By James Overton STACK.com
Explosive power training helps baseball players exert maximal amounts of force in the shortest possible time. Such training requires compound movements, meaning that more than one muscle group is activated during an exercise. That’s because in baseball, multiple muscles have to work in unison to achieve the desired goal.
One of the reasons my clients keep coming back is that I stay away from traditional programming in explosive power training. They use sledgehammers, tractor tires, ropes, sleds and chains. With such unconventional equipment, the athletes do exercises that many of their teammates are not doing in a regular franchise gym—and they are making gains that their teammates aren’t.
The use of unconventional equipment breaks up the monotony and develops mental toughness. It’s empowering to get under a big tractor tire and flip that thing over. If you’re looking for a great stress reliever, try hitting one of those tractor tires with a heavy sledgehammer and tell me you don’t feel better!
Here are some of my favorite tools and their benefits.
Some of the biggest arms I have ever seen are on people who have never lifted a weight in their lives. They do manual labor for a living and don’t need to purchase a gym membership. But their arms aren’t just big; they’re strong and powerful. Try shaking hands with a construction worker, and hope to walk away with all five fingers intact.
Sledgehammer swings on a tractor tire help build amazing grip strength. The rotational aspect of the swings develops explosive power through the core and teaches you how to distribute power throughout your entire body. I have my athletes swing the sledge for an extended period as a finisher for a great cardio benefit as well.
Tires aren’t used just to get beat up with sledgehammers; we flip those bad boys!
A triple extension movement requires simultaneous extension of the hips, knees and ankles. Getting under a heavy tractor tire and flipping it over is one of the best triple extension movements an athlete can do. And the lower extremities are not the only muscles working here. Your core needs to remain tight and engaged throughout the movement to prevent injury. Once the tire gets past your hips, your upper body helps to fire through the tire to complete the flip. This full body movement teaches you about the proper distribution of power throughout your entire body.
Some people hear the word “sled” and automatically think of football players pushing tackling dummies across the field. But sled work can be beneficial to any athlete looking to gain power and acceleration.
One of the circuits my athletes love (and what I mean by “love” is, they HATE it) is pushing the sled for a specific distance, bear crawling back to the starting point, then pulling the sled with a rope.
In the pushing portion, you drive the sled with a good, powerful forward lean and your arms locked out. Obviously, your legs work hard, but your triceps, shoulders, chest and abs are also on fire trying to keep your body stabilized through the movement.
The backwards Bear Crawl puts you in an awkward movement pattern that your body is not used to. You must use your chest, shoulders and triceps to push your body back to the starting point. Once you get there, the real fun begins. Get into a good athletic position with your feet shoulder-width apart and a strong posterior chain. Then hand over hand, pull the rope until the sled is back at your feet. Again, your legs and glutes will brace your body for the pull portion. Your back, biceps and forearm flexors will scream as you pull the heavy load all the way back.
Some coaches have their athletes seated with their legs braced against a tire to keep them stabilized, but I like the standing position to teach the body about proper stabilization and to increase core development.
I like to use heavy ropes as a finisher for my athletes. Their shoulders, arms and forearm flexors (there’s that grip again) burn like crazy when they use the ropes. I have also learned that by having their bodies in different positions (kneeling, lying down, etc.) and using different arm motions (alternating waves, circles, etc.), my athletes’ core and legs start to fatigue as well. For example, Standing Alternating Waves is a challenging movement. To make it more ballistic, I have my athletes perform Jump Lunges with the waves, or shuffle from side to side. Again, it’s all about teaching the muscles to understand what it feels like to work in unison.
Chains have become a favorite of mine lately. I was able to purchase some links in 20-pound increments, and my athletes have never been happier (pure sarcasm there)! Yes, the chains allow us to add weight to some movements to overload the strength curve. Yes, they add resistance to movements that are difficult to add weight to (e.g., Pull-Ups, Dips, Push-Ups). But also, there is something really cool about hanging chains from your shoulders or waist and cranking out some tough reps. This is where the physical and mental aspects go hand in hand. I love bringing out that little extra toughness in my athletes!
There are plenty of other ways to get your power training done. But for me and my beasts, these are some of the more fun, functional, and hardcore ways that we get down to business.