A long time ago and for no specific reason other than a father wanting his son to be able to look out for himself, my Dad taught me to throw a punch.
Nothing too fancy, just locked in, straight down the middle power. Now at the time, while I respected what the punch represented (unadulterated violence), I just thought it was pretty cool being able to punch hard. And I don’t mean a frivolous tap on the chin, I mean a game changer. The sort of punch that can make an unruly crowd shut up very quickly (…that's another story!).
For all the bravado and swagger that the preceding paragraph carries, the significance of learning to punch properly taught me something about human movement that I don’t believe my dear old Dad ever intended.
I learned how to transfer force from the ground through my body!
Just think of all the hours that as S&C coaches we spend, trying to convey that simple concept. Apply force through the ground and direct it where you want it go…a punch, a kick, a baseball swing, a tackle, a side step…the list goes on! We talk about getting the core strong, the mobility just so, and the motor pattern correct. What about we just teach kids to hit stuff...hard!
It boggles my mind that when my staff and I teach our basic package of running drills, that one of the most foreign base concepts to get through our young player’s minds is that when their foot hits the ground there MUST be a resultant acceleration (of the pelvis) in the opposite direction. Doing drills just for the sake of it is a ludicrous waste of time. Surely someone must have taught that before they got to the professional level? You’d think. Unfortunately all too often these days some of the basics of human movement are forgotten in young athletes (particularly in Australian football codes where many get caught on the big is better model).
Young coaches take note. I understand the squat, and I get the deadlift, and I covet the power clean…but none of it matters to a field / court athlete unless they can load force into the ground and create a resultant acceleration. I’ve seen field sport athletes who look fantastic in the gym, but when it is time to put the “pedal to the metal” on the field they look like they still have the park brake on.
We can discuss bar velocities until the cows come home, but I can guarantee one thing, unless the athlete has the capacity to express force at high speed (RFD) relative to their body weight in a relevant movement pattern, they aren’t going to get far no matter where you "think" maximum power occurs!
So what does all this mean…
- Coach your athletes closely, particularly when they are young. Make sure they can move effectively and efficiently.
- Do what needs to done, not what is in the program. Writing a program is a guide for you and the athlete and a means to be accountable…its not the be all and end all. If the athlete can’t move, that must be the main priority. Don’t worry about lifting, get them moving correctly.
- Creating high performance and preventing injury are one in the same thing. Get the required movements right, stronger and faster than the opposition and baring traumatic incidents you’ll be just fine.
Not sure about the next steps…focus on jumping, landing, accelerating, decelerating, change of direction…and of course hitting things! All teach the athlete to apply force through the ground and direct it where they want it to go.
For the "do-gooders" out there, I do not condone violence and I abhor the rash of "coward" punches currently afflicting Australian cities. That said everybody should know how to defend themselves and their families when backed into a corner. For the purposes of this article it just so happens that the skill associated with throwing a punch correlates well to other basic athletic traits.
This is dedicated to the man who got me started in all this…my Dad!