Click below for exercise images and descriptions of the Olympic lifts
By Chad Zimmerman
Florida track and field and Clemson men’s soccer—two storied programs that experienced stellar seasons in 2005. Florida competed in the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships, finishing second overall. Clemson made it to the Final Four of the 2005 College Cup and finished the season tied as the nation’s third best team. Both teams dominate competition. Both rely on phenomenal speed to do so.
The strength coaches of both teams promote game-changing speed with a two-pronged attack: weight work to develop explosiveness, power and core strength; and time on the track to improve stride length and frequency. Mark Campbell, strength coach for Florida track, provides the weight room work. Next month, David Abernethy, strength coach for Clemson soccer, offers drills to improve your stride.
Greater leg and hip strength makes each push off the ground more powerful, and a stronger core helps you maintain proper running position for efficiency. Together, they make you a faster runner.
Campbell works the abs and low back through various core drills, prescribes Olympic lifts to strengthen the hips, and implements complex training, such as squats superset with box jumps, to develop explosiveness.
“When you sprint at top speed, your body must stay erect,” Campbell says. “Some athletes don’t have the proper core strength to do this, so they start bending at the waist, which costs speed and power. Keep your abs as strong as your back so you can stay upright and maintain a center of gravity that helps you run at top speed.”
To develop core strength, Campbell suggests shocking your abs for the first few training weeks by performing 100 to 200 crunches at a time. After the “shock therapy,” he prescribes core routines that call for 300 total reps of different exercises. “I use a lot of different twists, especially for the throwers and field event people who twist a lot during their events,” he says. “Core work in general helps your posture and stabilization, which are necessary for all track athletes.”
• Stand with med ball in both hands and arms extended
• Step forward with right leg into lunge
• Keep right knee above right ankle
• Drop left knee until one to two inches off ground
• Twist upper body and swing med ball 90 degrees to right
• Twist back to center position
• Step back to start position
• Repeat 10 times for each leg
• Sit on bench with med ball in both hands and arms extended in front
• Keep feet flat on floor
• Rotate right as far as possible
• Rotate left as far as possible
• Repeat 15 times to each side
• Lie on floor with back flat
• Bend at hips and move legs up to pike position
• Keep legs straight
• Raise torso off ground with lower abs and touch hands to toes
• Lie on floor with back flat, knees bent, feet flat on floor near butt
• Place hands behind head
• Lift torso off floor by flexing abs
• Lower back to starting position
• Lie on floor with back flat, legs straight, toes pointed
• Place hands on floor next to hips
• Lift both legs off ground and alternate kicking legs up and down six to 12 inches
• Keep legs straight and low back in contact with floor
• Sit on floor with feet in air
• Hold med ball near torso with both hands
• Rotate right and touch med ball to floor next to hip
• Rotate left and touch med ball to floor next to hip
• Repeat 15 times to each side
Campbell uses the power clean, hang clean and hang snatch to strengthen his athletes’ hips for explosiveness. “My athletes never perform more than six reps with Olympic lifts, no matter what,” he says. “They’re very technical lifts, so risk of injury increases when fatigue sets in. You also need to stay focused during these lifts to avoid injury.”
Campbell favors Olympic lifts because they involve the entire body. “These lifts teach you to be explosive, get out of the blocks with your legs, hips and upper body, and apply your force to the ground. They work everything and really prepare your body and nervous system to adapt to the stresses of competition,” he says.
To incorporate these lifts into a workout plan, start by performing 2 to 4 sets of 6 reps with 50 percent of your max. In Weeks Three and Four, perform 4 reps lifting 60 to 70 percent of your max. In Weeks Five and Six, perform only 2 to 3 reps, but with 70 to 80 percent of your max.
According to Campbell, athletes have to train fast to move fast. However, performing certain essential lifts quickly, such as squats, is not safe. To resolve the conflict, Campbell prescribes complex training—i.e., supersetting fast movements between sets of slower lifts. “After an athlete performs a slow movement like a squat, we have him do explosive movements like box jumps to get his muscles firing rapidly again,” he says.
Campbell explains why box jumps are a great explosive movement: “They force your legs and hips to explode off the ground—just like coming out of the blocks—because they incorporate the triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips. And since squatting is a high risk lift, you don’t want to add another high risk movement like a snatch between sets. Box jumps add contrast without risk.”
Campbell suggests adding 5 box jumps between sets of light-weight squats. When the weight is heavier, perform 3 box jumps.
• Start in athletic stance
• Jump on top of box or other secure/elevated platform
• Land softly and balanced
• Step down from elevation to starting position
Coaching Point: “Don’t jump as high as you can with box jumps. Use a medium-height box. That is challenging enough. Focus on being explosive off the ground.”
• Begin in athletic stance with toes pointed out slightly
• Place bar on back at mid-trap level
• Focus on eye-level point on wall
• Squat down with control and good posture until thighs are parallel to ground
• Keep weight back on heels
• Don’t let knees shift past toes
• Drive upward out of squat into starting position, keeping chest out