Training Trends with Under Armour

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Responding to the fact that athletes work as hard in the off-season as they play in season,various footwear companies are creating training-specific shoes. Here's a look at how one company has tailored their line of shoes to the various types of training athletes do. 

Your basketball kicks might get it done on the hardwood, but they won't help when you're going for a one-rep max in the weight room. Your cleats may be fine for the diamond or gridiron, but they won't equip you to train for a sick 40 or Pro Agility. Training is the key to making a fool of any opponent. And to train well and correctly, so you can get to where your dreams want to take you—whether that's a full ride to your favorite college or eventually to the pros—you need to take training seriously, right down to the soles you strap on your feet.

According to Mike Cutting, Under Armour's footwear brand manager, sport-specific shoes won't do a whole lot to improve your game when you're working off the field. "Those types of shoes aren't built to give stability and support for the activities you're doing while training," he says.

With that mind, Under Armour has designed, and is launching this month, a series of revolutionary training shoes—the UA Proto Power Trainer, UA Proto Speed Trainer and UA Proto Evade Trainer. Each is designed for specific movements that athletes train. "The Under Armour performance training shoes are based on three primary movements-lateral, straight-ahead and vertical," Cutting says. "Each shoe is made specifically for those."

While specific movements are assigned to each shoe, all three were created on a 70-20-10 scale. That way, whatever shoe you select will have the support necessary to train other elements of your game. Cutting explains, "[Through Directional Cushioning Engineering], we put cushion and support where you need it most." 

For an inside scoop on how the shoes look, feel and perform, we spoke with three hardcore athletes: Matt Wieters, 2007 MLB first-round draft pick; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl left tackle; and 2008 NFL Draftee Tommy Zbikowski. Wieters spoke on the Power shoe, Thomas on the Evade and Zbikowski on the Speed; each athlete provided a drill perfect for his respective shoe.


Power Trainer
Catcher Med Ball Toss With Partner on Power Plate

Who uses it: Matt Wieters, catcher and fifth overall selection for the Baltimore Orioles
Who coaches it: Jay Shiner, Orioles' strength and conditioning coach
Shiner says: The purpose is to help you prepare for your work for the day, and [it can also be used] to cool you down at the end of the day.

• Set intensity, frequency and time on power plate
• On it, assume catcher's position, facing away from timer
• Toss light med ball back and forth with partner for specified time

Sets / Reps: 1 / 30-60 seconds
Shiners secrets: Use a light med ball // Have partner stand four to five feet away // Catch the med ball with both hands, and return it to your partner quickly // Have partner throw ball to different locations in the specified time
Adaptation: If you don't have a power plate, perform on the ground or a foam pad
Wieters on the shoe: "The Power shoe is very supportive. You don't feel maybe like an ankle will be rolled over or anything like that when you have these on. [They're] just more stable."

Catcher's Stance With Resistance
Benefit: Improves the lower body strength that helps a catcher get in and out of his stance quickly, so he can gun down would-be base-stealers.

• Wearing weighted vest, assume catcher's stance
• Explode up to standing position
• Pause; return to start position
• Perform for specified sets and reps

Adaptation: Explode out of stance, popping feet into throwing position
Sets / Reps / Rest: 3 / 12 / 60 seconds
Coaching points: Use a vest heavy enough to make the movement a challenge, but not a struggle // Maintain a flat back and neutral head position throughout // Avoid swaying or leaning side to side // Avoid letting your heels touch the ground as you explode up

Evade Trainer
Bag Drills


Who uses them: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns All-Pro left tackle
Thomas says: "These excite your nervous system, which [improves] your ability to respond quickly. Whenever you exercise at maximal speed and quickness, you're increasing your muscles ability to react quickly."
Setup: Align five bags in a straight line, each three yards apart. Perform each movement down and back the length of the bags

• Moving laterally, step over bags with quick, choppy steps. Make sure you contact the ground with both feet between each bag
• Facing forward down the line of bags, weave through the bags taking quick, choppy steps
• Facing forward down the line of bags, step over the bags with quick, choppy steps. Make sure to contact the ground with both feet between each bag
• Weave laterally, shuffling through the bags without letting feet come together

Sets / Reps / Rest: Perform for 10 minutes with a 30- to 60-second rest between movements
Thomas's tips: Keep weight on inside of feet // Maintain a good base and knee bend // Keep your head and chest up // Avoid too much of a forward lean
Thomas on the shoe: "They're probably the lightest performance trainers out there; but they're also durable, and they have real good support for your ankles, so you're not rolling your ankle."

Speed Trainer
Russian Lunge Switches

Who uses it: Tommy Zbikowski, All-American safety from University of Notre Dame
Who coaches it: Kevin Kasper, Zbikowski's trainer and six-year NFL veteran who currently plays for the Cleveland Browns
Kasper says: "This is one of our primary exercises to recruit muscle B-twitch fibers, [which are necessary] for explosiveness and cutting to the ball."

• Step forward into lunge position with left leg
• Hold for a few seconds
• On partner's cue, jump and switch position of front and back legs
• Repeat for specified reps

Sets / Reps / Rest: 3 / 10 / 30-60 seconds
Kaspers cues: Keep your body upright // Switch legs as fast and quickly as possible // Keep arms bent 90 degrees // Stay on balls of feet
Zbikowski on the shoe: "[When you're] on the balls of your feet, you feel a good amount of cushion. Overall lightness of the shoe is what helped me out when [I'm] trying to switch; it gives you a pretty good base."

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock