An elite softball player must demonstrate superior explosive power by producing force in a very short period of time (e.g. hitting, sprinting for a ball in the outfield). In order for force production to be efficient and maximized, the underlying movements must also be efficient. We often use the term “elite mover” to describe an athlete capable of this combination.
While many athletes possess natural athleticism thanks to their parents, athleticism does not always translate into the characteristic of an elite mover. Becoming an elite mover means unlocking the body’s ability to (1) stabilize (2) mobilize and (3) accelerate/ decelerate the body in both high and low velocity conditions. At S2 Breakthrough, our athletes work their way through our level system based off their performance in our Threshold Assessment. Power focus in training is not implemented until an athlete is in our top level (4), ensuring she has mastered the foundations first.
Strength coaches often attempt to train power movements through Olympic lift variations (snatches, clean and jerks, power cleans, etc.) and plyometric box exercises. When programmed appropriately and thoroughly progressed, these activities can be effective for their purpose. If the goal, however, is to mitigate risk of injury, then we must consider the risk versus reward of these types of lifts and exercises. Snatches, cleans, box jumps, etc. require highly coordinated movements and with that comes great responsibility for both the coach and athlete. If these movements are performed without proper form and/or excessive load, the door to compensation opens and the risk for future injury increases.
When it comes to long-term athletic development in softball, we must take a step back and analyze the tools we are handing our athletes to be successful. When developing training plans for our athletes, I am motivated by exercises that are both effective and practical, weighing the risk versus reward carefully. For example, all of the following exercises create the same reward: improving force production and explosiveness through the hips. The risks of each should be weighed against the reward based on the maturity level and training age of the athlete:
|Box Jump||Falling off box
Inappropriate box height
Poor landing mechanics
|Explosiveness / Force Production: Hips|
|Snatches||Improper pull mechanics||Explosiveness/ Force Production: Hips|
|Hang Cleans||“The catch” – wrist mobility||Explosiveness / Force Production: Hips|
|Barbell Reverse Lunge||Loss of balance||Explosiveness/ Force Production: Hips|
|Body Weight (or weighted) Split Squat Jumps||Loss of balance
Poor landing mechanics
|Explosiveness /Force Production: Hips|