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DEVELOPING BETTER ATHLETES ONE STRIDE AT A TIME

The production of maximum force requires the use of all joints that can be used. When an athlete is attempting to produce maximum force in a sports skill, they are most often trying to throw (ie. a baseball pitcher) or move an object (ie. hitting a golf ball) in order to impart maximum velocity in the object.

There are a couple of different ways to put this principle into practice, but the easiest way to understand the meaning behind the principle is to take a sports skill and eliminate the principle from the skill. For example, if you look at the developmental progressions of an athlete throwing a ball from the very early stages (childhood) to the late stages (adulthood) you will notice how this athlete progresses in terms of their throwing mechanics. When a child first begins to throw a ball (see the video below) you will notice that the child throws the ball from above their head with very little motion coming from the remainder of their body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DUC6pzPC-I

This is a very primitive movement pattern, but if you take the same child and teach them to start with the ball further back, turn their shoulders to the side and take a step you will notice a significant increase in their ability to throw the ball (see video below).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJStf7YjvbI

As this movement pattern becomes more refined, the athlete will learn to incorporate as many joints as possible in order to generate maximum effort. This will also tie into Principle #3 which will be posted next week. Check out the video below of a 10 year old throwing a baseball. Note the high leg kick, long step and the use of the entire body in the throw.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh_Sxvfk2J8

Finally, take a look at a this video of Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum as he go throw the same motions as the 10 year old in the previous video but increases the range or motion for the movements, has improved timing and generates more ball velocity by utilizing every joint in his body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTi6fQ22sH0

The principle of maximum effort can be applied to a wide variety of sports skills and with spring just around the corner we will make reference to the golf swing for a second sports specific example. As a beginning golfer or high handicapper, one of the comments which you might hear from some of your more experienced golfing friends is that “you are not transferring your weight when you hit the ball” or perhaps that “you are only swinging with your arms”. These two comments come directly back to the principle of maximum effort. If you are not transferring your weight from the back leg to the front leg or if you are swinging with just your arms, you almost completely eliminate the lower half of your body from the golf swing. This will have a significant effect on the amount of club head speed you can generate and therefore the distance you can hit the ball. One final golf example to look at is when you are putting the golf ball. With the putter in your hand, very rarely are you attempting to produce maximum effort (unless of course your name is John Daly - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwzTGHN7tVI). As a result of this, you are no longer looking to “use as many joints that can be used to produce maximum effort” but rather looking to develop a controlled movement pattern which is easy to reproduce and control. As a result, the putting stroke is taught as a pendulum from the shoulders and all other joints are left out of the stroke. In putting, the more moving parts you have the harder it is to reproduce the stroke and gain the desired consistency.

Check back next week for more information on Principle #3…

Thanks,
Brian Shackel, MSc