By Dan Hutchison, MS, ATC, CSCS
Concepts and equipment within the landscape of the weight room change constantly, unfortunately the budgets associated with most weight rooms, don’t. Adding resources not only for better training, but also to support large teams and diverse physical education (PE) classes, can be an expensive and time-consuming process. As you see in most high school weight rooms, two items are the anchors of the training space – the squat racks and the lifting platforms – and these are typically made of steel or metal products that will last 50 years or more, give-or-take some rust and scratches here and there. To acquisition or purchase items of this magnitude, especially in smaller or budget-restricted schools, can be next to impossible without a bond or some aggressive fund raising. In most cases, administrators will encourage a ‘thrifty’ alternative or a shop-class paint job to cosmetically manipulate the functionality and look, respectively. But, administrators may also appreciate an inexpensive conversion if the price, versatility, and effectiveness are worth it. This article will touch on two opportunities for converting existing weight room items, like the squat racks and platforms, into cord-loaded plyometric stations, along with the advantages of variable resistance for directional power improvement.
Perform-X Training Systems has developed a unique and convenient concept for adding plyometric applications to existing weight room pieces. The Trak-X™ System is an anchoring device that can be attached to existing lifting platforms or squat racks, creating a station of resistance cord (X-Plode™ cord) applications for plyometric movement. Plyometrics can be added in a number of ways to the existing weight room, with the Trak-X™ offering a safe, versatile, and effective approach to inexpensively adding ‘power training’ to the space.
Advantage of the Trak-X™ and X-Plode™ Cord Systems:
The Trak-X™ System is the most versatile anchoring system that provides easy, safe and effective cord-loading at multiple locations, which can be utilized on existing lifting platforms and squat rack units. The Trak-X™ Clip secures the junction between the Trak-X™ and the X-Plode™ Cord, creating a strong and reinforced connection for performing vertical, horizontal and change of direction activities.
- The Trak-X™ System provides a simple, effective loading mechanism that eliminates pulley systems, ‘choking’ cords around dumbbells or racks, or other unsafe loading applications. The Trak-X™ System provides a simple loading mechanism for all athletic/fitness levels to utilize in multiple ways. The Trak-X™ is simply anchored either to the sides or the top of the lifting platform, or to the sides of the squat rack. Instead of these units being ‘one-dimensional’, they now become versatile ‘power stations’ to add to any program or PE class. Other devices may use pulley systems that utilize elastic woven cords for resistance. These devices can be very expensive for just one unit, and offer only one application within the space. These pulley systems do provide a level of safety, but are inconsistent in determining accurate load. Similarly, by utilizing circular bands and ‘choking’ them around dumbbells or squat racks, not only decrease the life and safety of the band, but also lacks a consistent and reliable method of determining and progressing load.
- The rubber tubing (X-Plode™ Cord) provides consistent variable loading that is more accurate over time. In comparison to an elastic woven cord, rubber tubing provides enhanced loading throughout the range of the stretch with accuracy down to specific pounds per inch (lb. /in.). The properties of rubber tubing allow specific lengthening with a return to the original cord length. Elastic woven cord properties will stretch to a similar degree, but over time may become elongated due to the fabric-based material causing inaccuracies in the loading amounts.
- The nylon urethane cover protects from light exposure and acts as a safety device. By protecting the cord from light exposures and any other equipment within a performance training space, longevity is enhanced. In addition, a non-covered cord exposes the individual/athlete to a retracting cord in the instance that a cord may fail.
- The X-Plode™ Cords contain a built-in safety tether to prevent overstretching and to improve longevity. Many band/tubing products in the industry do not have a device to limit the amount of stretch on the cord. By limiting stretch, the individual is safer and the cord product will last longer.
- Variable resistance applications provide resistance throughout a full range of motion. X-Plode™ Cords provide variable loading characteristics of which simulate competitive movements, and place strategically increased loading at the point where the joint is at a mechanical advantage. A variable load, as opposed to a non-varying load, forces the muscle to work harder through the end range of motion.
- Utilizing variable resistance enhances movement velocity at take-off, and maximizes eccentric loading during landing. The tension characteristics of the rubber tubing provide a unique mechanism for enhancing velocity during the initiation of take-off. By ‘de-loading’ the cords during the take-off phase, athletes/individuals can generate more speed as the feet leave the ground, thus enhancing peak vertical height. This enhanced height forces the athlete/individual to recruit additional muscle fibers during the landing (eccentric) phase, due to an increase in cord load at peak height. The increased velocity at movement initiation, along with additional loading at peak height, enhances power and forces additional control at landing. Two important factors in total athlete/individual development. Plus, when the cords are completely removed from the individual, a ‘contrasting effect’ or potentiation occurs causing an increase or enhancement in muscle stimulation.
- The X-Plode™ Cord System provides accurately measured loads through the simplicity of the distance of stretch. The X-Plode™ Cords usedin the Trak-X™ System have 7 progressive resistances that are conveniently charted for the user to better determine load. The starting load is essentially the load that is utilized during the plyometric exercise. A slight decrease in this starting load improves velocity at take-off initiation, and consequently, increases the peak height load to enhance muscle recruitment capacities at landing. These characteristics mimic competitive movements and are superior to constant load methods.
With the retrofit example of anchoring the Trak-X™ to the sides or top of the existing platform, the jumping and landing activities are done on the platform. The uniqueness of this retrofit model is additional drills can be performed with the anchoring systems while ‘off’ of the platform area. This allows multiple individuals/athletes to be performing a variety of movements both on and off of the platform, which is optimal for large group PE or multiple teams training in the same space. The retrofit squat rack example allows for cord-loaded plyometric activities to be performed between or within the squat rack. Similar to the retrofit platform, additional speed and agility drills may be performed off of the anchoring devices, creating a multiuse station out of a traditional piece.
This simplicity of adding cord-loaded anchoring devices to existing equipment allow each school, coach and administrator the avenue to determine their needs based on their budget. By offering effective tools that can be utilized immediately and with all age groups, the weight room can take on a new ‘image’ of not only offering weights to be lifted, but also offering functional movement drills that may be applied to all sports, classes and individuals, during all aspects of the school year.
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