Bobsleighing tends to attract a lot of track and field athletes. We have a strong crossover with training modalities and, after all, like sprinting, it’s an acceleration sport.
Credit: German star Lisette Thoene is a former long jumper
Pushing requires massive power output - and brakemen and women are massively powerful. Every push athlete has different strengths and weaknesses but principally will require a level of plyometry in their sessions to get the most out of their bodies.
Plyometrics are exercises that are generally used to bridge the desired training connection for strength and speed. You will want to conduct these at speed, but take care, the more advanced the exercise, the greater the motor control challenge and thus higher risk for injury.
The 3 examples here are progressively more difficult. If you fancy giving them a try, take great care implementing them in your programme and, depending on your experience level, ensure you have a coach or someone with a good technical eye to observe.
You only need these in your programme once or twice a week with relatively low rep ranges. These are not an endurance exercise, they’re speed strength so you need to be as fresh as possible.
If you witness significant drop-off in jump height, distance or control - stop.
1. CMJ (Countermovement Jump)
Sometimes less is more. These are used in research all the time to assess vertical jump height. You don’t need equipment and it is a specific picture of how well you can explode off the floor.
There are more gadgets on the market now which help assess vertical jump height. If you have the money to opt for these to aid testing of your progress, keep it consistent with the tool you use and don’t plaster it over the internet.
These things are not that accurate and you don’t want to be telling people in the know that you have an NBA player’s vertical when you barely clear the height of a shatterproof ruler.
From standing, drop quickly into whatever ROM you’re targeting, and explode as quickly as possible into the air. Push through the floor, drive your arms high and pick those toes up (dorsiflex)! Aim for maximum hang-time and stick your landing to keep practising efficient force absorption.
Manipulate your ROM to assess power output at different angles
2. Reactive Depth Jumps
Depth jumps are pretty much the foundation on which plyometrics were developed back in the Soviet Union in the 50s and 60s. They’re also a great option for all ability levels.
You can manipulate box heights (ability level, targeting different outcomes on strength power curve, single leg work, ankle stiffness focus), landing times (absorption analysis, different training aims), projection direction (vertical or horizontal bias) or add other boxes to land on. Lots of varied training you can do.
Supposedly 30 inches is the ideal height for explosive strength. Higher than this and you’re affecting more maximal strength ranges. Less than this and you’re probably a beginner working your way up or an experienced athlete warming up or doing single leg work.
In any case look to explode vertically as high as you can (horizontal or broad depth jumps are also possible), you want to reduce plantar-flexed (toey landing) landings so aim to land ‘flat’ or on the bottom end of the ball of your foot, drive your elbows back hard and swing arms through to launch as high as possible. (You can also have hands on hips if you’re looking to isolate force production exclusively from lower body, another way of mixing this exercise up).
These are 'reactive' so we want as little ground contact as possible.
Think 'gone before you're going'.
30in box shown here
3. Hurdle Hops
These are a sprinter’s staple! Difficult to master but easy to get started with. They’re an excellent ground reaction and control exercise. You can manipulate hurdle heights and distances.
As with all this stuff, start small and build up but make sure it makes sense with the intended outcome of your session.
Fatigue will hit you hard with this once, literally, if you clatter a hurdle. Make sure reps aren’t beyond your capability and get good at the escape route if you’re not gonna make it!
Technical points very similar to depth jumps above.
Bonus: Single Leg Hurdle Hops
If you're feeling adventurous and your ankles are bulletproof, give this one a go.
Remember - start small, mini hurdles or tape on the floor to learn rhythm and assess your tolerance of this exercise.