by Nick Hickey
I have been involved with sports since a young age, and through most of my training years, as I added muscle and strength, I have wanted to maintain my athleticism. But, I have also gone through phases of wanting to get "big at all costs" and abandoned my inner athlete. After one of these phases, the next time I tried to sprint or play a sport, I definitely noticed a lack of explosiveness. Throughout these phases, Joel has pretty consistently reminded me that I should fight to maintain my athleticism as long as possible. He usually advocates that you can be statically strong well into your later training years, but speed and athleticism fade earlier.
I am in pursuit of a goal of being a successful strength-athlete. This is a broad term, as strongmen, powerlifters, olympic lifters and more are all strength athletes. However, to Joel's point, I am going to emphasize the athlete portion of that phrase. In my first strongman contest, I came to realize that the moving or quickness-related events may turn out to be my strong suit. Of course, I want to be well rounded as everyone should strive to be, but you also have to "know what you're good at".
My biggest weakness right now happens to be my static strength when it comes to overhead pressing in strongman. Now that I have won a novice division contest, I am going to have to step it up to the heavier weights in the open division. Knowing that, my main priority is going to be increasing my overhead press. I will train it multiple times per week and place it as my main pressing movement, as many strongmen should. However, I will not abandon the emphasis on athleticism in my training. I am beginning to implement jumps, explosive movements and even some sprinting.
Leading up to my next contest, I will hopefully be able to continue to increase my strength in all lifts, specifically the overhead lifts, but also keep my quickness and speed. If I can accomplish this, I think I will be on to something. If you share the same goal of maintaining athleticism, here's how I would recommend adding in some explosive training to your programs:
If you would like to incorporate jumps, try adding them on one of your lower body training days. However, they should be the first exercise you do after warming up. Jumps are a very explosive movement, and programming them first will help fire up your nervous system for the upcoming squats or deadlifts. They should not hinder your performance in the following lift, but enhance it.
Jumps are also taxing on the body, whether they feel that way or not. It takes a lot of muscle fiber recruitment to explode against gravity and land on a target. Here are some quick points to emphasize when doing box jumps:
• Start at a height you are comfortable with. No jump height should have you landing in a below parallel squat.
• Focus on landing softly on top of the box.
• Do low reps for multiple sets of jumps, such as 6 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 2.
• Either progress by increasing the height from week to week, or by maintaining the height of the box and adding weight via a weighted vest or holding a pair of light dumbbells, increasing their weight each week.
Sprinting is also a great way to maintain and increase speed, as well as help burn body fat. I personally wouldn't sprint more than once a week with my current training program, but depending on your own volume and recovery, you may be able to sprint multiple times per week. I just want to quickly add that when I say sprint, I mean exert at about 90% effort. Sprinting can lead to injury if your muscles are not properly conditioned, and there is no need to go 100%+ unless you are a track athlete or are competing. Here are more some thoughts on sprinting:
• Sprint on off days or after a lower body training day. A good starting point would be to sprint 50 yards, turn around and walk back to the start. When you get there, immediately sprint back the 50 yards.
• Start with maybe 5-6 rounds of this, and progress by adding more rounds or increasing the distance.
• This short, burst type of training is known as interval training, and is one of the most beneficial ways to burn fat, especially in a short time period.
• Make sure you are properly warmed up, especially in the hamstring, because sprints are very demanding on the lower body musculature.
Well, there you have it. As I continue to pursue my goals of adding strength and maintaining athleticism, I will be employing some of the techniques above. If you have similar goals, hopefully you find them beneficial and implement them in your own training.
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