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Australian National Champion Power lifter
Training for a sport takes a lot of time – and that’s something we don’t always have. Perhaps you’ve had a break, you’re on the road or life just got in the way. Almost every sport requires a variety of physical abilities in some combination – strength, speed, power, coordination and balance, for example, as well as using a wide range of muscles throughout the body in combination with each other. In this workout, every movement and every second has a purpose.
I hate it when people talk to me during my warm-up. It’s not a time for chat. It’s time for me to focus, lift my energy levels and get through a very specific set of actions that will help prevent injury and chronic pain, and I want to get through them as quickly as possible.
The old way to warm up is to do a ‘metabolic’ warm-up that simply raises the body temperature and warms the muscles. The modern athlete does a series of dynamic warm-ups that not only primes key muscles and joints, they activate neural activity to help generate speed, power and coordination. Move through these warm-ups quickly but carefully.
STANDING SQUATS – go down deep and do a short pause each rep to stretch. X 20
LEG AND HIP SWINGS – start gently and gradually increase the range of motion. Cover all the angles – start by swinging a bent knee gently up in front of you, lightly kick back, swing a straight leg out to either side of your body, and so on. X 10 for each different leg and direction (four different types of swings).
SPRINT START JUMPS – get down into a sprinter’s start position. Leaving your hands on the floor, jump slightly so you can skip the legs to change the front leg to the back leg and vice-versa. Do 10 reps quickly then stretch the front leg and buttock for five. X 40
BACKSTROKE STRETCH – roll your arms back in a backstroke movement, keeping the bicep close to your ear as it passes your head. X 20 each.
SHOULDER ROLLS – hold a small weight in each hand. Start with the palms on front of thigh, roll the shoulders in a backward motion so that you end up with pinkie fingers next to your buttocks. X 20
ARM SWINGS – hold a very small weight and swing alternate arms from beside the thigh to vertically over the shoulder, keeping the arms straight. X 10 each.
JUMP PUSH-UPS – push-ups do not have to be full depth. After the jump, land with elbows slightly bent. X 10
Do a light or slow warm-up set of 6-8 reps before each exercise.
SQUATS + BOX JUMPS / VERTICAL LEAP
This method of doing a set of a compound strength exercise immediately followed by a power exercise is called PAP – post-activation potentiation. The main goal of incorporating PAP is to increase both force rate and quantity to maximise explosive power for sports. Doing a heavily loaded exercise first induces a high degree of central nervous system stimulation, which jolts the body to greater motor unit recruitment in the muscles for speed and power. PAP works well for anything that requires explosive power movements, such as sprinting, high jumping, ski jumping, weightlifting and boxing.
The type of squatting is not important – front squat, barbell squat, squats with dumbbells are all options. The important thing is to go at least to a depth where the crease of the hip joint is below the top of the knee. If your sport requires greater flexibility in the hip (e.g. weightlifting, long jump) you might even go deeper. 8 REPS – 3 SETS
BOX JUMP / VERTICAL LEAP
From a standing start, jump up onto a box that is high enough to be challenging. When you land on the box, extend your legs so you stand upright, then hop down and go again from a static start. Your stance and starting movement should mimic your sport, where appropriate. For example, a boxer could do this from his fighting stance. I do this exercise in the stance I use for the power lifting squat, then I bend down to the depth required for competition (hip just below knee). This doesn’t make me jump higher – in fact, I would use a narrower stance and bend at the knee less if I wanted to jump higher – but it makes the movement applicable to my sport. 8 REPS
DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS + MEDICINE BALL THROWS
This combination follows the same PAP principles and pattern as the squat + jumps.
DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS
Do this from a standing position in order to work the muscles of the core and heighten your balance and muscle awareness. Start by holding the weights besides the shoulders, palms facing shoulders, and press arms straight overhead so that the thumbs are next to each other. This half-twist of the arms as you lift will allow for a freer movement of the shoulder joint and a slightly increased range of motion. 8 REPS – 3 SETS
MEDICINE BALL THROW
For this power movement, kneel 1.5 arm lengths away from a solid wall – kneel so that your upper and lower legs make a right angle with knees, hips and shoulders forming a vertical line (yes it’s hard on the abs, that’s the idea!). Hold a heavy rubber medicine ball on your chest, then extend your arms to throw the ball at the wall as hard as you can. Catch the ball out in front of your chest with the elbows only slightly bent. Restart the action from the ball on the chest. This is a great exercise for any contact o heavy impact sports, as it gets the muscles of the core accustomed to absorbing shock. You can also do this exercise with an overhead throw (like a throw-in for soccer) or by throwing the ball to a partner. 20 REPS
LAT PULLDOWN / LONG PULLEY ROW ISO-HOLD + STANDING TWISTS
Isometric work is often the forgotten aspect of resistance training. Isometric work involves resisting a weight or force while the body is held in a static position. I’ve chosen an exercise that works the forearms, wrists and biceps because we use these in combination for grip strength in many sports. The other part is using the muscles of the upper back to pull the shoulders back. This action itself is important in strength sports, but it also acts as a protective exercise for the shoulder girdle.
Attach a wide bar to a long pulley row or lat pull down machine. Taking a grip outside shoulder width, pull the bar to the base of the chest, pulling the shoulder blades right back and pushing the chest into the bar. Hold in this position 30-60 SECONDS– 2-3 SETS. Alternate sets with:
In most sports, the muscles of the abdominals and lower back are used in some kind of rotation – so that’s what we’ll do here.
Stand with feet shoulder width or more apart and hold a weight (dumbbell, weight plate, medicine ball, kettle bell) with arms straight out in front of your face. Keeping the arms and legs straight at all times, swivel to the side and down to touch the weight to the floor on the outside of your foot. Bring the weight up to the start position, pause, then go over to the other side.
This exercise is the ducks guts for developing balance and coordination in addition to core strength and shoulder stability. On top of all that, it’s fair to say it strains the brain as much as the body, especially while you’re getting used to it.
You can burn out a few hundred brain synapses trying to work out this exercise from written or aural descriptions, so we’ve put a diagram (photos, short video – whatever we choose to run with) here.
Do not rush this or overestimate your weights – it’s too easy to hurt yourself or drop a weight on yourself. 5 REPS EACH ARM– 2 SETS