At Sparta, the Sparta Signature is at the heart of everything that we do. This evaluation is done through a process of 6 separate vertical jumps performed on a force plate. This process is called the scan. Many mistake the scan for a simple test of just power or reactivity because the vertical jump is one of the most common measures of explosive strength. Yet, the scan and the Signature are much bigger than just a measure of explosiveness. It is an objective way to evaluate each athlete's neuromuscular system in order to prioritize their needs, whether in training or return to play.
Once we have this information, we embark on the challenging task of prescribing movements to improve movement efficiency and performance. Every different environment creates their own Sparta Signature bias. This is often a result of whether it is the type of athletes in the program, the coach's , or training program. As we have worked to refine our own prescriptions, one thing that we have learned is that our athletes tended to move very efficiently, yet tended to lack explosiveness. As a result, we had to come up with more effective prescriptions.
EXPLODE, one of the three Sparta Signature variables is all about an athlete's ability to "brace" their body position and transfer force efficiently. As we have developed prescriptions for EXPLODE, one concept that has become evident is that each athlete's motor program for bracing can be specific to the task. For example, we use the deadlift as one of our primary prescriptions for athletes who need EXPLODE because of the tremendous bracing effect and postural strength that is required for this lift. We progress this movement based on an athletes training level from a 3 inch block down to the ground. The concept of "bracing specificity" can be seen in athletes who would normally be able to brace from the ground, but struggle to produce the same effect from the elevated setup.
As a result, we include EXPLODE prescriptions that incorporate varying planes and ranges of motion. The goal is to develop an athletes motor programs and ability to transfer force through various ranges of motion. Eventually we want this unconscious incompetence (inability to brace the trunk) to become conscious competence (better awareness and postural strength). Training in multiple planes allows this to happen sooner as there are varying stimuli with the same goal. So, we use a variety of prescriptions focused on quick tempos and transferring force in the saggital plane (Deadlift), frontal plane (Side Step), and transverse plane (Woodchop).
The ability to brace in the frontal plane (lateral movements) is key for improving athlete's quickness and ability to transfer force. The Side Step is a reactive strength exercise that we use to train this quick, lateral, explosive ability.
Training for explosiveness is about developing the bracing motor programs to allow for the efficient transfer of force. This quality needs to be addressed in multiple planes and ranges of motion, and lateral movements are especially useful in this way. Don't get stuck in the rut of using the same saggital plane movements and the same ranges of motion all the time. Work on finding new ways to challenge your ability to brace and transfer force. Better yet, figure out your personal bias as a coach or the bias of your program and start working through the process of making necessary changes?
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