LONG-TERM TRAINING GOALS
The goal of this article is to provide some long term goals for athletes to pursue in their training for athletic enhancement. With all the various types of training, set/rep schemes, periodization models, exercise techniques, so on and so forth, there are a thousand different options for training. All those choices can be overwhelming. So to simplify the situation, I want to establish some high standards in the various areas of training. As long as you are moving toward these standards, your training is successful. So it does not matter if all the "experts" say that low-rep lifting is better for vertical jump training. If your max squat is increasing with sets of 25, then sets of 25 are great. And it doesn't matter if people say you have to do three workouts a week. If one workout is making you better, then by all means keep doing it.
Now we know that flexibility, strength, explosiveness, and springiness are the abilities that must be trained for increased athleticism. But without some standards in those particular areas, athletes are left in the dark as far as what actually constitutes a high level of ability. I've had someone tell me he was strong because he could leg press 400 pounds. Another guy thought he was explosive, because he "felt really fast" when he moved around the basketball court. And another said, "I consider myself to be flexible." In light of this, I am providing some high standards to shoot for in the different areas of sports training.
All athletes should be able to pass both tests in the video below.
In addition to these, any weak areas in flexibility should be addressed and fixed. For example, it is possible to pass these tests and still have tight groin muscles. Basically, you want to have all around flexibility. Some sports may demand even higher levels of flexibility, but these tests apply to pretty much everyone.
I have a few standards for strength, the first being the most important.
1. Max squat 2 times body weight.
Simply put, you cannot reach your athletic potential without being very strong. That does not mean that the stronger athlete is always the better athlete. It means any athlete who is not very strong still has potential for significant athletic enhancement through increased strength. This particular standard is one that will seem impossible to some (typically taller) athletes, but be very achievable for others (typically shorter athletes). Achieving a double body weight squat does not mean an athlete should no longer try to get stronger. Many athletes will continue to see athletic improvement from increased strength far beyond that mark. It is simply a high enough level of strength to facilitate elite athletic ability.
2. Max deadlift more than max squat.
Looking at the positions of the two exercises, the bottom of a squat is just a weaker position due to the greater knee,hip, and ankle flexion. The deadlift relies purely on posterior chain strength and does not test the strength of knee or ankle extension at all. It really does not make sense for anyone to squat more than deadlift. This can only occur if an athlete is weak in the hips and is performing a quad/knee-dominant squat. Any properly performed squat is hip dominant, so if you squat more than you deadlift, take it as a sign that you need to develop strength in your posterior chain and fix your squat technique.
3. Set of 10 free-standing body weight 1-leg squats.
This is a standard that may seem ridiculous to some accomplished lifters, but it is important to possess unilateral strength in order to have unilateral power and speed on the court or field. Most sports movements involve pushing into the ground with one leg at a time, so it makes no sense to neglect 1-leg strength.
Hang power snatch 60% of max squat.
In the hang power version of the snatch, the bar is pulled from above the knees and the thighs are above parallel when the weight is caught overhead. Completing this movement requires a high bar acceleration and velocity. Achieving this with a higher percentage of the maximum weight one can lift indicates a better ability to generate muscle tension quickly. Hitting 60% is an indication of an elite level of explosiveness.
This is a difficult quality to measure, because it is not evident by itself. As I have written over and over, the level of proficiency in athletic movements is determined by a combination of abilities, not just springiness. Well any movement that is potentially useful for evaluating springiness is going to be an athletic movement, so finding an indication of springiness alone is quite difficult. One recommended test involves depth jumps from various heights. It makes sense in theory, but in my experience the test simply doesn't work. I believe a more reliable indicator of springiness is the difference between a standing and running vertical jump. A greater difference indicates a higher level of springiness. This test is useful in the sense that if the figure increases it does indicate an athletic improvement. However, because all the components of athleticism factor in, that improvement may be the result of a number of different things. Also it's entirely possible that an athlete will make training improvements, run faster, jump higher, but not see any change in this number. Thus, I wouldn't put too much stock in this test.
If I had to set a lofty goal, I'd go with a 9-inch (22.86 cm) difference for 2-foot jumpers and a 15-inch (35.56 cm) difference for 1-foot jumpers. But I will not cling tightly to those numbers or even attempt to defend them.
This phrase basically refers to all facets of training other than strength. Athletic ability is basically comprised of two things: (1) strength and (2) the ability to use that strength for athletic movements. The latter is a combination of flexibility, explosiveness, springiness, and movement skill.
After playing around with the numbers from various athletes that I've trained and whose abilities I am very familiar with, I have devised an equation. The equation takes your height, weight, and strength (max squat), and gives you a lofty goal for the potential vertical jump with an approach you could achieve at that level of strength. The closer your actual vertical is to the potential vertical from the equation, the better you are at utilizing your strength in the vertical jump. If your vertical is near or above the potential vertical, then you will most likely have to increase your strength to improve your jumping ability.
Here's the equation:
height x (0.21 x max squat / bodyweight)^(1/2) = potential vertical
I just want to make clear that the potential vertical from the equation is intended to be very difficult to reach, even impossible for some because it requires a level of genetic blessing. So don't be offended if you're not close to it. In fact, I'd be happy to be further from it, because it would indicate that I could increase my vertical without having to lift heavier weight.
A disclaimer about all these standards. They are dependent on a decent level of skill in the movements in question. For example, if you've never squatted and you're terrible at it, your max squat is not going to be a good indicator of how strong you are. In that case, the standards for explosiveness and strength utilization will be thrown off, because they relate other numbers to your max squat. Or if you are too inflexible to do a 1-leg squat, you have no chance of meeting the unilateral strength standard even if you are proficient in that area. So generally speaking, if you're a beginner don't take your results in these tests too seriously.
Of the tests listed above, the first indicators I like to look at are the max squat and the maximum potential vertical equation. One measures strength, ability at the slow end of the spectrum of human movements. The other measures the utilization of strength for athletic movements, which are at the fast end of the spectrum. As stated before, those two abilities are really what determine athleticism. If an athlete has not met the strength standards, there is no mystery to what needs to be done. Strength needs to be improved. If an athlete is not close to his or her maximum potential vertical, then the specific components of strength utilization must be examined. In the long run, if you are progressing toward one of the goals, you are on the track to athletic success.