Research supporting the methods of Volt Athletics to develop the football athlete.
Football is a sport that requires high anaerobic and aerobic power, muscular strength, lean muscle mass, speed, agility, and refined technical ability (3). These conditions place a high importance for athletes to be physically trained using a scientifically designed pre-season conditioning program to prepare their strength and fitness capacities for the beginning of the season. Training for success in football requires development of the following objectives: maximum strength, lean muscle mass (hypertrophy), and accelerative & reactive power (explosiveness) (3). From these listed objectives, Volt has prioritized three primary performance factors as the main sources of athletic development via implementation of a strength and conditioning program: direct development of strength, building lean muscle tissue (hypertrophy), and rapid power production (explosiveness) provide a foundation for peak football performance.
Football is a game of extreme physicality. Every play athletes are contesting their physical skill set against one or more opposing players with a series of high intensity, powerful movements. The physical nature of the sport lends itself to promoting stronger, quicker, and powerful athletes. Strength is defined as the ability to overcome or counteract external resistance by muscular effort (24). In football, strength is a primary determinant of success in confrontations with opponents both offensively and defensively making it an essential element of competition. The training provided by Volt Athletics offers a structural and progressive approach to developing the overall strength capabilities of every football athlete. The primary mode of increasing muscular force production in Volt programming is the inclusion of multi-joint, barbell-based, open & closed-kinetic-chain resistance movements. These movements include squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and other various movements where athletes are tasked with producing force into the ground while maintaining structural alignment. These movements are the most effective means of developing strength for athletes because they allow an athlete to move the largest amount of weight while focusing on their body as the base of support (9,15).
Stronger athletes also demonstrate greater performance variables in speed and power measurements. Power is the combination of force and velocity and is the explosive aspect of strength. Speed is a more innate quality based on an individual’s muscular fiber type, which changes very little with training—while power is increased almost exclusively through gains in strength (23). For this reason Volt emphasizes Olympic lifts and variations of these explosive movements to increase strength and power.
Resistance training focused on lower body-multiple joint movements (i.e. back squats) increases maximal sprint performance and change of direction ability. The more force an athlete can apply into the ground, the faster they can run, jump, and change direction (14). Maximal strength of the lower-body musculature is required for maximal ground reaction forces that have been associated with maximal sprinting velocities (18). Using Volt programming, athletes will progressively increase strength in foundational movements akin to promoting athleticism. This overall increase in strength will prepare athletes for the physical demands of the sport.
Development of Lean Muscle Mass
Due to the physicality of football, elite players focus on building mass. Depending on the position of the athlete they will add the mass in different ways. The physical training for all positions is the same however the reason that linemen put on more weight than a cornerback is due to their diet. However regardless of the position all football players benefit from carrying more muscle mass. The Volt Football program utilizes strategically placed hypertrophy phases to increasing the amount of lean muscle tissue along with muscular strength. Increased lean muscle mass aids in the development of speed, agility, strength, and power (15). During the hypertrophy phases, athletes will train at prescribed loads closer to an intensity relative of an 8 – 12 repetition maximum, where it is characteristic of athletes to improve the interaction between both mechanical and metabolic growth factors. (9,15,19). This intensity range promotes a larger muscle cross sectional area, an increase in the number of active actin-myosin cross-bridges, and a higher level of fatigue placed on the athlete, challenging the metabolic recovery of the muscles. The increase in contractile muscle tissue size, and overall muscle fiber content increases the sarcoplasmic volume and the amount of muscle glycogen available for use in high-intensity exercise (22). Increased muscle size is also correlated with an increase in collagenous tissue that supports the musculotendinous junction, thus helping to reduce the likelihood of injury (17). The larger and stronger the athlete, the more effective they will be in the physical situations that comprise football game play.
Development of Explosiveness
Football is a game of explosive fast bursts. A play typically lasts for a few seconds and during each play, every player on the field is performing a series of high intensity, maximal effort movements. These bursts require football players use their alactic energy system 70% of the time (9). Volt uses Olympic lifts and variations of these movements to increase speed and power (10). Volt alternates a speed and a power phases to optimally integrate these two related aspects of strength. A football player who is able to move a load quicker than their opponent will be more successful because of this explosive, powerful movement. Football ability and vertical jump ability are positively correlated (21). Olympic lifting is explosive in nature and has also been positively correlated with vertical jump ability. (10). In addition to Olympic lifts, which encourage plantar flexion and extension of the knee and hip, Volt uses multi-joint movements like squat variations which promote extension of the knee and hip. These movements have been shown to improve the performance of football players (21).
Accelerating from a stationary position or a moving start requires high force generation capacity to overcome the body's inertia. Improving lower-limb strength via weight training can also lead to step length adaptations and improved sprint acceleration, as long as the exercises used are movement-specific and progressively overloaded (16). Volt focuses on the development of quicker and more powerful eccentric and concentric contractions which translate to superior lateral quickness. Athletes can develop high levels of lateral quickness or change of direction (COD) ability with progressive training of eccentric and concentric control of single limb movements. This strength allows players to move more efficiently, safer and faster in all planes. A focused long-term strength-training plan has positive correlations with improved COD ability (13). Volt progressively trains the development of unilateral control of the lower body, while slowly introducing different loading methods to develop both eccentric and concentric strength of those movement patterns. Developing the proprioceptive properties of proper unilateral knee and hip mechanics helps to increase efficient force production, absorption, and safer joint angles. An athlete who is able to change directions quickly is able to do so because of their ability to slow the momentum (deceleration) of their body with eccentric loading of the lower-extremity. In order to improve deceleration, muscles of the lower extremities need to be stressed to eccentrically contract in multiple planes. Deceleration training will overload the body through momentum in all planes, which will lead to improved explosiveness (8). Single limb training also focuses on the development of proper core muscle activation by stressing the dynamic stability of the athlete. Dynamic stability is stated to be an essential component of change-of-direction ability and multidirectional speed (16). Volt implements various unilateral progressions that place the lower-extremities through increasingly complex levels of both concentric and eccentric stress. Athletes will comfortably and safely develop the necessary strength for efficient and effective unilateral control for sprint deceleration and COD abilities.
In conjunction with strength development, Volt implements a progressive speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) program. Volt SAQ places a training demand on the ability of an athlete to execute change of direction tasks from simple to complex drills. Movement tasks designed to challenge frontal, lateral, and vertical movement abilities are designed progressively to teach an athlete increasing levels of movement complexity. Training movements with demands on jumping mechanics can help to improve change of direction ability (7). Using plyometric drills, cone and ladder drills, and other movement challenges, athletes will improve multi-directional quickness and jumping and landing mechanics. Increasing explosiveness improves first step speed, linear sprint speed, creates more powerful blocks and effective tackles.
Injury Prevention Methods
It has been estimated that 80% of football players sustain some type of injury during the course of their season. 51% of these injuries occurred during training. Practices involving contact are 4.7 times more likely to produce injuries (20). The high incidence of player-to-player injury is due to the high intensity and violent nature of football. Hard hits, high-speed collisions and tackling are inherent to football, which means that injuries as a result of contact are inevitable. Therefore it is important to place emphasis on the non-contact injuries associated with football. Overall, lower extremity injuries accounted for 50% of all injuries (with knee injuries accounting for up to 36%). Upper extremity injuries accounted for 30%. In general, sprains and strains account for 40% of injuries, contusions 25%, fractures 10%, concussions 5% and dislocations 15%. Cervical spine injuries have the potential to be catastrophic, although they have declined in recent years due to changes in tackling and blocking technique, improved equipment and rule changes. (20).
During match play of high contact field sports, hamstring muscle injuries have the highest rate of occurrence among all non-contact injuries, and are second, only to the hematomas, in rate of incidence among all injuries (4). The most common training related injury mechanism is running, which accounts for the high proportion of lower limb injuries and, particularly, the number of hamstring muscle injuries (0.30/1000 player-hours) (5). Resistance training has been shown to be an effective intervention for preventing hamstring injury (6). Volt focuses on direct development of the posterior chain within its strength progressions for the extent of the program. Volt also provides specific injury prevention training by focusing directly on the contractile strength of the hamstring in relation to the quadriceps, thereby improving the overall strength ratio between the two muscle groups. Improvement of the hamstring to quadriceps strength ratio increases stability of the knee and reduces the overall risk of non-contact ACL injury (11). A secondary method programmed into Volt’s primary injury prevention protocol is progressive plyometric training and Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) drills. With a focus on eccentric loading and concentric unloading, plyometrics provide an exercise geared towards improving hip, knee, and ankle joint biomechanics (1). Volt utilizes plyometric training to increase neuromuscular control, increase joint stability, and decrease non-contact injuries. Non-contact injury to the knee, in particular, may occur during deceleration, acceleration, plant-and-cut movements, sudden change of direction, landing from a jump, or other movements that can excessively load the knee. SAQ drills practice these quick, change of direction movements to strengthen joints and reduce injury potential. Such loading combined with high injury risk motions, such as knee valgus motion, where the knee moves medially similar to a “knock-knee” stance can potentially strain the ACL, making it susceptible to possible damage (12). To train safe and efficient motor patterns unilateral strength training progressions are implemented to develop better body awareness, trunk stability, and dynamic positions. The increased stress associated with instability has been postulated to promote greater neuromuscular adaptations, such as decreased co-contractions, improved coordination, and confidence in performing skills (2). The promotion of reciprocal inhibition allows for improved force production by the agonist muscle while simultaneously decreasing the risk of injury by impairing the stimulation of the antagonist muscle group. Neurological adaptations made by athletes to improve motor control, landing mechanics, force absorption/production, and change of direction ability promote safer skill development and can help keep athletes injury free.
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