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Jason Douglas Lewis - Improving explosive power with the Vertimax at Velocity Sports

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Improving explosive power with the Vertimax at Velocity Sports

Velocity Sports Head Performance Coach/Trainer Dean Laing works with a high school athlete on the Vertimax to improve his speed, quickness, and jumping ability.  Photo by Jason Lewis

Velocity Sports Performance Director Andre Woodert trains athletes with heavy weights to build power, but also with explosive movements to build leg and core strength.  He said that he does not want to build strong but slow athletes.  Photo by Jason Lewis

Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net

By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)

Walk into Velocity Sports in West Los Angeles and you will see a high tech gym with members who are in great shape.  This fast paced gym is similar to the commercial gyms, but everybody seems to have one purpose.  To get in the best shape possible.

Most of the members are normal everyday folks, just looking for the best workout possible.  Some looking for the beach body, some looking to simply lose weight.  And some of the members are elite athletes, such as Allison Felix, who just won three gold medals at the London Olympics.  NFL and NBA players also train here, with the goal of getting faster. 

Velocity Sports Performance Director Andre Woodert put it into perspective what the goal is for his athletes, or what he is looking to avoid.

“We do not want to build strong/slow athletes,” Woodert said. 

Woodert was referring to the means in which many athletes look to gain speed.  Trainers will have their athletes lift heavy weights, which does increase strength, but that does not always mean that the athlete will see an increase in speed. 

Woodert does have his athletes utilize heavy weight training, but he also mixes in functional training with a lighter load, which develops explosive power, and he focuses on the legs and the core.

“Most of the upper body (weight lifting ) movements that we do have nothing to do with what we do on the field of play,” Woodert said.  “You’re rarely flat on your back lifting somebody off of you.  That takes out the core, that takes out the feet, that takes out everything that you use for every movement on the field.  I would always go legs first.  If you only had enough time to workout one part of the body, it would be the legs.  Because that is going to relate to every sport.”

Most of the movements that Woodert has his athletes perform are fast paced and explosive, because speed is one variable that separates the elite athletes from the competitors who are just not going to succeed.  Every athlete needs it, whether it is top end speed or first step quickness, the athlete that can get from point A to point B, and depending on the sport, points C and D, the fastest is the athlete that is going to excel. 

One of the most valuable pieces of equipment that Woodert has his athletes use is the Vertimax, which attaches bands to an athlete’s ankles, waste, and wrists, and allows the athletes to perform explosive, sports specific movement.  The Vertimax was designed with one simple goal, which is to increase speed, which in turn makes an athlete better at pretty much every movement, such as first step quickness and leaping ability. 

“Speed is the most vital attribute that any athlete can possess,” said Mike Wehrell, creator of Vertimax.  “It’s the foundation of superior athletic performance.  It’s what makes plays, it’s what wins games.

“I always tell athletes that strength training is good.  But when you do heavy lifts, you want to combine that with light load, high velocity training.  In other words, we want to train with a load that has no mass.

“One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of strength coaches and coaches in general make is that they think if an athlete gets stronger, they’re automatically going to get more explosive.  That’s not really true.  I always tell people that if they want to increase their vertical jump, or run faster, there are a combination of two things that they need to do.  You either have to improve technique, which enables you to basically utilize the forces that you develop more efficiently to create movement.  If you have better jumping technique you’ll jump higher.  If you have better sprinting technique you’ll run faster.  The other way is you increase power.  Power is the rate in which generate force.  You have to do one of those two things or a combination of those two things to jump higher, run faster or be more explosive.”

Athletes generally see strength gains when they weight train.  Typically when athletes weight train they use heavy weights and perform the movements at a slow pace because of the amount of mass that is being lifted.  Athletes cannot move heavy weights really fast.  Athletes do not explode into a squat, deadlift, bench press, or curl, the movements are eased into.  An athlete does not start the movement at 100 percent, or complete the movement at 100 percent.

To be more explosive, an athlete needs to incorporate explosive type movements.

“If you want to be fast, you have to train fast,” Wehrell said. 

With the Vertimax, an athlete can begin the movement with resistance at 100 percent and finish it at 100 percent, just like a natural movement on the field of play. 

Being strong is a key for many athletes, but being slow is not beneficial.  An offensive lineman in football needs to be strong, but if a smaller defensive lineman, who is not as strong but is quicker, beats the slower offensive lineman to a certain point, the defensive lineman will win every time.  Which is why the offensive lineman also needs quickness to ago along with the massive size and strength. 

That is true for nearly every sport.  Two basketball players can be the same height and size.  In a game they can have similar position to get a rebound, but the one who can jump higher will make the play.  If the ball handler is quicker than the defender, then that player will get to the basket.  But if the defender is quicker, then that athlete will stop the ball handler.  It is as simple as that.  The more explosive player wins. 

In baseball, the difference between stealing a base and being thrown out is fractions of a second, and it can be the different between a player staying on the field or being stuck on the bench. 

Being strong is great, but the athlete that can generate power at a faster rate will more than likely win over an athlete that can generate more power.   

Wehrell points out that he has seen athletes improve their one rep max on the bench press and squat but become slower. The strength that they developed was used to move heavy weights in a slow manner, instead of in a fast and explosive manner.  That is why explosive training is key, and with the Vertimax, it also provides functional training.  It can provide sports specific training. 

“No one has ever won a football game laying on their back doing the bench press, and nobody does a latter drill in a basketball or volley ball game,” Wehrell said.  “When you train on the Vertimax, and perform a jump, you’re using all of the natural motions as when you do jump.  You’re really developing sports specific motions.  (For a baseball player) we can simulate every movement that is used to steal second base.  You cannot do that in the weight room with weight training.”

Woodert uses the Vertimax when training athletes, such as Felix, who ran her best times and was finally able to win the Olympic gold medal after training for three years with Woodert, because he can create movements specific to the sport that the athletes competes in. 

“When we go into performance, our movements are very specific,” Woodert said.  “It’s hard to mimic that with free weights.  Free weights are only up and down and usually they are slow.  The advantage of the Vertimax is that I can design a movement that looks exactly like some kind of performance movement, and then add resistance.  Then we use the overload principle where the body gets adapted to creating enough force to overcome this load, then when I remove the load I can apply more force to the intended movement.  So if I wanted to improve the vertical jump, squat and jump are similar, but on the Vertimax, jumping and jumping are exactly the same.  So if I can overcome the resistance on the Vertimax when I jump, when I remove the resistance and try to jump, I’ll jump with more force.”

For a high school athlete, who has the goal of obtaining a college scholarship that can be worth a couple hundred thousand dollars, increased athletic ability can be the difference between being selected by a college or being passed over.  If two athletes have similar height, weight, and skill set, the athlete who is quicker and can jump higher is going to be selected every single time. 

Both Woodert and Wehrell believe that athletes should perform heavy lifts, which is why Woodert uses bracket training, where he will have an athlete lift heavy, and then move to more explosive training. Wehrell said that it is important to develop strength through heavy weight training, but an athlete also needs to conditions the muscles to fire in an explosive type manner. 

The feedback that Wehrell gets from coaches shows that the Vertimax and other explosive type training is working. 

“The first thing that coaches at the AAU (youth basketball) level notice is that their players get from point A to point B much faster, and then the improvement in vertical jump comes a few weeks later,” Wehrell said. 

Wehrell also said that a lot of high schools are using the Vertimax because it can be dangerous to have an 85-pound female soccer player perform Olympic type lifts, such as power clings and deadlifts.  There are athletes as young as six years old working out on the Vertimax, because the load can be better controlled without putting great mass on them.

The Vertimax is helping athletes see results that they can see where it counts, in competition, and at Velocity Sports, one of their many goals is to build superior athletes.  The gym also services anybody that is looking to get the best workout possible, as the club has combined sports performance with regular fitness training. 

“This is like your one stop shop,” said Chris Mogaddam, General Manager.  “Whether you’re looking to improve performance, rehabilitation, or if you’re looking to reach fitness goals.  We have 95 trainers at this facility.  No gym in LA has even 60 trainers.  Regardless of what you’re looking for, we can handle it.

“When people take our fit class, they say that they learned more in the first week than they ever did at a commercial gym.  Walking up to a machine and reading the instruction does not do a lot of justice in terms of seeing results.”

For more information on Velocity Sports, visit their website at  HYPERLINK "http://www.velocitysportsclub.com" www.velocitysportsclub.com or contact them at 310-820-7800.  For more information on Vertimax, visit their website at  HYPERLINK "http://www.vertimax.com" www.vertimax.com or contact them at 800-669-5867


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