Look at any successful Olympic Weightlifter, sprinter, or field sport athlete. The displays of power and speed are impressive.
Being able to generate loads of force in short windows of time are essential towards lifting heavy weights, flying down a track, and evading competitors and scoring.
However, equally important to the expression of athletic performance is not just force production, it’s also learning how to relax.
When performing a snatch, clean, and jerk, the lifter has to exert force quickly into the bar to overcome the earth’s gravity, thereby allowing the weight to momentarily hang in the air just long enough in order to pull/push under the bar. When sprinting down a track, a sprinter must exert loads of force into the ground quickly to move his or her body towards the finish line. When trying to get past a defender, a soccer player needs to be able to change directions quickly.
Equally important to all three of these various sporting activities is relaxation.
Being able to turn muscles off just as quickly as turning them on is what allows a weightlifter to be able to receive a weight quickly.
The sprinter can’t cycle his or her free leg off the ground into the next step if the muscle is still contracting/pushing. The soccer player can’t move in one direction, it the body is still being forced into another direction.
How can you train this tension/relaxation continuum? Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, and medball power training are three modalities that are essential towards cultivating this skill.
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