I recently had a conversation with one of our software partners about the changes he was seeing in his athletes from reassessing after his first training block. Even though his program was not necessarily prescribed to address weaknesses as seen by the Sparta Signature™, it seemed as though every athlete got exactly what he needed. If an athlete started with low Drive then his Drive increased, whereas an athlete with low Explode subsequently saw increases in Explode. How can this be if everyone was getting the same exercises prescribed?
The truth is, the qualities of LOAD, EXPLODE, and DRIVE are everywhere; they don’t occur in isolation. In any movement whether it be a squat, sprint, swinging a bat, or a quick change of direction, the athlete must create force, transfer the force, and express the force they created. The same deficiencies and strengths that you will see in an athlete’s Sparta Signature, you will find in the way they sprint, cut, jump, and throw. Let’s take an athlete with low EXPLODE (average relative concentric rate of force) trying to change direction with a quick cut. She will have a tendency to relax upon impact with the ground and take a long time to redirect the force, just as she did while performing the vertical jumps in her assessment. To the observer, she looks slow getting out of her cuts. The intent of increasing her Explode isn’t simply to “increase her Explode,” but to increase her ability to transfer force and get out of her cuts faster!
“How you do anything is how you do everything”
– T. Harv Eker
This particular coach, and his entire coaching staff pride themselves on being “Technique guys.” They are hands on and meticulous about movement quality in every throw, sprint, row, squat etc. The coaches saw the inefficiency in every movement and cued consistently to correct the weak part of the chain. If an athlete has a tendency to leak force (what we would see as a low Explode), they tend to do so in every athletic movement. A big reason the Sparta Signature makes so much sense to coaches, is that it reaffirms what they have been able to see with their own experienced coach’s eye.
It’s very easy to get caught up in exercise selection. Most strength coaches have an emotional connection with different exercises and variations. Some might cringe at the thought of a Kettle bell Squat, but Power Clean gives them a warm snugly feeling. We can be guilty of it here at Sparta too with our “Big 3”; Squat, Deadlift, and Split Squat targeting Load, Explode, and Drive, respectively.
At Sparta, we have been drawn to those 3 major movements because the stats have shown us time and time again that they work for improving these different variables. Exercises can inherently expose or emphasize different qualities of movement for a variety of reasons. For example, LOAD is eccentric rate of force development. It makes sense that the Squat (with Olympic form) is the most effective way to improve the Load variable because the Squat emphasizes eccentric strength. Exercise selection should be need based.
We encourage programming targeted exercises based off the Sparta Signature because it provides a systematic, repeatable solution. The entire staff as well as the athlete knows exactly what they need and the exercises and cues are always targeting that specific need. Relying on coaching technique only, is dependent on the whole staff being aligned on their cues, as well as what they see subjectively. There is always room for interpretation because after all, it is an eye test.
Take a holistic approach to understanding movement. You will see an athlete’s deficiencies and strengths in everything that they do.
Coaching matters. Movement quality matters. Whatever you do, do it well.
Have an emotional connection to improving athletes, not prescribing exercises. Don’t let your coaching philosophy define you.