Testing and Program Design
Obviously you now know the importance of having good levels of strength, rate of force development, and well-developed reactive ability. If we separate the 3 strength categories and look at them independently most everyone will have one category that needs a bit more work then the other. For the tough guy who is already squatting 3 times his bodyweight it's obvious he's already strong enough, so he will immediately move to a program focused more on rate of force development and reactive strength training. For the rail thin guy that crumbles when he looks at ½ his body weight on the squat rack, it’s definitely time for strength training 101 with limited plyometric training. But for the rest of us that are somewhere in the middle, the answer may not be so clear.
Finding Your Ideal Training Focus
Is there anything we can do to determine this for you? Well, good thing for you there is but first you’re going to have to do a little test! An old mechanic once told me that vehicles will talk to you and tell you what’s wrong with them but the key is to know how to listen to them. I believe our bodies are much the same way. If we know how to read into them and listen to them, they’ll tell us how to train them for optimal results.
Figuring all this out can take years however! Luckily for you, when determining where to focus your training and how to structure it, a highly effective diagnostic method has been around for ages
Voluntary explosive strength and plyometric strength are independent components of motor function. That is, you can be really good at one and not the other but both are trainable.
When analyzing the vertical jump, have you ever noticed how regardless of their style of jump, some guys can jump nearly as high from a standstill as they can with a long run-up,
- while some guys can fly through the air with a long run-up but can’t get a foot off the ground when jumping from a standstill? In a sprint, some guys can accelerate to their top speed very quickly while others take forever to reach top speed but once they get there they're very fast.
As noted above, the ability to jump from a standstill position or start and accelerate in a sprint is more dependent on pure voluntary explosive strength and rate of force development while jumping after a run-up or sprinting at top speed are both more
dependent on involuntary plyometric efficiency. The greater speeds of movement both allow and rely more on reactive ability.
Yet another example of this would be to compare the standing broad jump to a high jump, long jump, and sprinting at top speed. Even though one can initiate a bit of a bounce when performing the broad jump, it is still mostly dependent on pure strength and rate of force development. The long jump, high jump, and full speed sprint are much more plyometric in nature. Athletes who are really good at broad jumping are usually extremely strong (throwers and Olympic lifters) and tend not to be the best at high jumping or long jumping and vice versa.
When your reactive ability is good the amount of energy that you put out in a movement will be directly proportional to the energy you take in. So if you absorb more force you develop more force. There is a test that will measure the amount of force you can take in and put out. It will show you the difference between your plyometric strength and your explosive strength. The test is called the Reactive Resources jump test. With the results of this test we can determine where to focus your efforts for quick improvement.