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Arc training for Speed and power

Improvements in speed and jumping ability after a six-week Cybex Arc Trainer and Leg Press protocol in a recreational athlete

An athlete, who was plateauing with respect to strength and speed, experienced increases in speed and jump height following a leg press and arc trainer-based program.

Author

Scott Moody
AthleteFIT
Overland Park, KS

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Introduction

For experienced athletes, continued improvement in speed and power may require a regular change in program design. Occasionally, these program alterations include experimental stimuli, meant to target specific physiological, neurological or biomechanical processes.  On the surface these experimental programs may not always appear to be functional in regards to specific movements, but can ultimately provide a very functional outcome.

This program looks at an experimental approach to enhancing one’s short sprint speed and vertical power by inducing a state of fatigue through repeated maximal voluntary contractions using a Cybex Eagle Leg Press device, followed by short bouts of near maximal effort work on the Cybex Arc Trainer, which closely mimics sprint-like motions in a safe environment. The idea behind this protocol comes from research suggesting that muscle fiber firing patterns, after reaching a fatigued state, will begin to become more synchronized, thus working more efficiently to elicit a more powerful contraction, which in turn could enhance ones power, and therefore speed.

Background

This twenty-five year old male recreational athlete was looking to improve his speed and vertical jump using a 6-week pre-season program. The subject had been training two days per week over the previous few months in a program that included traditional free weight, dumbbell and medicine ball exercises, but had seen no increases in strength, vertical jump or speed.

During this 6-week study, the subject added a third training day using an experimental protocol designed to pre-fatigue the larger muscle groups of the legs and then demand maximal effort at a fairly high cadence on the Cybex Arc Trainer. The subject hoped that this synchronized recruitment would lead to greater speed and power outcomes such as sprinting and jumping.

Procedure

The subject used a 3-day training split with a day of recovery between each training session during this six weeks study. A typical week is shown in Table 1. The dumbbell and medicine ball circuit (DB / MB Circuit) consisted of 5 sets of six exercises performed at a moderate intensity level with 30 seconds of recovery between each, and was designed as a metabolic training circuit.

 Table 1. Weekly Periodization during the 6-week studyPicture9 resized 600


In the leg press / Arc sprint workout, the subject would work up to the 1RM achieved in the leg press pre-test, and then immediately remove one plate at a time, performing as many repetitions as possible at each weight with no rest between sets, until he was pressing a load equal to his body weight (185 lbs.).  After this drop set style workout, the subject would perform a series of five maximum effort bouts on the Cybex Arc Trainer. These bouts used the Advanced Power Training mode where the subject selected a pre-identified level (10), and proceeded to move at a maximal cadence of 160-170 strides per minute (SPM) in an attempt to reach, and maintain, an elevated level of power output for as long as possible, or until his cadence dropped below 150 SPM. The subject would rest for approximately one minute before starting the next set. 

Results

Upon finishing the 6-week study, the subject assessed changes in his power by performing two sets of 5 repetitions of counter movement jumps on the jump mat device. The subject’s vertical jump had improved by 3.04 inches (Table 2). To assess the changes in speed, the subject performed five 40 yd dash sprints using the electronic timing gate system with approximately 2 minutes of recovery between each sprint. The subject improved his sprint performance in the 40 yard dash by 0.05 seconds, improving from a 4.83 seconds to 4.78 seconds. 

Table 2. Vertical jump and 40 yard dash improvement as a result of the training programPicture10 resized 600

Discussion

The primary focus of this study was to observe any changes in speed and power after six weeks of a leg press pre-fatigue protocol followed by maximal effort bouts on the Cybex Arc Trainer. The results of this study showed an increase in both vertical jump and 40 yd dash speed.

Improvements in sprinting speed and jumping ability are sometimes hard to achieve for experienced athletes, especially when they are in a non-competitive season where they are not sprinting or jumping regularly. The use of a protocol that optimizes muscular power for athletic outcomes could prove to be an ideal option for this type of athlete.

The subject of this study reported extreme fatigue in the legs immediately following each leg press and Arc Trainer session, but seemed to feel fully recovered, with no reported soreness on the days following these sessions. These improvements carried over into the competitive season for this subject, as he felt more powerful throughout each volleyball match and felt quicker and more explosive in his football pre-season activities. Several weeks after the study was finished, the subject reported that he still felt as if he was still jumping higher and thus was able to perform at a much higher level on the field and court.

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