Athlete Case Study
Oh hey there! It’s been a little while since I’ve written a new article. I’ve been focusing my attention to writing on my BMX training website, but I thought I would share some of the results that I just had with a recent client in the gym.
- 17 year old girl
- Volleyball athlete looking to increase vertical jump.
- No injuries
- Overall good mobility but lacked core stability in resisting extension and rotational forces (in English… arched back and swayed hips)
The first day I took this girl through a Functional Movement Screen. It’s basically a series of movements (squats, lunges, step ups, shoulder mobility, hip mobility, modified push up, bird dog) that are designed to test the quality of mobility and stability. Overall she did pretty well. Good news was there was no pain with any movements. Bad news was she wasn’t very good with core stability. But that’s not a big shocker since many women are don’t have the strongest cores for some reason…
I also wanted to get some performance baseline numbers so I had something to evaluate if the training is working. We performed 3 tests – the countermovement jump with her hands on the hips, the squat jump, and a drop jump.
Based on the outcomes of her initial tests I knew that she needed to learn how to get “stiff” quicker. This is something that’s overlooked in a lot of training, but reactive stiffness is something that separates good athletes from mediocre athletes. Traditional training philosophy is to just get them stronger and magic will happen. While that can work for some, a better philosophy would be to teach them to get strong in a fraction of a second.
The next month training was all about teaching stiffness. We did some jumping but I suspect far less than what she is used to while in the volleyball season. We typically warmed up, did some core work, agility and then did a few jumps to test her vertical jump for the day. I would then track them in this nifty chart below. Take a look at some of the results we saw in just over a month
In 8 training sessions, we saw a 3.22″ increase in vertical jump (without the use of arm swing btw)!
The chart above is really impressive as well. For this test we had her step off a smallish box, hit the ground quickly and then jump as high as possible. The RSI number is calculated by measuring the height of the jump and dividing it by contact time. The goal is to jump as high as possible as quickly as possible. I’m no volleyball expert but that sounds like something that a good volleyball player should do well.
Below is a perfect example of what these numbers mean in real life. Check out this quick video.
Top Secret Spark Volleyball Training
I just screamed at her and slapped her if she wasn’t moving quick enough!
JUST KIDDING! We did a volleyball boot camp workout like this…
Kidding again. Unfortunately, this is much of the pointless stuff that goes on in high school and college athletic programs. It’s a waste of time at best and potentially dangerous to these young athletes. Volleyball is an explosive game where players react, cut, jump, dive and then rest, reset, and do it again.
Well respected teacher and track/football coach at Plainfield North High School Tony Holler wrote a fantastic article and used a fantastic quote that has stuck with me and guides my athletes training…
Racehorses are not workhorses. This will offend most coaches but it’s a fact. Horses that plow a field all day can’t win a race. Too many coaches take thoroughbreds and force them to plow fields. If you want a fast team (and who doesn’t?), treat all your horses like race horses. Train them for speed, not work.
The vast majority of an athletes training should be an attempt to make them good at some aspect of their sport. Sometimes as a coach we need to stop and ask ourselves – is this training making them better or is it making them tired.