Have you ever noticed that there’s an enourmous gap between great athletes, and elite athletes? Well Chinese researchers from Ningbo University certainly have, and when researching the difference between us regular Joes and our elite idols the found one critical difference; knee strength.
"These results can provide valuable information for lower level lifters and coaches to achieve better competition performance by altering their training methods accordingly," said the study's corresponding author Yaodong Gu, PhD.
To make the discovery, researchers analysed performance on the Olympic snatch, a move that involves ripping a barbell off the floor, bringing it overhead in a squat position, and extending upwards with the barbell remaining raised.
"Coaches of sub-elite lifters should focus on exercises suitable to the strength characteristics of the first and third phases of snatch lift," Dr. Gu said.
In the report published in the journal Heliyon, results were analysed relating to the vertical height reached by the barbell during the lift in relation to the actual athlete’s height. Other aspects of note were increased vertical velocity (ie. how fast the bar was moved overhead and lifted to the final position), and the vertical acceleration of the bar.
According to the Chinese team behind the study, it is both of these factors that make a lifter ‘elite'.
The results of the study showed also an increased angular velocity within the knee joint between elite and ‘sub-elite’ athletes, demonstrating the importance of the knee joint in the lift. It’s seemingly the ability to strengthen the knee flexor muscles that separates the boys from the men, according to the study.
The additional findings suggest that sub-elite lifters should work on strengthening the flexor muscles of their knee joints, making it possible for them to generate and use more elastic energy in the second phase of a lift.
It’s reported that the findings have already filtered their way through to China’s coaching program.
So now that you’re armed with this information, looks like a ‘knee day’ is in order for your training schedule with specific movements to boost that strength.
Try this quick fix from elite strength coach Bill Hartman to help keep your knees up into your dotage.
Balance on one foot and, keeping it flat, lower yourself down. If your knee moves inside your big toe, you have tight groin muscles and weak glutes. Here’s your cod liver oil-free prescription . . .
STRETCH YOUR ADDUCTORS
Lower into a side lunge until you feel a groin stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
WORK YOUR GLUTEUS MEDIUS
Put a Unit Nine medium strength resistance band around your legs. Take 10 side steps to the right, then to the left. Do six sets each side.
TARGET EACH LEG
Keep your kneecap in line with your big toe during single-leg exercises, such as lunges.