movements. Since they are bodyweight exercises, they also offer a safe way to work on technique without introducing any other equipment.

Following this type of training, McFarland suggests introducing the squat, deadlift, and other push/pull movements. These will build on the base level of strength that has been developed and will help introduce athletes to different equipment used and movements done in the weightroom. McFarland notes that many of these movements can be broken down or modified in order to address specific sport-related goals.

While keeping the demands of your sport in mind, it’s important that you train your athletes to build power in multiple planes of movement. McFarland explains why triple extension plays a major role in training athleticism.

“Triple extension is performed by creating extension through the ankle (plantar flexion), knee, and hip joints,” he writes. “Doing this allows for maximum power output. This power can be generated and propel you either vertically, laterally, forward, or backward, and should be programmed to allow for training in each of these planes.”

There are a multitude of exercises to choose from in order to perform triple extension, and these can be chosen based on the sport and the individual athlete. McFarland is wary of allowing athletes who are inexperienced in the weightroom to perform Olympic lifts, as these can cause much more harm than good if done incorrectly. He therefore recommends doing variations of Olympic lifts and other powerful movements because they are much less likely to be harmful.

Some of the exercises McFarland suggests incorporating are the Backwards Overhead Medicine Ball Throw, Vertical Medicine Ball Throw, Band-Assisted Vertical Jump, and Kneeling Jump with Vertical Medicine Ball Throw. All of these variations are safe and ideal for athletes new to the weightroom, as they require little to no skill to be performed at maximal output. Overall, when choosing what exercises to add to your program, McFarland says to follow the acronym KISS (Keep It Safe and Simple).

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