Strength & Acceleration: The Traits Athletes Truly Covet (Revised from 2016)

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By:  JC Moreau, Founder and Director, Strength U

Perhaps the most common question I get from coaches and parents is “how do I get my son or daughter faster/quicker/jump higher?” and they are often surprised by my response, as well as what I am about to discuss in today’s article.  My answer is typically “get them stronger” and that is usually met with a look of confusion so I elaborate.  In my last article on the values of squatting through a larger range of motion than simply to 90 degrees I explain in greater detail how strength is undeniably effective at developing speed, quickness and vertical jump height in athletes, especially young ones.  What I did not discuss was the next part of my answer to that question “you should be far more concerned about developing their ability to accelerate and decelerate, and this is largely accomplished with strength work in addition to drills that focus specifically on these skills, rather than top end speed.”  The reason for this is quite simple, nearly every sport requires quick bursts of speed over 1 to 15 yards, the ability to stop on a dime and then change direction and accelerate again.  In other words the world’s greatest 400m. sprinter will be quite average at soccer, football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse or any other running sport if he or she cannot stop quickly, change direction and quickly accelerate.  If you are having a difficult time envisioning this, simply think of the great Running Backs in the NFL or Point Guards in the NBA.  Many of them do not run a 4.4 40 yard dash (VERY few do), rather they can hit top speed in a few steps, stop, cut and hit top speed again very well. So how do you develop these things?  By training acceleration and deceleration mechanics, and strengthening the movements and positions that maximize the athlete’s ability to perform these skills.

As we have discussed strength is a big part of this for a couple of reasons. First, our acceleration and top end speed are both a result of how much force we can produce through our foot as we strike the ground, and then how efficiently our bodies use that force.  There are many factors that play into this but strength, posture and body position are the most critical ones that we can always improve on.  What I want to focus on in this article are the acceleration drills we like to work on in order to maximize the force we do create, and ideally learn how to create more and/or waste less.  Assuming two athletes are the same size and possess the same amounts of strength and muscle fiber type (ratio of fast to slow twitch) there are a few mechanical and structural factors that will impact their ability to accelerate and/or decelerate.  Those we tend to focus on are body position/posture, Angles (adequate forward lean), knee drive, foot & shin positions and arm swing.

When elite level sprinters run to 100m. dash they are typically not upright until at least 35+ meters into the race.   The reason is simple to accelerate the body has to be in position that allows the athlete to put their force into the ground down, but also slightly backwards.  This is a simple concept because most athletes will quickly understand that if you push straight down you will go straight up.  So one of the first things all athletes must be taught is the correct body position required for ideal acceleration.  To do this there are several drills and training aides that can be used and the most simple and readily available is a wall.  By simply leaning forward at somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees, and keeping the body tight (as if doing a plank) from head to heel the athlete is now in a great position.   From this Position we have our athletes work on basic leg drive with their knee up and heel under the glute of the raised leg, all with a flexed foot.  We want maximum knee and foot lift and tell our athletes to envision a rod coming out of the opposite knee.  We want our foot to be above this rod while maintaining posture.

From here we do individual ground strikes and then progress to alternating strikes and eventually to multiples of 3, 5, 7, 9 etc…, or for times of 5-15 seconds.  Remember we are not training for conditioning we are training to develop the ability to produce violent, powerful ground strikes while maintaining ideal postural integrity and a flexed foot, since the more force we put into the ground the more we will get back.  So far so good, right?  Hopefully, but I am regularly reminded just how hard it is for most young athletes to maintain this position for more than a few seconds without beginning to move their feet forward (thus changing the angle we established), sticking their butt back (breaking at the hips which leads to tremendous energy leaks), or tilting the head forward and looking down, which also tends to lead to several postural issues.

Since this position is critical, it is important to A. Stress the correct form and ALWAYS correct these flaws and B. identify if the issues taking place are happening due to a lack of postural control (strength/stability) or simply a lack of mental focus (Details!!).  In 99% of youth athletes the cause is both and the postural strength issues must be addressed since without correct body positioning and alignment their full acceleration  potential will never be reached.  Also, the inability to focus long enough to complete this mundane yet vital task may make speed the least of their concerns, but this is another topic altogether……

To develop the athlete’s ability to maintain perfect posture over extended periods of time we must focus on this area in all phases of training.  We can develop the musculature required to hold many of these positions by performing simple glute bridges and planks (done properly with the core gently braced at all times), I have found too often that athletes plank incorrectly and just hold their bodies up, try to palpate the athlete’s entire core (low back, obliques, glutes, hip flexors etc…) to be sure all muscle groups are activated.  In addition to these I have found that focusing on postural integrity during everything from warm up to cool down also makes a huge difference, so anytime the athlete is standing essentially is a good time to drive home the importance of standing tall, shoulders back, core braced, head in a neutral position etc…

Once the acceleration position has been worked on and the athlete understands the basic reasoning and concepts that necessitate it we move to starts.  The tricky thing about having the body in the required position is that the only way to get it there is by leaning into or against something, such as a sled or thick resistance band, or by starting from positions that put you into a forward lean.  The most common way we do this is with a traditional 3 point “40 yard dash” start, a falling start or a single leg falling start.  The point of emphasis must always be to explode out and to stay low.  In the 3 point stance start the back leg does very little other than cycle through and ideally do so quickly and be in a great position to take step 2.  However, the front leg is the one that must explosively push the athlete out because it is ultimately a series of strong, powerful, efficient “Pushes” that lead to impressive acceleration.  In his latest book Coach Mike Boyle describes a start drill he coaches that uses a large crash mat for his athletes to literally jump out and land on to teach the aggressive drive required to fully grasp this concept.  The athletes simply get into a starting position and explode out of the position so aggressively that they will essentially dive onto the ground, this is where the mat comes in handy!

If you can get your athletes to correctly perform these drills while maintaining postural integrity, and slowly developing the habits of correct arm drive and foot position they will see a dramatic improvement in their 10 or 20 yard dash times.  These times are what separate the 4.6 athlete from the 5.0 athlete, but more importantly they will have far greater carry over to ANY team sport than performing “top-end” speed drills, such as those taught by many “speed camps” and used by track athletes, such as B-Skips.  Over the years I have found that developing proper arm swings and flexing the foot takes a tremendous amount of repetition in those who do not naturally do these well.  For this reason I recommend incorporating some very short drills to work on these during warm ups as a way to get almost daily exposure to them in a college or in-season competitive club sports athletes.

Every quality that coaches and parents desire for their athletes is rooted in strength, either the ability to produce force or the ability to maintain postural integrity.  So when a parent or coaches preaches “first-step quickness”, speed and agility remind them that each of these is largely dependent on getting stronger AND learning how to transfer that new found horsepower into more explosive, deliberate and efficient movements.  How fast an athlete steps has little to do with the step and almost everything to do with the drive leg’s ability to produce force and do so quickly, that is what results in a fast an explosive start.  The same principles hold true for developing the ability to pull away from a defender or close the gap on a player ahead of you.  So whether you are a coach or parent, the next time you are looking for “speed development” remember that it is actually strength and movement development that you desire because perfect running form without these traits is like a beautiful race car with a golf cart engine.  It may look sleek and fast, but will take three days to reach full speed.


The Importance of Eccentric Strength and Landing Mechanics for Volleyball Athletes

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By: JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U

With over 15 years training women’s volleyball (14 at the NCAA Division I College Level and 1 year at the HS level), I have learned certain things that continue to be overlooked by some in the industry.  The most critical areas of physical development for most HS and College aged female netters are not simply more power, more explosiveness and more jumping/plyos.  Rather it is the ability to handle the load of excessive jumping/landing (development of strength and specifically eccentric strength) and ensuring the use of perfect jumping/landing mechanics (plyometric progression and emphasis on structural balance) that are the most important.  These may not be the most “appealing” to coaches who want to hear about bigger jumps and higher “touches”, but they will help lessen the chance that one of their athletes will spend the season on the bench recovering from a torn ACL or other leg injury, and ensure long-term athletic development over a career!

Far too often strength is overlooked, and it is the foundational variable required to develop power, and to display this power over a 5 game match!  Explosive power is simply the combination of speed and strength, but a lack of strength will not only lead to sub-par performance, but also increase the risk of non-contact injury, especially the lack of eccentric strength.  This is the strength used when we lower a weight, land, or decelerate.  For reasons scientists do not yet fully understand women are naturally weaker eccentrically than men and this is a HUGE issue.  Nearly all non-contact ACL tears occur when landing or stopping, and NOT sprinting or jumping.  In light of this it is essential for the performance coach to emphasize this in their programming through the use of tempo training and slow, controlled negatives.

Finally, volleyball athletes may jump and land incorrectly 100+ times per match or practice and this is what it is.  However, the weight room is a controlled environment and a place where proper landing, which will prevent “wear and tear”, and possibly a more serious injury, can be demanded.  This is why a simple plyometric progression should always be implemented and the athlete should never perform plyometrics that are too difficult for them.  How do we know if they are too difficult?  If they cannot land properly it is too difficult.  Knees falling in, landing on the heels or toes, without good knee and hip flexion, landing “loud”, with too wide a stance or one too narrow, too upright or too low are all signs of poor landing.  Start with stepping off a 12″ or 18″ bench or step and just landing.  Once this is mastered add vertical jumps, then box jumps (to this point all are static).  Once these are mastered incorporate short hurdles with a static landing, then low level reactive plyos like 6″ hurdle hops, and finally add more advanced/challenging reactive and single leg jumps, change of direction or rotational jumps or depth jumps in a reactive fashion.  It is imperative to remember that these should only be performed when the athlete can land correctly and has developed the leg strength to properly perform them.  This progression may take years for a youth aged player, and at least several months for a high-schooler.

Remember Volleyball athletes jump PLENTY in practice so the last thing they need in the weight room is 100+ reactive high hurdles or single leg jumps.  Always think quality before quantity and focus on developing eccentric strength, if you do then landing mechanics will improve.  Once all of this comes together performance will improve and you will have a more physically resilient, injury resistant team that performs at a higher level than their opponent (in game 1 AND in game 5), and that is a fun volleyball team to watch and coach!!

Please contact Coach Moreau with questions, comments or feedback at or @TheStrengthU or

Former Iowa Hawkeye Star MB Becky Walters.

Alyssa Weldon Dig

CCA HS and Iowa Rockets Standout(and recent Mt. Mercy  University Commit) Alyssa Weldon.

Strength For Girls – The Strength U Approach

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BY: JC Moreau, Director of Sports Performance, Strength U


Strength U. is pleased to provide the nation’s most comprehensive sports performance training for girls. Coach JC Moreau draws upon his unique experiences training women, ranging from complete beginners through Olympic Gold medalists, to develop the customized training programs designed using the Strength U. mantra of “Strong Mind • Smart Body”. The purpose is always on training flawless movement patterns, technique, and power and speed mechanics, while simultaneously developing confident, mentally strong, focused and resilient young women.  Coach Moreau’s professional experiences and responsibilities would certainly classify him as one of the ten most qualified performance coaches for female athletes in the nation.  When his expertise training female athletes is combined with his passion for helping young athletes maximize their potential, strengthen their mental resolve, and come to the realization that they are capable of far more than they realize, when they understand the value of preparation.

IC West High’s Brylee Klosterman making solid contact in a Varsity game in ’16 as a rising FR.

Coach Moreau has 15 years of experience training NCAA Division I female student-athletes, and has trained nationally-ranked (Top 25) volleyball, basketball, softball, soccer, track & field, swimming, diving, cross-country, lacrosse, field hockey, ice hockey and golf teams during his tenure at Colgate University, Lafayette College, the University of Memphis, the University of Arkansas and the University of Iowa. At the University of Arkansas, he was the Head Strength Coach for Women’s Athletics (one of only two coaches in the nation to hold that title) and at the University of Iowa he was the Director of Strength & Conditioning. During his time at Arkansas, Moreau worked with several NCAA tournament teams, NCAA national champion, Stacy Lewis (currently the #2 ranked women’s golfer in the world) and Veronica Campbell (a five-time Olympic Gold medalist in the 200m dash and 4x100m relay). While at Iowa, Coach Moreau worked with a women’s basketball team that qualified for the NCAA tournament each of his four years, winning the Big Ten regular season title in 2008 and finishing no lower than third in the conference each season. Finally, in 2010 Moreau and his staff held the first ever strength training and injury prevention clinic exclusively for girls, with over 250 athletes, parents and coaches in attendance, for the FREE instructional clinic.  In response to the clinic’s success Moreau went on to hold three more similar clinics across Iowa, to educate coaches and parents to the protocol for injury reduction he and his staff had developed.

His thousands of hours of practical experience and specialized study of the specific needs and challenges for females pertaining to developing lean, toned muscle while maintaining ideal body composition, correcting some of the muscular imbalances and asymmetry commonly found in women and implementing a sport-specific training protocol that seeks to strengthen areas that require particular attention in females who play particular sports are among the resources he uses to help each girl reach her potential.

“J.C. is one of the elite Strength and Conditioning Coaches in the United States. He pushes his athletes to better themselves everyday whether that is in the weight room or in their everyday life. His ability to connect with every athlete in a different way is what separates him from everyone else. J.C. loves what he does and it shines through every day.”

Kachine Alexander- Asst. Coach, North Dakota State University, 2011 All-American, WNBA Draft Pick and 2010, 2011 All-Big Ten Selection for The University of Iowa

Whether it is basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, cheer, dance, golf or ice hockey, Moreau and his staff will develop a program to maximize each athlete’s speed, acceleration, agility, change of direction ability, mechanics, explosive power (jumping), landing mechanics and strength. Most importantly, though, every program incorporates a proven protocol to prevent the potential for non-contact injuries such as ACL tears. Lastly, Moreau is far more than a “trainer” but a wildly successful coach who prides himself on educating young women on why his methods are so critical, as well as addressing important intangible qualities such as confidence, resilience, selflessness, teamwork, self-esteem and body image (if appropriate). In short, Moreau uses strength training as a way to build girls up, both physically and psychologically.

Moreau began to champion the cause of improved strength training for girls, to decrease the rate of injury, improve performance at a rate equal to that of their male peers and because of the tremendous value he believes it has in developing strong, confident female leaders. He and his wife Niki are now the proud parents of three daughters (Carly four, and two year old identical twin sisters Brooklynn and Blaykely), so it goes without saying that this is not an issue that he plans to place any less focus on over the years to come.



  • Sport/Age/Gender-Specific Sports Performance Coaching for girls aged 10+.       This includes general movement assessments (Full Functional Movement Screen with 10 page pdf findings available at additional cost), corrective work for structural imbalances, proper and safe instruction of strength and power training exercises using a proven progression to allow all levels of trainee work at the appropriate skill and intensity level, speed, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, running mechanics and more. Always with injury prevention and physical resilience being the top priority.
  • ACL Injury Prevention: Whatever your age or skill level, our team will perform a comprehensive series of strength, balance, and functional movement assessments. From there, we create an all-inclusive, personalized plan to strengthen and stabilize your body, address the specific risk factors presented by your sport, and reduce the risk of ACL injury.
  • Plyometric and other explosive jump training, always incorporated under the strict protocol established by Coach Moreau after 15+ years of experience training several thousand NCAA Division I and High School female athletes.
  • Nutritional consultation provided (ONLY WHEN PARENTS ARE FIRST CONSULTED and at an additional cost) using the performance nutrition program Moreau developed in a collaborative effort with MDs from the UI Sports Medicine staff and PhDs from the University’s Dietetics Department. Our philosophy involves learning about each individual’s nutritional background, experiences and current habits, and addresses those most relevant from a health standpoint first.       We strive to educate and work to develop an understanding of how our diet impacts our health and performance and seek to make improvements by breaking bad habits and developing new ones, usually one at a time. There is no mention of “Diet” as we believe the only way to achieve long term success is through proper education and the creation of new habits, which are only chosen once the athlete feels confident in her desire to make this change. This leads to a much higher success rate when compared to the traditional “yo-yo” effect that most experience when attempting “Fad Diets” which demand drastic overhaul that is simply not sustainable.

Consultation/Team Coaching is available to individuals and teams, and parents/coaches are ALWAYS involved! Please call to receive a quote as fees are based on time, travel and size of group and will vary.

  • Small Group and Team Training are all available so that each athlete is able to obtain the level of attention they require, while considering the resources available are different in each situation.
  • Off-Site Team Training is available when scheduling allows. We take the facility to your school or club practice space and conduct sessions on your home court or field! This is a great way for parents and coaches to save significant time, keep cost lower and have their entire team benefit

Call or email us today at or 479-530-8254 to see why Strength U provides science based, athlete-centric sports performance training for girls that has been proven effective where it matters most; in the gym, on the field or in the weight room!  These methods have only been made available to a select few, so do not miss out on this truly unique, and possibly career changing opportunity to work with and learn from an industry leader and trend-setter.  There are several options of speed & sports performance training available now.  Contact us to learn more.


Effective Basketball Performance Training For Youth Athletes: Building a Strong Foundation for Future Success

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Kristi Smith, Strong, Quick, Fast and Fluid


By: JC Moreau, Director of Sports Performance/Founder –  Strength U® 

15 years of training men’s and women’s basketball players, from Junior H.S. through the professional ranks will teach you things. One of the many things it has taught me is that certain training protocols have clearly had the greatest positive impact on the performance and health of these athletes. The more I read about self-proclaimed “basketball-specific” trainers or methods, the more I am reminded of what these athletes really need. And it’s not the latest gimmick, but the basic principles of sound performance-development.

Despite the various ways we can define “sound performance training principles”, my experience has shown that proper movement, structural balance and postural integrity are king. And the progressive overload of fundamental strength movements are still the ideal way to accomplish this.

For the purpose of this article, I will not present specific exercises for each category, but instead I will discuss more general movements as well as several key exercises that are paramount in the development of each young basketball athlete, both boys and girls.

Our first priority should be to have EVERY athlete screened by a physical therapist or credentialed sports performance coach trained in the principles of movement screening.  Once an athlete is cleared of mobility issues or pain, then it is safe to proceed with some form of resistance training. From my perspective, the best way to maintain or enhance postural integrity is to work on unilateral movements for the upper and lower body and train upper body pulling movements which emphasize the retraction of the shoulder blades, as well as basic bilateral and unilateral leg exercises. All of these must initially be performed in higher rep ranges (8-15) and multiple sets (2-5) with a slow eccentric tempo for most movements (3-4 full seconds). Perfect posture and positions are prioritized while performing ALL movements from warm up to cool down. When this is combined with higher volume and controlled tempo it goes a long way in developing a solid foundation, which includes greatly improved postural integrity.

While there is much debate pertaining to what the “best” leg movements are I prefer the Goblet or Front Squat, Split Squat and unloaded (bodyweight) Single Leg (SL) Squat progressions with my athletes.  The reason has everything to do with developing the performance outcomes I stated earlier.  First, in order to perform a squat of any kind or a split squat the athlete must first be able to move through those ranges of motion with adequate mobility and stability.  If they cannot, they then need to correct this before adding a load (weight) to the movement.  Second, the Goblet or Front Squat requires considerable engagement of the “core”, and minimize the forward lean at the low back making it safer during the introductory phases. When that aspect is combined with a slow tempo, as stated earlier (example: 4 seconds down, 1 second pause at bottom, 1 second up and 1 second pause at top) you also improve the athlete’s postural integrity, as a lack of strength in this area hinders proper form at higher numbers of reps.  Third, the Split Squat is an effective introductory, unilateral, static single leg movement.  The athlete can still use the back leg for balance, but the movement focuses primarily on the front leg, making it work independently from the other.  Additionally, the Split Squat enhances flexibility in the hip flexors and groin, as well as improving balance.

Finally, the Single Leg Squat. This is the one exercise taught from a partial range of motion before progressing to a full one, followed by additional resistance.  The reason for this has to do with the leverages involved in the exercise. The movement is particularly difficult for most athletes and the lack of support from the opposing leg makes proper alignment between the knee, hip and ankle difficult to maintain, particularly while controlling the tempo.  Once an athlete attains proficiency with this movement to a point to, or slightly below parallel, we are able to add resistance with weight vests, weight plates or dumbbells.

It is the implementation of sound performance principles, applied programmatically, that make up the foundation of our basketball training protocols.  Our objective is to produce an athlete who operates from a good base of mobility, demonstrates proper movement patterns and can maintain postural integrity for the duration of a game or practice. Once that has been attained, we know they have developed the strength required to minimize the potential for non-contact injuries, have a far better chance of remaining healthy and can also take their “game” to the next level.

Recently, an AAU Basketball Coach commented on the improved stamina, quickness, explosiveness and body position of his players in their last few tournaments.  When he asked how I had managed to accomplish this with his players my answer seemed to surprise him with its simplicity; “We made sure they could squat and lunge properly and then we got them stronger in those areas.”

We certainly did more than two exercises, but by focusing on proper structural balance and postural integrity, while improving leg strength the players were able to remain in a defensive stance longer and quite simply played the game with better body position for two full halves.  The result was athletes who were in a better position to take a first step, could take a STRONGER (thus FASTER) first step, remain in a strong “box out” stance under the net, jump higher, run faster, stop, breakdown and cut more effectively. And they could do all of this for a much longer duration.

Sure, we perform an equal amount of upper body strength work, including some hoops specific rebounding, grip, passing, pushing and pulling work in the weight room. We also train speed and agility drills, some basketball specific footwork, balance and core work, ball control and other drills. Just like everyone else. But, when asked how to improve basketball performance in players from 10 to 22, my short answer is, “Get them stronger!”

The Squat is the Foundation of Most Athletic Stances

The Squat is one of the most functional movements we perform in sports, and everyday life.  Even though it can be challenging for some taller athletes to squat correctly that is NOT a reason to avoid this movement!

Iowa City and North Liberty Youth Sports Training and Athletic Performance

Contact us at or on twitter or Instagram @TheStrengthU

Why It May Be Harmful For Pre-Teens to NOT Strength Train!

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BY: JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U

Keian pushup I often hear the question from parents “when should my child begin strength training?” and my answer is typically pretty much the same.  It depends on several variables, what type of “strength” training are you considering, who will be instructing it, what is your child’s athletic background and finally, what are your goals?  Since most forms of gymnastics can be considered “strength” training the answer may be, as soon as you can walk.  However, as it pertains to more traditional weight training with resistance (bands, DBs, barbells, sand bags etc…) there are a sleuth of other considerations to consider before coming to a definitive conclusion in response to this question.  We work with several 10 year olds, but I know that what we do can benefit younger children as long as the programming is administered correctly.

However, the purpose of this article is to share some findings from the Australian Institute for Sport, which is arguably the world’s leader in the scientific study of athletic development, sports science, performance, injury prevention and technology.

In Coach Narelle Sibte’s report titled Weight Training- Pre-Adolescent Strength Training – Just Do It!, he explores the topics of youth resistance or weight training and it’s impact on the development of youth athletes.  For years several myths have existed in regards to strength training and children, such as the potential negative impact on growth, an increase in the chance of injury or even that it is not possible for youth athletes to gain strength because of their hormonal makeup.  It is important to note the author is referring to safe, movement based strength training, which must be led by a credentialed and experienced coached in a safe and conducive environment.

The article’s conclusions were that as follows:

-The majority of studies conducted over the last 25 years show that pre-teens who follow an appropriate training program demonstrated strength gains between 13-30% over an 8-12 week period.

-Strength increases twofold between the ages of 7 and 12 years old.  Some may argue that failure to start resistance training before 16 may be detrimental to an athlete’s playing longevity.

-In initial stages of training, girls have potential to improve more than boys, as generally speaking, they start from a lower status.

-Gains from strength training for preadolescents are generally attributed to the nervous system and motor learning, rather than hormones.

-Pre-teens make similar relative gains in strength compared to later stages of development, but usually demonstrate smaller absolute strength increases following strength training.

When these finding were examined further it was clear that there are implications for injury prevention and performance enhancement rates in youth athletes.  Common overuse injuries such as tendonitis and Osgood-Schlatter can result from poor flexibility, muscle-tendon mismatch and other movement and strength imbalance issues that proper strength training may be able to correct.  Finally, the bone stress induced by resistance training may encourage bone growth through the various ways it encourages bone modelling.  It is safe to say that this article and its supporting research demonstrate that strength training is not only beneficial for pre-adolescent athletes, but that it may actually be harmful to NOT be involved in some form of strength/weight training.

The next question logically should be, what is correct “strength/weight training”, and there are no shortage of opinions out there, however that is likely another subject altogether!  We will lay out a sound approach to strength training for anyone regardless of age.  First, the emphasis must always be placed on movement above all else.  It is imperative to teach young athletes and they should be able to perfectly perform more complex, full-body movements, such as squats and lunges, with their body weight before an additional load is prescribed.  Once technique and movement can be properly exhibited then the first basic principal of a sound strength training program to be explored is progressive overload.

Progressive overload simply refers to the continual addition of stress through either heavier weights, additional sets and/or reps (volume), training frequency or a more challenging tempo (the speed of each movement).  In my good friend Cal Dietz’s training manual, Triphasic Training, he goes into great depth explaining why “stress” is king of all training variables.  He is absolutely correct (and proves it is his nearly 600 page epic work), but it is not as simple as more is better.  As a general rule new trainees do not want to add more than 5-10% in weight or volume each week, and must be very careful in regards to monitoring increases in frequency as well.  It is interesting to note that certain research indicates that it is training intensity is the second most important variable to consider after progressive overload parameters have been established.

This research suggests that moderate intensities (65-75% 1RM or 10-15 reps) be used as a general guideline, and that max effort or “max out” lifts should be avoided!  The rep range listed above has proven to provide enough stimulus to elicit strength gains, with the additional benefit of providing additional “practice” performing each movement.  Like any other movement or skill we improve and become more comfortable with something as we get more reps and more practice and training with weights is no different than swinging a golf club in this regard.  If the young athlete is doing 36 reps of squats in a session ( 3 sets of 12 repetitions) versus 15 (3 sets of 5 repetitions), it stands to reason that the neuro-muscular adaptation process required to perform a movement perfectly time after time will take place sooner.

A final area that must not be overlooked when designing a strength program for children is recovery.  This may appear obvious, but we often take on the attitude that pre-teens cannot do too much and that kids are meant to play hard and often.  However, with so many kids playing multiple sports and for multiple teams it is critical to find out what all of the other commitments are (athletically and otherwise).  When we are introducing strength training to a young athlete it is to improve performance and decrease the likelihood of injury.  Ignoring recovery could lead to the  opposite, overuse or chronic injuries.  One final note on recovery is that it also has everything to do with lifestyle, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and other more advanced regeneration techniques.  It is never too soon to begin educating young athletes and their families on the importance of these, and how much they will impact the long term athletic development of their young athlete.

In summary, recent research shows us that strength or resistance training is beneficial for pre-teen athletes for a variety of reasons.  Gains in strength, coordination, bone density and improvements in performance appear to be joined by a reduction in the rate of injury and more, among those participating in well designed and instructed strength training programs.  We believe that movement in king and that each athlete must be able to perform various movements without obstruction before introducing a load (weight) to the movement.  When this philosophy is observed it is safe to say that research shows us that weight training is beneficial, both long and short term, for pre-adolescent athletes.

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Keian pull up




Accept the challenges!

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By: JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U

 “Accept the challenges so you can feel the exhilaration of Victory!”

~Gen. George S. Patton

One of our primary responsibilities as a strength and conditioning professionals is to find ways to get athletes and complete teams out of their comfort zone. It is not until you push through your perceived mental and physical barriers that you are truly able to make significant progress as an individual and a team. Gen. Patton’s quote is so fitting in this case because it can be used to describe the journey of every single student-athlete.

To compete at a high level of athletics there will be countless challenges and obstacles standing in your way. Winning in any form is sweet, but when you have truly sacrificed your entire being to overcome,  what was once, an insurmountable obstacle, then you can feel the purest and most exhilarating form of joy and achievement from victory!


This 2008 University of Iowa Women’s Basketball team embraced the adversity and struggles they faced and pushed on.  However, they went a step further and worked harder than they ever had, sacrificed, suffered, battled, were knocked down, got back up, and each time they stepped up and pushed even harder!  In the end a team that no-one saw as a post-season team in December, was far greater.  They were Big Ten Champs, and I still cherish the memory of this group because of the incredible resilience and toughness they displayed.

Olympic Lifts: Do the ends justify the means?

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Medicine-Ball-Squat-Toss_Exercise                                                             Horizontal MB Toss

BY: JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U

Before I began consulting and training privately I would field phone calls from high school coaches, from all sports on a regular basis asking for assistance with workouts, or wanting to know what “we did”.  I have never been the type to keep my workouts sealed in a password protected folder on a computer that is locked in a desk in an office with a deadbolt…………you get the picture.  Everything I do is assembled using bits and pieces of information I have learned along the way, coaching I have received, advice I have asked for and perhaps a few tweaks I have made based the practical experiences I have had working with a few thousand student-athletes over the past 15 years.   So I shared what “we did” freely until it dawned on me that what I was doing was not generous and helpful, but lazy and irresponsible.  Perhaps that is harsh, but my point is that the work done in a major college weight room with a staff of 3-12 full-time strength coaches and another half dozen graduate assistants and interns is, and should be far different from what a high school basketball coach is able to put his or her team through.  What I am referring to specifically is the complexity of the movements incorporated into the workouts.  What I should have been doing is asking; Who will be coaching the workouts?  What type of facility do you have? What kind of equipment do you have? How big is it? How many work stations (if any) do you have?  How many athlete re in there at one time and with how many coaches?  How experienced is each coach at teaching x, y and z? etc….

High Schools and Colleges have come a very long way in regards to their funding of training spaces and the human resources allocated to these spaces, but both have grown and therefor no high school has a sports performance staff like that of a BCS college.  Some High Schools may resemble small Division I programs, but that is the exception and the norm is one (potentially Certified and that still does not mean qualified) strength coach for all sports in a tiny facility.  With that said, the workout I write with my 3 assistants for a 15 member basketball team is going to have infinitely more room for complexity, customization, variations of lifts, alternate lifts etc… for a variety of reasons.

The first of these, and by far the most important is safety!  Even at the major College level I believed in the KISS Theory (Keep It Simple Stupid) because rule #1 is always don’t get anyone hurt in the weight room.  If I can choose between two lifts to accomplish the same end, or even very close to the same end, and one is safer or has less room for error I will ALWAYS go with that choice.  For that reason alone I stopped performing power cleans with all of my student-athletes, in favor of the hang clean.  I can still see so many of my peers look at me in disbelief when I would tell them, but I felt that if the purpose of the power clean  was to simultaneously develop leg, hip and back strength with the first pull and explosive power with the second I could accomplish both more effectively, and decrease the risk of injury, by splitting them up.  If my goal with a lift was explosive power I could do a clean from a hang (just above the knee) and focus more on being explosive, without sacrificing the loads used during a power clean (most college athletes cannot do significantly more weight from the floor and some can do more from the hang).  So we were able to cut out a potentially dangerous movement (pulling from the floor), which also saves a huge amount of teaching time that can then be focused on the other segments of the lift.  When I wanted to develop Leg Strength, hip and back strength I could do any number of lifts, but squats, split or SL squats and RDLs  were my staples, and I could perform squats and RDLs with greater loads than used for doing power cleans thus eliciting a greater training response.  All lifts have an inherent risk associated with them, but it has been my experience that pulling weight off the floor (Deadlift or the bottom of a power clean or power snatch) has the highest potential for causing harm for a variety of reasons.  I am NOT saying I do not believe these are terrific lifts, but that unless you have a very experienced strength coach and a low athlete to coach ratio you can’t watch each athlete perform each rep so I’d rather do what I believe allows the athlete to focus more on the task at hand (In this case developing explosive power) by doing a movement that mimics a vertical jump and requires less technique (Although still very technical), like the hang clean or simply a clean pull (A hang clean without the catch).

So by now you may see where I am going with this. If I do not believe it is best for my athletes to perform power cleans, how do I recommend them, or any Olympic lift or other advanced technical movement to a coach with limited experience coaching them, and without the facility to safely and correctly teach and implement them?  I can not and there are more reasons than just safety.  The main one is efficiency, or time, spent in the weight room and considering what will be the most productive way to use that time with the coaching, athletes, space and equipment at hand.  The simple catch component of a hang clean is not so simple and takes some athletes years to truly feel comfortable with.  Ironically this is especially true for larger, stiffer athletes, typically football players, or long limbed athletes such as basketball players.  I have had football athletes that can not even hold the bar with two fingers in a “racked” position because the wrist and elbow flexion is so poor and basketball players who would need the bar to rest a few inches behind their neck, as opposed to comfortably in front of it, because their forearms are so long in proportion to their humerus.

I am rather embarrassed that it took me nearly a decade to realize that all the corrective and technique work I spent twenty minutes on each day we did those lifts could have been FAR better spent.  It was not a waste since being able to possess the range of motion required to effectively and safely catch a hang clean is important for any athlete, but what I was failing to remember, and I still see this error made frequently by strength and conditioning professionals, is that our goal in using the Olympic lifts with our athletes is usually to develop explosive power and more specifically acceleration.  Acceleration may be the single most important tangible physical attribute in 90% of sports, and Olympic lifts are a wonderful tool in improving this attribute in your athletes.  However, there are several other worthy methods of accomplishing this, as well as some much simpler Olympic movements that do not require the level of coaching and constant technique work that a clean does.  We use Olympic lifts as a means to an end, but often coach them as though they were the END.  This is often the case with the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift as well, but that is another topic for another day.  Many coaches will disagree with me and to them I will simply ask how much time do they spend on power cleans as part of a 1 hour workout.  My guess is that if your team is technically sound , or even close to it, in the power or hang clean, you spend 5-15 additional minutes on that one movement because of additional technique work, complexes, drop cleans, huge numbers of warm up sets etc… that would not do if you did a clean pull for example.  Not to mention your athletes likely “feel” it in an unhealthy way the day after heavy sets because of the strain place on their back, elbows, wrists, knees etc… due to lack of perfect technique, and there is NEVER an excuse for athletes feeling pain unrelated to muscle soreness.

As I said I am a fan, a huge fan of Olympic lifts for athletes, I simply think it is an important consideration for a college or high school strength coach when writing a workout.  Will the means justify the ends or more appropriately are the there more efficient, effective and productive means to accomplish those same ends?  Just because the UNC women’s soccer team does a certain conditioning test doesn’t mean it is the best test for your team.  The same holds true for what the football team does at Alabama or the basketball team at Kentucky.   They are the best because they have the best players and athletes, who also have terrific coaches. You must always evaluate who you are working with and make that your first consideration when designing a workout. I have always taken a great deal of pride in working with as many high school coaches as possible over the years, and have certainly learned a great deal from many of them! I am extremely grateful for that, but the one thing I would have done differently is to find out more about their program, athletes and facilities and offer a program based on that information, as opposed to simply teaching or sharing what “we did” at the time.

Alternatives to Olympic Lifts

-Med Ball or Sand Bell tosses and throws with explosive hip extension

-Weight Vest Box Jumps or other controlled static jumps

-Jump training by itself for more novice athletes

-Banded Resistance Devices

Safest or least technical DB, Bar or Olympic Lift movements

-DB Snatch

-DB Push Press

-Clean Pull

-Trap Bar Pull

-Hang Snatch

-Behind the Neck Split Jerk

-Jump Shrug

-KB Swings

Obviously some of these are more technical than others and all involve some coaching, but in my experience athletes can get very proficient at performing these in minimal time.  Most of them do not allow for the weight of a Clean, but since these movements should be speed based be sure to emphasize explosive extension and flawless form!  Heavy RDLs, Trap Bar Deadlifts and Squats will have the same training effect in regards to hypertrophy and strength development.  You will likely see fewer nagging injuries and have more time to maximize the density of your session! Most coaches will agree that we are short on time already so make the most of each session and decrease the chance of a senseless injury, since any training injury on the strength coach’s watch is ultimately his/her fault and it should be our number one priority to minimize the chance of this happening!

Train hard, train smart, coach your tail off and demand perfection physically and mentally.  If your team is consistent in their efforts, follows a balanced, progressive strength program that incorporates a variety of explosive movements and prioritizes movement over weight, you will see improvement in the weight room, on the playing field and develop better and ideally healthier athletes.

Please contact with comments, questions or to learn more.

Structural Balance: The Principal Synergist to the Postural Integrity Required for Long-Term Athletic Development

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By:  JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U



The idea of structural balance, as I first heard of it, was used by internationally renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin (Charles also happens to be from my hometown of Ottawa, ON Canada).  Coach Poliquin’s theory was that in order for maximal athletic performance to be achieved, and to minimize the risk of injury, specific ratios of strength during the development of an athlete.  This holds true for all trainees whether they are athletes or not, but athletes are more commonly “tested” and progress is more regularly tracked (or it should be).  In this article we will discuss why this is critical in the safe and effective development of an athlete and various training methods to ensure this is accomplished.

The concept of identifying strength imbalance in the body is not a new one, but is one that has received a great deal more attention over the last 15 years for a variety of reasons.  First, it has become more widely understood how and why asymmetry can lead to injury and/or decrease performance.  Second, physical therapists have developed a greater understanding of how these imbalances impact more than the antagonist group or the other side of the body.  We now have a more holistic understanding of how our bodies are connected from our toes to our head and that injury to one area can impact several other seemingly unrelated areas.  Finally the development of testing protocols such as the Functional Movement Screen have made it easier for personal trainers and novice strength and conditioning professionals to identify such issues. Now that we know that movement assessment is more common it is still important to develop programs that will work on developing structural balance, and over the years I have developed what I often call “Training the lowest common denominator”.

Training the lowest common denominator may not sound complementary, but it is not meant to.  While spending thousands of hours training athletes at 5 Division I schools from over 30 NCAA sanctioned sports I began to see some common patterns develop.  Being aware of the importance of Structural Balance in the overall development of young athletes I decided that regardless of screening or testing for imbalances I would work on correcting the most commonly occurring ones, those that most athletes displayed.  So I took the most commonly found combination of imbalances and assumed that all athletes needed work in these areas, after all it was not going to be detrimental to anyone to work on activating their glute medius, even if they were one of the few who could already properly do so, it would simply reinforce a strong firing pattern that already existed, hence the “Lowest Common Denominator”.  I should note that for those in a personal training setting where very specific programming can be done this may not be the absolute most efficient use of time, but when training several teams and dozens or hundreds of athletes daily this is a very effective method.  A classic example of structural imbalance is often seen in H.S. football players who have poor posture and rounded shoulders.  They likely spend far too much time training their chest and shoulders and not nearly as much focus is placed on their upper back.  As a result their bench press strength plateaus because the body recognizes the imbalance in the antagonist group (the upper back) and the brain sends a signal to shut down the prime movers, or agonists (chest and shoulders).  Interestingly even in athletes who have not over trained the pectorals there is often several signs of poor posture, most noticeably rounded shoulders.  This simply a societal issue caused largely by the amount of time we spend sitting, in school, at work, in front of the TV or computer, in the car and then the lack development to the musculature responsible for postural integrity during the childhood and adolescent years.  In light of this I focus more on developing lat, rhomboid and trapezius (especially the lower trapezius) strength in all athletes and we will do specific auxillary movements in warm up or during a workout to address the more difficult to target smaller muscles.  For example doing banded scap retractions or T raises from the prone position on a bench, with emphasis on “squeezing” the shoulder blades together will strengthen the rhomboids.  Although this “squeeze” should be part of most rowing exercises it is often overlooked, and when you compound this with the fact many trainees will have focused far more on chest development than back development it is easy to see how an imbalance can develop.

Other muscles we incorporate into our programming specifically to ensure “structural balance” are the vastus medialus oblique (VMO), scapular retractors, rotator cuff, shoulder girdle, hip ab/ad-ductors, the ilipsoas hip flexor complex, and finally the musculature of the forearm and hand that make up our grip strength.  In addition to these specific muscles another way that we accomplish structural balance is through the use of unilateral movements for the lower body, such as split squats and step ups, and dumbbells and grip strength work for the upper body.  Doing this ensures that there is not only the correct ratio of muscular strength between the agonist and antagonist muscles, but also between the right and left sides.

Interestingly (and unfortunately) what may be the single largest factor contributing to structural imbalance in many trained athletes is poor technique!  There are several reasons for this, but regardless of why, performing any movement using anything less than flawless technique, which implies maintaining postural integrity, can and will lead to structural imbalance.  This is extremely easy to see in athletes who are self-trained and far too often use weights they are not prepared to handle.  Over time the range of motion on their squat, lunge, shoulder press etc… may diminish by 5, 10 or even 20%!  This will obviously lead to imbalances and movement pattern issues down the road.  However, it is not limited to those without coaches, I believe that some of the best athletes in the nation are guilty of this because their coaches may allow certain “habits” to creep into an athlete’s workouts.

This notion is one that I became acutely aware of over the last several years as I took a closer look at what I was doing with my college athletes, as well as what many of my colleagues were doing.  I have always prescribed to the philosophy that rule number one for any sports performance coach is to NOT HARM THE ATHLETE.  That belief may be the result of working in an environment where coaches lose their jobs for matters far less severe than injuring an athlete, even if it was not intentional.  The fact is that in our position we have the potential to make the greatest impact on the short and long term health and performance of the athletes we train of anyone that they come into contact with.  Because of this every sound program should be developed with promotion of strength, health, wellness and performance and the prevention of injury and illness in mind. That could be another discussion altogether, but the point is that I believe that I was letting far too much technique slide, or had convinced myself that perfection was too demanding on someone who is in-season and “beat up”.  Although that may occasionally be the case it is usually not and even though I have prided myself on not being a “numbers” guy I still allowed imperfection for a variety of reasons.  At the same time I had raised the bar very high in regards to the effort my athletes gave, but there was a cost associated with that and it was the failure to recognize the difference between complete failure during a set versus technical failure.  I believe this is mistake coaches frequently make, as well as one that is far too common in facilities that are understaffed and have minimal coaching and supervision.

Technical failure is a term I have seen used by Charles Poliquin, Mike Boyle and Gray Cook that simply refers to the point during a set when repetitions can no longer be performed with flawless technique.  Muscular failure, the more traditional term used, describes the point during which the individual can no longer perform another repetition period.  The difference between the two is significant because it is not uncommon for a trainee to reach technical failure several reps before muscular failure, and this is especially true with individuals who are performing “metabolic”, “high intensity” or other workouts that demand large amounts of volume (sets and reps).  I could write a college textbook on why I believe that crossfit type workouts, even when properly supervised, pose a greater risk to the trainee than more traditional strength or performance training.  Most of the highly technical lifts, and in particular the Olympic lifts, such as the clean and jerk, snatch and variations of each are not meant to be performed for more than a handful of reps.  They should also be placed at the beginning of a training session before other muscle groups have been overly fatigued.  From a strength, technique and energy system standpoint it is almost implausible to expect anyone to perform a 20 or 30 power cleans or to do as many as possible in one minute.  This almost guarantees that the majority will be performed beyond technical failure, if their technique is even sufficient to begin with.  Because of the nature of these lifts it is not surprising that our brain (and then body) find other ways to move the weight from point A to point B once certain muscle groups have fatigued.

In conclusion, structural balance is the ideal platform from which to develop explosive strength and power in an athlete, however it usually is not completely present in most athletes.   In fact, quite often it never will be fully in place due to injuries that are simply part of life in most team sports.  Because of this it is imperative to have a thorough understanding of how to identify structural imbalance and correct it.  This may be a constant work in progress, but whether you are training serious athletes or a weekend warrior, focusing on creating muscular symmetry is an absolute must in order to maximize results and minimize the potential for injury.  After all those should always be our top priorities for the athletes we train.  By programming single leg and single arm movements, improving grip strength, developing and demanding perfect movement patterns, correct range of motion, posture and technique and including regular work for the “lowest common denominators” you will have an excellent base established to accomplish these goals.

structural balance photo

Please feel free to contact JC Moreau at with questions or to learn more.


The Snatch Pull From a Hang – The greatest exercise for developing acceleration

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BY: JC Moreau, Founder/Director of Sports Performance, Strength U

I would like to speak briefly about the snatch pull from a hang, and why this is my number one choice for lifts that develop speed and power while being relatively safe and easy to teach.  The full Olympic Snatch involves pulling the bar from the floor to above the head with arms extended, in one motion.  Now this lift involves far more than the description lets on, but because of it’s purpose (to pull the bar directly overhead without a press) it is usually used with less weight than a clean, but is also able to generate greater bar speed!  When performing a snatch pull from hang the athlete is NOT catching or racking the weight overhead, rather simply explosively driving the legs vertically, followed by a vertical pull to roughly chest height.  Additionally, those of you who know me realize that I am not a huge proponent of youth and high school athletes pulling from the floor due to the typical lack of supervision that exists in most of the areas that these athletes train.  When performed from the “Hang” position the bar is lowered to just above the knees in a manner that closely mimics to lowering phase of an RDL, something most trainees are familiar with, and is immediately followed by an aggressive and explosive vertical drive.  It is helpful for most athletes to understand how this and a vertical jump are nearly identical movements (more details on this below)!  Although this does NOT eliminate the risk for injury, it has significantly less potential for technical errors and is easier for most athletes to grasp and perform.

Without getting into the physics of it all there are benefits to increasing bar speed with less weight, as well as benefits to increasing weight (load) while decreasing bar speed.  If Power = Force x Velocity or Power = Force x Distance/Time, in both cases Force is the result of bar speed and load, so that F=MA.  Knowing this, with the clean the M tends to be larger and in the case of the snatch the A variable is greater.  Since We are discussing speed development and acceleration it stands to reason that the snatch offers the greater training stimulus as it forces, and allows, the lifter to move the bar with greater velocity.  However, what I like even more about the snatch pull from a hang is that the snatch grip (which is wider than that of the clean) puts the body in a good flexed position and really allows the lifter to feel the contraction of their scaps (shoulders back/chest out) as they strive to maintain great posture and a flat back.  Also, by naturally putting the lifter in a slightly more flexed position at the bottom it allows for slightly greater ROM from the hips compared to a clean and since the bar is not travelling as far in a pull the added flex has two benefits.

First, it creates an additional few inches for the bar to travel, but second, and more importantly it gets the athlete in a position that really mimics that of the hip and knee flex required in most sports.  With the exception of down linemen in football and sprinters starting out of the blocks, it is rare that an athletes requires much more depth prior to an explosive hip extension (Jump, first step, tackle, dive etc…).  I could go on, but would like to try my best to keep this brief.

With the snatch pull from hang the athlete needs to focus (as they do on all Olympic lifts) on exploding up, keeping the bar travelling in a linear fashion and doing almost all of the work with the legs, glutes and hips similar to a vertical jump, all while maintaining rock solid posture with the torso.  Be sure to emphasize getting vertical and the pull with the arms should be minimal, but must go straight up to avoid pulling backwards, which is a common mistake and can injure the lower back quickly if not addressed.  This can often be created by teaching your athlete to roll their wrists forward “over the bar”.  In this position the elbows stay in front of the body, and the bar travelling up and not backwards.

An additional benefit to this movement is that there is no need to spend the significant time required to teach the catch, making the snatch pull from hang safer and easier to learn for less developed athletes who may not want to be pulling weight overhead, especially in an explosive manner.

In concluding, it is always critical to remember to focus on the purpose of this movement, which is to generate bar speed!  This is an explosive movement and with countless new forms of technology it is possible to measure bar speed, but one that is quite inexpensive in the Coach’s Eye app, which for $4.99 allows for a in-app purchase that allows the user to measure the time required for the bar to travel from point A to point B.  Although this is not as exact as other units which cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars, it does provide the coach with a solid tool to track progress within a workout, from rep to rep and set to set.

For more information, or to send questions or comments please contact Coach Moreau at or visit





Increasing your Vertical Jump by Improving Hip Flexor Flexibility

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CCA FBVertical Jump Pic

BY: JC Moreau

After the 40 yard dash for football, the vertical jump is probably the second most well-known tangible performance score.  In fact, in some ways it may be the most commonly used buy performance coaches as, unlike the “40”, the vertical jump applies to nearly all sports.  over the years I have worked with over 30 different NCAA sponsored Division I sports and can only think of a handful that did not use this test as a baseline measurement for explosive leg and hip power.

An entire book could be written on how the proper strength and conditioning program can maximize an athlete’s speed and explosiveness.  This is simply due to the fact that individuals who gain leg strength and power, maintain bodyweight, or gain only lean mass, and maintain or improve hip mobility will see an increase in their vertical jump.   More specifically, using full range of movement leg exercises, such as squats and lunges, will improve performance for less obvious reasons.  The benefits of performing these movements to near full depth are that they require greater balance, coordination, core and low back strength, mobility, structural balance and athleticism.  However, after years of experimenting with pre-testing variables in an attempt to elicit greater results in the VJ, addressing the lack of hip flexor flexibility that was displayed by 80+% of the athletes I trained, was by far the most consistently effective.

For more years than I care to admit I neglected the hip flexors terribly, both their development and flexibility.  This was a critical oversight for several reasons, since the hip flexors play such a pivotal role in all running and jumping movements.  Additionally tight or weak hip flexors increase the likelihood of injury while decreasing optimal performance.  So why do so many athletes display deficiencies in this region?  I can’t answer that for every athlete and coach, but know that I, and many of my peers, used to be of the belief that if I/we were training the heavy hitters (quads, hammys, glutes), then the supporting cast must be strong as well.  After all how could an athlete who squats 450lbs for 3 reps and hang cleans 300lbs have any weakness regarding hip flexion or extension.  Another possible issue is that the hip flexors are not a singular muscle or even one group, but rather several groups and individual muscles which attach the femur to the pelvis and lumbar spine.  The muscles that make up the hip flexors are :

  • The iliopsoas, or muscles of the inner hip, which are the psoas major, psoas minor and the illiacus muscle
  • The thigh muscles, rectus femoris and sartorius
  • The gluteal muscle tensor fasciae latae
  • The muscles of the inner thigh, adductor longus and brevis, as well as the muscles pectineus and gracilis

As you can see the hip flexors are actually comprised of a complex set of muscular groupings with multiple functions, attachments and influences.  Much as we did with our strength work, our flexibility work was often dominated by the major muscles of the leg.  If you can look back to 5, 10 and 15 years ago you may have a hard time recalling stretching anything other then the hamstrings, quads, glutes, groin(adductors) and calf muscles.  As you can see we flirted with the hip flexors by stretching our quads and adductors, but focus was rarely, if ever, placed on stretching the hip flexors exclusively.  Whatever the reason is we have, and many still do, neglect the “front side” when it comes to flexibility and strength.  We always hear about training the posterior chain in the weight room, and on the field or court we do 80-100% of our running straight ahead.  Couple this with how much sitting everyone, including athletes, does and it is no wonder that the hip flexors are tight.  They are constantly in a shortened or contracted position and rarely, if ever stretched or actively lengthened.  Quite simply our lives and training are almost designed to create tightness in this region, so by now you may be asking “how does this impact my vertical jump?”

The reason that improving hip flexor flexibility is so critical in vertical jump performance is that when contracted, or shortened, the hip flexors pull the femur up towards the torso, and when we perform a vertical jump we generate power though our legs and hips and contracted hip flexors will actually decelerate the jumping movement by preventing the powerful hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) from functioning maximally.  Full hip extension is also vital in maximizing speed through proper running mechanics and essentially all explosive movements from a standing position (that includes most sports and athletic movements)!

So next time you test the vertical jump be sure to perform a very comprehensive series of hip flexor flexibility work.  Internationally acclaimed strength coach, Charles Poliquin, states that as little as five minutes of such stretching these muscles can add 2cm. – 4cm. (.75″ – 1.7″) to the vertical jump, and I do not know of a coach or athlete who would not be thrilled with that tradeoff!  As we have seen there are several reasons to keep the hip flexors strong and limber (year round), but there may not be a movement, exercise or workout that can provide more instant gratification than hip flexor flexibility work.

For more information or with comments please contact JC Moreau at