I have over 11 years in the training and fitness profession. I started lifting when I was in 8th grade to get prepared for my high school basketball career. I can honestly say lifting only helped me succeed over the years. Working out kept me healthy, kept me motivated, kept me in shape, and even though I was 5’8″ I was never pushed around.
As a former athlete it is really fun for me to create programs for my athletes, no matter what level they are. Currently, I have three college soccer players as clients, three college basketball players (boys and girls), a high school football, HS baseball, HS volleyball, and numerous HS basketball players with me as well.
There are four big lifts, four speed/agility/quickness movements, and four stretches I ALWAYS have my players do, among a bunch of other things. But as I’ve trained throughout the years these movements and stretches seem to be the ones that I have stuck with the most.
The FOUR Lifts:
1. Squats: *The disclaimer to this one is, I will sometimes substitute walking lunges or bodyweight squats for this one. I like squats with a 3/1 count for 10 reps. A 3/1 count is where you take three counts to lower yourself down into your squat, and explode up out of the movement for a count of one. By the time you get to 10, you should really feel this. If you don’t feel the burn, or feel like it sucks, increase the weight (with proper assistance and form).
2. Dead Lifts: I am partial to RDL (Romanian Dead Lifts) or the more straight legged dead lifts because of the exaggeration on the stretch for the hamstrings. This really enables your hamstrings and glutes to work a lot harder. I love this movement because it really helps isolate the posterior chain, and also does a number on your grip strength and traps. Personally, if any of my athletes are looking to get stronger, faster, and quicker, this is the first movement I teach them.
3. Wall Balls: With my athletes I will take a ball that weighs up to 20 pounds (for my more advance clients), I will stand them about 5 feet away from a wall appropriate to throw a weighted ball against (no dry wall), and time them for 30 seconds to see how many wall balls they can get down and up! With my volleyball clients I am looking for stamina. I want them to get as many wall balls as possible in 30 seconds. With my basketball clients I am working more on strength, because they have their arms up in that position trying to get a rebound, or going up for a contested lay-up. The most important part of this movement is that it’s explosive every single time!
4. Ab Plank with variations: We all know what ab planks are, and as my athletes get better at the static hold I start to move them around, meaning I have them pick one arm up, then put it down. I have them pick their other arm up, and set it down. I have them pick a leg up, and set it down, I will even have them turn completely on their sides to complete a lateral plank, but I keep them moving.
The core is key no matter what sport you are in, so to make sure that the core is strong and worked out in every single different direction is going to be huge!
The FOUR Speed/Agility/Quickness Movements
1. Lateral Band Walk/Sprints:
Most often times I will have my client put a circular band around their ankles and slowly go back and forth about 10 yards a piece, to really wear out the hips. When they are done going down and back they have a 30 seconds “sprint”. This sprint consists of them defensive sliding back and forth as fast as humanly possible. So we are getting the pre-burn out with the 10 yard warm-up, and then we are trying to get those muscles used to twitching at a higher pace. You cannot go wrong with lateral movement no matter what sport you are in.
2. Vertical Jump Training:
This is exactly as it’s sound, only the methods change. For instance, you could do vertical jump training on boxes for box jumps, you could take a piece of tape and put it on the wall and try and reach that mark every time, or you could jump up and over cones/barriers, however you want to do it is great. But the biggest thing about vertical jump training is that you want to always, always, always make sure that you are jumping in an explosive manner. Whether you are jumping out or straight up, you want to continually train to jump explosively over and over and over again.
3. Ladder drills (fast feet):
Don’t let the explanation fool you, you do not need a agility ladder to do ladders. Take a roll of athletic tape, find a 12 foot long space in your basement, outside, in your kitchen, in your room, etc, and make your own. Simple, easy, fast, and cheap.
Once you have your ladder, there are two main directions to go in front and back, or lateral. When you go front and back you can do it a number of different ways such as hopscotch, leading with one foot at a time, bunny hops, or even alternating your feet. The only rule that important for ladder drills is that you go as fast as your feet will carry you. Make sure to keep track of your time, and how fast it’s taking you to go from one end to the other. Overtime, you will want to make sure you are improving your times!
When you go laterally, all the same rules apply, the only thing that matters is that you are going as fast as humanly possible.
4. Sprint training:
If you want to get faster you must set out at least one day a week where you are just working on improving your sprint time. This is a two-fold process, first you are getting in shape just by working on your sprints. But just like anything else, the more you work on something the better you get at it. So for sprints start short, and start small. Do 5×40 meter sprints and see what your times are. Take a break and repeat. You should be focused on getting your knees up, and how fast you’re moving your feet.
Once you start to notice a difference, bump up your meters by 10, and make it 5×50 meters. Work on this until you feel yourself getting better.
The FOUR Stretches:
Make sure your back is flat, and you are pushing your weight forward at the hips, NOT at the shoulders. Keep your chest up, and posture high and you will get a bigger/deeper stretch. Hold this for about 30-45 seconds and switch sides.
You can either lay on your side or stand for this one. Bend one leg back, and grab that foot with your hand. For this stretch make sure you are pushing your hips forward and not just pulling your foot back. There are 4 parts of the Quads, and you want to make sure you are stretching each with good posture, and different angles. 30-45 seconds of this stretch on each side.
3. Hip Flexors:
These are crucial to stretch, and often times are overlooked. On the ground keep one knee on the floor with your foot pointed behind you (I have clients who like to put pillows down to cushion, this is fine) and put the other knee up in a 90 degree angle, with that foot facing directly in front of you. With good posture, chest high, push your weight forward into your knee through your hips. You should feel a great stretch in the upper part of the back leg. 45-60 seconds on each leg.
5. Piriformis Stretch:
While seated on the floor take your left foot and place it on top of the right knee. Now bend the right leg and pull both legs closer to you. You should feel this stretch all the way down the hip, and into the glute of the left leg. This is a great stretch to do every single day. Especially with clients who seem to have a susceptibility to lower back issues, this is a wonderful stretch to do. 45-60 seconds on each side.
There you have it. There are 12 movements and stretches to help make you a better athlete. They should be simple but incredibly challenging. Make no mistake about it, if you are NOT working out with an explosive tempo, you will NOT see any more explosiveness in your game than you’re used to.
Practice harder that you intend to play and everything will come together!
As always, keep working hard!
Megan Williams Training