Updated: Dec 1, 2020
When training for power, people can often get overly fixated on an exact number as the be-all, end-all of their goal. “I need to hit X or Y speed or I’m not improving” is something commonly heard in rotationally focused, metric-driven sports. Whilst it can be easy to get caught in this thought trap when a large part of your success is based on these numbers, there are other factors to consider when training that work hand in hand with your improvement being consistent over time.
The ability to balance the required tissue health work to sustain your high-performance work is a vital factor for long term growth. The tracking of general & sport-specific movements are key to be able to see which areas of your training you’re actually seeing improvements in as well as which may need extra focus and attention. Last but not least, being patient is critical for improvement that may require daily action but only improve monthly. Being able to zoom out to see the bigger picture of your training whilst also being to zoom in to do the small things right day in, day out is a big marker of what makes an athlete successful long term.
1) Balancing your performance work with your health-focused work.
The ability to practice, improve and ultimately even just display rotational power is predicated on our tissue being healthy enough to withstand our own energy output. An analogy I like to use for this context is that you may have the engine (top end performance) of a Ferrari, but if your drivetrain, radiator and suspension are that of a go-kart, you’ll like blow something up in the process of trying to display your power.
All good programs that focus on the development of athletic qualities will include exercises that target soft tissue quality, the ability to handle fast and abrupt loading as well as strength in various positions and contraction types. Without a holistic approach that covers both bases, your metrics may improve in the short term but chances are your body will start having random injuries/niggles until you ultimately fall apart.
Something to keep in mind is that while you may feel effects from overdoing your performance work and under-doing your health work in a month while the person next to you on the same program is feeling great, everyone is different in how much load & volume they can handle and recover from. Their body may feel okay for the next week or two but it will catch up with them in the end. Play the long game, compete against yourself in your own lane and reap the rewards.
2) Track your metrics. Are you getting better at rotating with power or your skill itself?
If you want to improve something and your training is based around those qualities but you don’t track them, how do you know you’re not wasting your time and spinning your wheels? Set specific metrics related to what you’re trying to improve and track them religiously. Metrics to track can fall under general & specialised categories.
A general metric may be a MB rotational shot put throw, MB long arm throw, MB overhead toss, MB slam, broad or vertical jump. All measures of power in different positions and universal across many sports.
A specific metric relates more strongly to the skill you’re trying to see improvements in. For a lacrosse player, these may take the form of a short/mid/long run-up lacrosse shot, over/underweighted ball shots or a throw for total distance. These metrics generally revolve around constraints with a modified run-up, ball weight or distance aim and apply to sports such as baseball, softball, cricket and javelin.
If one demonstrates a large improvement in general metrics without any in specific metrics, it’s likely the person has improved athletically and needs more skill-focused work to be able to incorporate those gains in their movement. If one has improved in all specific metrics but none in general, they’ve likely gotten better at their sporting motion without increased athleticism. If you’ve improved with both, happy days. You’re on the road to increased rotational power and velocity!
3) Be patient. Be able to zoom out to zoom in
Inevitably, there is going to be a time when you plateau. No one can continue linearly improving without hitting a roadblock forever. When this plateau comes, whether it lasts a week or a year, it can be difficult to not get frustrated with a “lack of progress”. I say “lack of progress” in quotation marks as it may not really be a lack of progress. You may have reached a point where your weaknesses are holding you back so severely that it takes months of work to bring them up to the point where your ceiling can continually be pushed upwards without your limitations holding you down and stagnating you. This is more so addressing your specific pattern skill, if none of your metrics have gone up across a 3-6 month time frame, that would likely be worth re-assessing with a trained coach/knowledgeable professional.
Continuing to perform a skill with suboptimal mechanics will bring down your overall ceiling of what you’re able to achieve with your current movement pattern. It may not feel smooth and be slower initially but going back to the drawing board to tweak, refine and repattern your skill will open up a much larger space to see velocity improvements on your specific movement in the future.
Improvements in a velocity metric in any sport take a dedicated approach that hits multiple facets at once. The best ability is availability so getting enough health-focused work to maximise the quality of performance work you’re able to perform is key. Track your metrics regularly and review them with your program overview so you can see which areas are improving and which are stagnating. A fully fleshed-out 6-month plan is great and all but seeing how you respond to it over time may change the stimulus' you need so having the information to adapt the plan is very important.
Being patient, having faith and trusting the process is invaluable when it comes to long term athletic development. Being able to zoom out enough to see the big picture whilst having enough focus on the small, day by day actions you take will allow you to make big improvements over time.