Finding Your Weaknesses

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How would you change your training if you could stand on a device that measures your athletic weaknesses? You'd probably tailor your workouts to address the device's feedback.

Such a device does exist, and it's being used at SPARTA Performance Science in Menlo Park, Calif. Under the observation of Dr. Phil Wagner, SPARTA's director of applied research, athletes are tested on a Bertec® force plate to determine their deficiencies. "The force plate almost works like a bathroom scale," Wagner says. "[It] measures your force and how your body fluctuates as you do a dynamic movement."

When an athlete steps off the force plate after performing dynamic movements vertically, horizontally and laterally, the device provides SPARTA staff with a nervous-system blueprint of how the athlete moves, detailing where the athlete's weaknesses lie.

According to Wagner, two of the most common problems the force plate finds with young athletes pertain to force and time. "One of the problems is a lack of force in athletes, which means they need to be quicker and more explosive," he says. "The other [problem] is time, which means they need more stability."

Since you probably don't have access to a force plate, try the following exercises throughout the off-season. The Vertical Depth Jump helps with force, and the Standing Jump will improve time.

Vertical Depth Jump
• Set up two 12-inch boxes one yard apart in a straight line
• Facing second box, step onto first box
• Assume athletic stance with feet shoulder-width apart
• Step off box
• Land and immediately jump onto second box
• Step off box and return to start position
• Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x6
Coaching Points: Make sure your feet are dorsi-flexed before each landing // Use your arms to help you maximize your jump // Keep your chest up and your core tight during your jumps // Try to land on the box as tall as possible
Benefit: Improves quickness and tendon elasticity. Teaches the athlete how to put force into the ground effectively and to use that to become more explosive.

Standing Jump
• With 12-inch box in front, assume athletic stance with feet shoulder-width apart
• Jump onto box
• Step off box and return to start position
• Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x6
Coaching Points: Use your arms and bend your legs to help you maximize your jump // Keep your chest up and your core tight during your jumps // Try to land on the box as tall as possible
Benefit: Improves stability; good for athletes who play an explosive sport but don't spend a lot of time on the ground; helps develop solid stability, which athlets don't always get while playing their sport.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | STANCE