I received a question the other day regarding an athlete and his need to perform either more strength work or more explosive work when it pertained to his pitching mechanics and how fast he threw. His main concern came with which area would best improve his velocity. I briefly touched on his question on twitter, but I wanted to expand upon it and fully explain not only what qualities are involved in ballistic movements (I will explain what makes a movement ballistic briefly), but how you can train these qualities and combine them to improve the overall output of your ballistic movement (whatever it may be). Essentially, force (strength), velocity and speed-strength (power) are the three main characteristics that are present in ballistic movements, and you can train all of them in the weight room!
What is a Ballistic Movement?
First and foremost, I want to give everyone a full understanding of a ballistic movement. The following are some characteristics unique to ballistic movements.
Essentially, consider a ballistic movement one in which the muscles fire and contract at rapid and forceful rates to produce a movement that only lasts seconds. You can see ballistic movements in almost all sports.
Now that you know what ballistic movements involve, let us discuss the three components that are involved in producing/building them.
Producing Force (Strength)
The base of all movements involves force production rooted in strength. Simply put, how much energy can you apply into a stable surface or movement? Think of force as your horsepower (I will get to this with a car analogy in a bit). As we know, force is officially determined as a product of mass and acceleration. However, in this sense we are simply going to think of force as overall strength. Think of a squat. The more force you can place into the ground (stable surface) the more weight you can lift.
To think of velocity, I will use a basic example. The force-velocity profile of an athlete involves how much of their power output is a result of strength or simply the reactiveness of their ligaments and tendons and how rapid they move (stretch shortening cycle). If you applied this thought to a vertical jump, a force dependent athlete would achieve most of their vertical jump height via strength, or how much energy they could apply into the ground. A velocity dependent athlete would achieve a great deal of their jump height due to the reactiveness of their tendons and ligaments and how fast they could load and unload. This is a characteristic dependent upon speed with no resistance.
The way I like to think about power is that it is a measure of speed x strength. Basically, how fast can you display your strength? You are able to place a great deal of energy into the ground on a sprint, for example, but are you able to display that force over and over again as fast as possible without sacrificing the strength portion? Your tendons and ligaments are able to load and fire rapidly, but can they uphold those same qualities when a great deal of strength is involved to produce a tremendous amount of energy (force)? This phenomenon is known as rate of force development. Usain Bolt is able to exert upwards of six times his bodyweight into the ground with any given stride. However, if that was the only quality involved in elite speed there would be a long list of power lifters with crazy squats giving him a literal run for his money. What also makes him blazing fast is not only his form (leg stiffness, vertical stiffness etc.), but that he can maintain that force exerting ability while rapidly re-producing it over and over. Think of it this way: he can place a great deal of energy into the ground with each stride, but he is also very adept at repeating that same cycle at an extremely fast rate.
The Car Analogy
To basically tie this all together, I want to give an example involving a car. You have seen it before. A car with 600 horsepower cannot go 0-60 mph as fast as a car that only has 400 horsepower. One may have more raw force producing ability, but the other is better at displaying less force faster and thus is faster overall. Consider all of the qualities we have gone over above in this manner:
How Can You Train These Qualities?
This part will be the most cut and dry and plain and simple portion of this article. You now have a good understanding of each of the qualities that come together to produce power movements, but need to know how you can work at improving them in a general capacity (weight room/strength and speed training) setting.
Now that you understand these qualities and how you can improve them, it is fairly easy to see that you need an even balance of proficiency in all of these in order to improve your overall output in ballistic movements. Now, go get to work!
The following is an interview I recently did with a college exercise science student and I think it can be extremely helpful to share my experiences thus far in starting my own training business, along with some strategies I have utilized to get to this point today. In addition, you can get a look at how I plan on going from here and continuing to build and travel on this journey! Thank you as always and I hope you enjoy!
What made you start your own gym right away without working under someone first?
First and foremost, I would have to say that my business education inspired me to have my own gym/business from the start. I come from a family that was built around entrepreneurship (My Father owned an auto body shop business), and spent my time in college at two high level business schools that further cultivated my desire to be an entrepreneur. Basically, in addition to my passion for training I also had/have a passion for business and entrepreneurship, and that fueled my desire to start my own business. Combine those two components and you get a 22 year old who started their own business!
How do you market yourself to the public?
Instagram and Twitter are my biggest online marketing platforms, but I have also had great success with “word of mouth,” advertisement from clients and athletes who have seen great results. I also aimed to strategically align myself with sports organizations and businesses with great followings and brands, and performing will for them has yielding me great exposure and helped me build my own brand. For example, my first break in this business involved landing the strength coach job for the Jersey Hitmen. I received the job after being recommended by my childhood Physical Therapist (who I also partnered with to begin my business). In a nutshell, I would say I realized that it is tremendously hard to build yourself in this industry on your own. If you can align with people to work with you can expose yourself to great opportunities. From there, just blast out tons of good, quality content. You would be surprised how it can take off!
How do you manage being a business owner and a coach at the same time?
This is extremely hard! One of my mentors Joe DeFranco has said it the best. He calls the phenomenon of focusing more on “business,” than your actual trade as the entrepreneurial seizure. I have found that developing systems is key. For example, I know that I am responsible for putting programming together weekly for all my private clients as well as the teams I work with. I developed my own skeleton template that has streamlined weekly programming. In addition, I am sure not to try and do EVERYTHING. My accountant and my parents help me with the financial filing and all of that, but I still stay involved with everything (it is my business after all). Day to day I have to worry about everything from programs, billing, scheduling, marketing etc., oh and don’t forget the actual training! My best advice? Be organized and have a plan you stick to!
What was the most difficult obstacle you overcame while starting your business?
I think avoiding pressures from the outside in terms of being “crazy,” for dedicating all my time to this. Another big hurdle for me in the beginning came with being insecure when I told people what I did for a living when it had yet to really amount to anything. It’s easy to be proud of what you do when it’s big and recognized. However, be proud from the beginning. The same people who doubted your vision (even if they never said it) will be the same people telling you how great of a job you did.
I would also have to say overcoming my age. I started this just before by 22nd birthday, and even now at 24 it is sometimes hard to be taken seriously because of how young I am. Show people why they should take you seriously!
What would you say is your least favorite thing about this career?
I enjoy everything about what I do, and I mean that. I actually enjoy the stress, the work, the nonstop nature of owning a business and being a coach. I need it to keep me going and give me purpose. With that being said, though, I would say my least favorite part of it is missing key events with my family and/or friends. Sometimes the hours prevent you from being involved in certain things in your personal life, or even when you’re there you can find yourself still being focused on work. It is a 24/7 commitment!
What does a typical day look like from start to finish?
A typical day involves a potential morning client or team. I will try to use the time I have between my mornings and afternoons to do any programming I may need to, catch up on social media posts or even write articles. From there I will usually have teams or clients throughout the remainder of the afternoon and straight through the evening. After all, when dealing with high school and college kids this is a prime time for them to train (after school). I fit my own training in whenever I can!
What do you look for in employees?
The biggest key is initiative. If I am looking to have you work with me I already know that your beliefs and philosophies at least are in the same stratosphere as the ones I align with. At that point, I want you to have your own thoughts! Be your own person and have your own style. We may believe in the same principles of training, but we may never program the same and that is okay! Create your own social media, put content out and market yourself to be the best coach YOU can. You’re a part of my business, but you are not a robot or an employee who regurgitates what I do! That has never been and will never be my mission!
What takes up most of your time?
The actual training itself most definitely! The work on the floor with my clients is the bulk of my time! As it should be when you are trying to build the best training business and become the best coach. Repetition is the key to both of those aspects.
What advice would you give to achieve your level of success?
Firstly, have a plan. When I started I knew that the way in which I wanted to differentiate myself involved explaining EVERYTHING. Way too many of the popular trainers in this industry get by with either flashy and fancy exercise videos that lack substance. This would be my core competency. Give full insight on why I did what I did and while setting myself apart I would also gain business!
After you have your plan (whatever it may be), be relentless!
Before I even had a single client I created a blog and wrote two articles per-week. Let people know what you do, why you do it and most importantly why they should listen to you and care! It is easy to work hard for a week, month or few months. When you can stack consistently good weeks and months together that turn into years you have success. I have done nothing but pour my life into this for four years now. I have written over 50 articles, posted over 500 times on Instagram (each with lengthy explanations), and built up a solid blog and twitter following. Sticking with it when no one cares about what you have to say or who you are is the hardest. Work through that point and it will take off. I promise you (as long as you have good things to say!)
I hope reading this was helpful to someone out there trying to reach their dreams. Even if it is in some small way.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.