Explosive! Powerful! Springy! Quick! Agile! I’m thinking about those old school batman cartoons with the pow, bam and kaboom bubbles. Successful young athletes exhibit all of the aforementioned batman characteristics. If you spend any time watching young athletes train and compete, you will see the one or two superstars who stand out. Without doubt, they are the ‘snappy’ kids. They seem to jump faster, change direction faster, sprint faster and in turn, perform better than the rest.
Snappy comes from the fascia, muscles and tendons of the body. When these tissues are stretched, they react by snapping back into place, essentially firing the joint into action. Trainers will give up all sorts of creative analogies for this stretch-shortening cycle. I have personally used items such as gum, springs, trampolines and elastic bands to explain the reaction. One of the perks and often one of the downfalls of being a trainer is the creative freedom to make up names, terms and mental cues for every exercise you deliver.
Young (and older) athletes can get ‘snappier’ but there will always be those who are gifted with tighter tendons, more reactive fascia and more explosive muscle fibres. To become snappier, you have to train snappier. For my young athletes, I compliment all the other facets of health and fitness with the following snappy moves:
Love, love, love standing drop squats. Now, that’s me speaking, not the clients who have to do them. From a standing position I have the client fire their arms down at speed and drop into a solid squat position. Some of my kids can drop butt to heels, others build to just get past parallel. I find that a good range in this movement often correlates with a lack of aches and pains in the knees and ankles.
This movement can progress to single leg drops, drops to jumps, drops from height and other versions.
Tap and Go’s
This is a dynamic bound or jump, a bit like a hockey stride. Instead of having the athlete just jump from side to side, I ask that they perform a really quick ‘tap’ of the foot and then follow into a bound. The tap acts to stretch and then shorten those components that drive the speed and power of the movement. The tap and go can also be done in a straight line or at a 45 degree angle. I make these sorts of adaptations based on the athletes’ sport.
Step off and jump
A major caveat here is to be aware of the height from which you ask your athlete to drop. In all but a very few of my young clients, they drop from a height of 4-6 inches, not much. Their job is to step off a platform, hit the ground with both feet and get into the air as quickly as humanly possible. I’m fortunate enough to have some very springy kids so they can get this right from day 1 but in less athletic kids, the learning curve on this move is amazing. From one day to the next they will start to coordinate arms, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles to get snappier.
These are three of a long list of moves that I use to get some snap!