Most sports require a strong lower body. In any sport where an athlete needs to get to a specific position in space in a minimum amount of time, it is usually the lower body that gets them there. In martial arts, the opponent might have the best strike in the world, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t where they are hitting. The following drills will help athletes to develop lower body strength.
Squats are a great drill because they mimic a motion that is part of everyday life. Stand in a horse stance and keep your back straight and eyes forward. Squat down and then come back up. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to go lower than having your thighs parallel to the floor.
Squats are a common exercise that most readers probably knew about before picking up this book. Here are a couple of things that some instructors might not have thought about, however. You can combine squats with hand techniques (uppercuts work particularly well) to have students work on rhythm and to get lots of squats in without using extra time or making the students feel bored. Squats also work well when you are doing a drill that can use only one student at a time (for instance, kicking a heavy bag.) Have the other students do squats.
Plyometrics involve having muscles exert maximum force in as little time as possible. These are commonly jumps, and have a lot of benefits for athletes. They are mainly used to build explosion. However, care should be taken that the athlete is healthy enough. Overweight people, particularly those with joint problems or lack of balance, have the most risk. Here are some common plyometrics:
Knees to Chest – Jump upwards and bring your knees as high as you can. Do not bring your chest down.
Heels Back – Keep your femurs perpendicular to the ground. Launch upwards and kick yourself in the butt with your heels.
Scissor Jumps – Drive one knee forwards and one backwards. This is a combination of the above two jumps, but one leg does each one. Alternate knees.
Toe Touches (Pike and Straddle) – Jump forwards and touch your toes. This one is more advanced and won’t be for everyone. The two versions are having the legs outwards in a straddle, or straight forward in a pike position.
Jump Claps – Have the students jump upwards like knees to chest but have them clap their hands under their knees. Those who can’t quite make it can just clap under one leg. Kids will try to cheat and clap behind their backs. Try double claps or clapping above and below for an extra challenge.
Mixing plyometrics with kicks can have tremendous benefits. However, make sure that you are in good shape before attempting this and discontinue them if you feel something wrong.
There are many ways to do this. You can simply do one of the plyometrics listed above and then add a kick. It’s usually good to do these kicks on a paddle or bag. You can build a lot of disguised repetition in here by making different combinations of jumps and kicks. Depending on the kick, you will want to rotate. For instance, when doing Knees to Chest and then roundhouse, you would stay sideways on the jump. You could also jump and spin in the air.
A great variation of this is to kneel on the ground with one knee. Then step up and kick at the same time. You can also add scissor switches here before you kick. Use a pad for this one so you can kick harder. A few of these will increase your strength and make even seasoned athletes sore the next morning.
Resistance Band Kicks (slow)
Resistance bands can be very helpful but care must be taken to use them correctly. You can try various sport specific movements with a resistance band. This can both strengthen the muscle as well as force the technique to the path of least resistance (most efficient movement). In order to do this safely, we like to do our kicks slowly. This prevents the jerky movements that can cause abnormal forces on the knees or other joints. We usually do a couple sets of ten kicks on a pad, but the movements are slow as if done underwater. It doesn’t feel as cool as smacking the pad, but it gives a lot of benefit and does it in a safe way.
Resistance Band Steps
We also use resistance bands for step work. We put one end around a pole (could also be held by a third member of the group) and tie the other end around the ankle. The person who is in the band tries to jump forward and touch a pad held by their partner. This usually works best when both react to a teacher’s count.
The distance should be set ahead of time so that each partner wins about 50% of the time. Teach students to self-correct. If one person wins, they should set up the second time to make it a little harder for them.
Resistance Band Sprints
Sprints are great to do with resistance bands. Have one person hold the center over their waist and have the other person try to lean back and not let them go forward. The person running should drive their knees up in order to cover distance.
This is a variation of a traditional partner drill where one partner would hold the back of the other’s belt while they try to run forward.
This is a great partner drill with two variations depending on how good the partners are at reading each other’s movements. Basically one person does jumping jacks while the other one stays on the ground and opens and closes their legs. For beginners, have them start far apart. That way, if one person makes a mistake in timing there will be no harm done. More advanced students can do this drill next to each other, so that when the person on the bottom opens his legs the person on the top will close his in the middle.
This drill is just like it sounds. You have a student sit with their back to a wall. You can either have then do horse stance, or have their thighs perpendicular to the wall. Add a medicine ball for an extra challenge. This works well in teams or as a record to see who can do it the longest. If the whole class does it at once, you can even have people try to tell jokes or something else to lessen the tension.
Back to Back Push Game
This game will help develop lower body strength as well as balance. Students sit back to back with their arms locked together. On a signal, each student tries to push the other one backwards. The game ends when either student has pushed the other past a predetermined mark. Before the game starts, specify whether students are allowed to stand up or not.
Legs Locked Pull Game
This game is similar to the one above, except that you lock legs and try to pull your partner backwards. The leader can yell out ‘switch’ so that people have to switch legs and try to pull from the other direction.
Toasters are similar to burpees, except that they add a plyometric jump. The most common one is Knees to Chest, but anything can be added in here. Toasters are used as a drill by themselves, and also make great additions to other drills as well as an extra thing to do for teams who don’t prevail at another drill.