Get faster and stronger by the end of summer by performing heavy full-range squats. Achieve rapid results by using a program that produced 30 kilo maximal strength gains in a group of elite rugby players after only two months.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research had elite rugby players perform an 8-week training program that was broken into two microcycles that included a 4-week maximal lower body strength program followed by a power program of the same length. For the strength program, players did back squats, clean pulls, deadlifts, and Nordic curls, all at 85 to 90 percent of the 1RM. For the power program they did hang cleans, squat jumps, back squats, and Nordic curls, all at 85 percent of the 1RM.
Results showed that the players increased their maximal squat by 30 kg, increasing from 170 to 200 kg. These impressive strength gains combined with appropriate power training translated into much faster sprint speed over 5, 10 and 20 meters.
The players increased sprint speed by an average of 6 to 7.6 percent over all distances, which was due to the ability to apply higher ground reaction forces during the initial acceleration phase of sprinting. Being faster off the ground is critical to improve short sprint time, and pairing it with free sprint training will enable you to get faster at longer sprints as well.
Take away the understanding that to make strength and speed gains in the lower body, you will get best results by squatting. Including other lower body strength and power lifts will produce faster gains, and this study points to the importance of not neglecting the hamstrings (notice, Nordic curls were included in both cycles) if you want your impressive strength to translate to better athletic performance.
Additionally full-range of motion squats are necessary if you want to improve performance. A German study that came out earlier this year reinforced the value of full-range squats for vertical jump training—deep squat training produced an 8 percent increase in jump height, whereas half squats did not improve the vertical jump at all.
Naturally, partial-range training is valuable for advanced trainees because it allows them to lift heavier loads than could be lifted with full-range training, but deep squats should be a focus in any serious lower body protocol. If you do perform partial training for a microcycle, always do a full-range set with lighter weight at the end of the workout to maintain the full-range flexibility and proprioception.
For a complete squat program, check out PICP coach Derek Woodske’s 12-Week Squat Training Program.
Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Matuschek, C., Schmidtbleicher, D. Influence of Squatting depth on Jumping Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.