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Old 04-13-2009, 10:58 AM   #52
El Puma
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Default Re: El Puma's strength conditioning thread

Every athlete wants to jump higher, run faster, and, in effect, become stronger. Who wouldn't?

Until recently much of that ability was considered God given. To some extent, it still is. But today's performance-enhancing equipment -- from jump trainers to weighted vests to heavy-duty rubber bands, and even medicine balls -- coupled with a structured and safe ballistic training program, is giving that higher authority a little help.

Extremely popular among high-level athletes for more than a decade, particularly in the professional and collegiate ranks, ballistic training has filtered into the mainstream, including many high school athletic programs, as an alternative for performance and strength development.
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Traditional ballistic training incorporates faster, lighter-weight versions of exercises such as squats and bench press and applies plyometric routines that involve jumping and working out with weighted objects. Ballistic resistance training involves explosive movements against resistance at the fastest velocity possible.

Over a short period of time these explosive movements, which accelerate the body to a high velocity and actual projection into free space, increase both strength and speed.

"Ballistic training creates a maximal rate of force development," says Jake Wehrell, director of marketing for Genetic Potential, makers of Vertimax, the market leader in jump trainers. "You would create more force development by just doing bench presses and squats. But it's the rate of the forced development, which is mostly neural, which makes the difference.

"When an athlete has an increased rate of force development, he will jump higher and start quicker. His vertical jump and first step quickness are markedly improved. And coaches will notice that their athletes are demonstrating playmaking moves and game winning intensity. It's all because the players are starting quicker, ad******g better, and staying with their opponent tighter."

According to David G. Behm of Memorial University in St. John's, New Foundland, the high rate of force development achieved with ballistic contractions should serve as a template for power training. The extent of muscle hypertrophy is dependent upon protein degradation and synthesis, which may be enhanced through high intensity, high volume eccentric and concentric contractions.

Notice: Our exercise physiologists don't use the terms "contraction" and "extension" of a muscle any more. They use what is now referred to as "concentric" and "eccentric" movements. For example, if you were to perform a bicep curl, you would use a concentric movement to lift the weight. An eccentric movement would bring the arm back down.

Jake Wehrell says that the distinguishing kinetic about Vertimax is that it applies a non-varying level of resistance throughout the complete concentric and eccentric movement, or, in laymen's terms, the entire jumping motion.

The Vertimax, already a staple at such powerhouses as Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, has 60 feet of cabling that is routed underneath the platform and coils around 16 bearinged pulleys. An exclusive hip tracker underneath the platform follows the athlete back and forth on the platform and helps maintain a true center of the earth gravity vector.

Best of all, you can set any resistance level on the machine. It could be the only such machine on the market that does so.

As the athlete rises, he increases the resistance exponentially throughout the concentric movement. A neuro fiber in the body called the proprioceptor locks onto and memorizes the overload that the musculature involved is trying to overcome.

"Previous platform trainers that used bungee cords did not work" says Wehrell. "They used 28-inch long surgical tubing attached to the top of the board. When an athlete dips down, the surgical tubing goes flat. That means there is no resistance at the bottom."

The X factor

Training to increase lower body strength and speed will always fall into one of three categories: Heavy Resistance, Light-Load/High-Speed, or Plyometric Training.

Exercise physiologists now unanimously agree the Light-Load/High-Speed training (now referred to as "Low-Load/Velocity-Specific" training) produces the most transferable benefits to sports-field performance.

This kind of training allows an athlete to carry out sports-specific movements at sports-specific speeds under a light load (approximating 15% of the athlete's bodyweight).

Two companies that offer a complete line of performance-enhancing equipment to meet those needs are Power Systems, Inc. and Perform Better. You name it, they have it.

Power Systems claims its Power Plyo Boxes, adjustable from 12 to 42 inches, is a terrific plyometric product that increases leg power, speed, and strength. For the upper body, the Power Med-balls (available from 2 to 18 pounds and light or heavy sets) are perfect for optimal dynamic workouts because they bounce off any hard surface.

The Uni-Vest (available in 20 and 40 pound models) utilizes flexible rubber weights that conform to the contour of the body. A wide array of speed trainers, running chutes, running sleds, and resistance harnesses complement the hard-core training program.
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