As athletes, nearly every movement we encounter on the field, court, or even the weight room, have one thing in common; That is what we call "Triple Extension."
Essentially, triple extension is the sequential extension, of the ankle, knee, and hip. If every athlete can maximize each of these extensions, the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves) will move much more explosively, thus placing more force into the ground and moving the athlete forward or vertically at a higher rate of speed.
How Does Triple Extension Increase Speed & Vertical Jump?
When looking at triple extension its not super complicated, as you accelerate out of a stationary position and you lock out your hip, hamstrings, and calf, we transfer energy much more efficiently and create more power; if you think about it, this makes a lot of sense as you are now using more muscle groups to maximally accelerate.
Looking at Asafa Powell, who arguably has one of the best starts in track and field, sequentially locks out his hip, then knee, then calf fully dorsiflexing the foot giving Powell a ton of power, and it all equates to his triple extension.
As the video moves along we see Usain Bolt, using the same triple extension to propel himself down the track, Bolt has great top end speed, all of this power is coming from the glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles simultaneously applying force in the triple extension we see during all phases of sprinting.
Taking a look at the vertical jump, we see nearly the same explosive action from the hip, knee, and ankle, propelling the athlete up into the air
Developing More Force To Utilize In Triple Extension
We can all agree, teaching the technique of sprinting and top end speed running is essential for all athletes from the beginner level to the advanced level because the mechanics are absolutely essential to building a faster athlete, but how would we develop more speed, without teaching the athlete to develop more power.
All in all the stronger you are, the more force you’ll be able to produce, which will actually translate to your sprint speed.
To get faster, strength training is absolutely essential because:
Force = mass x acceleration
Power = force x velocity
As athletes, we all want to develop more force or increase our rate of force development, but how is triple extension involved with all of this? Without being able to sequentially lock out the hip, knee, and ankle maximal force output would not be accomplished meaning we wouldn't be able to hit a higher vertical jump, or run a faster 40.
So how do we train for a more powerful triple extension? First we want to maximize the ability of an athlete to extend all three joints, meaning we want to focus on movements that are similar and mimic our triple extension or the lockout of the joints. One example of a movement we love to utilize is the deadlift, which focus on strengthening the hips and trains the joints to extend, deadlifts directly translate to more strength or power in the glutes, giving you a higher amount of potential force in an explosive movement.
Additionally, you can include exercises that involve a full triple extension like box jumps, explosive step ups, tire flips (keep the tire light to help increase how we can improve the dynamic movement of the weight), and lastly if you are proficient in the weight room, olympic lifts.
Olympic lifts and the variations that come with those movements are great for not only training power, but even the triple extension itself. Olympic weight lifters are some of the most powerful athletes, they utilize the power of the triple extension to pull weights from the floor in movements like the clean or snatch.
Whats great about olympic lifts:
They are full body movements, requiring core strength and stability
Triple extension is a key factor in successfully completing the lift
They have a forced eccentric phase in the lift
They have many variations which can be applied to any number of sports
All in all, as athletes, we all want to increase our sprint speed, 40 time, vertical, and overall speed in the game; focussing on not only training technique of the triple extension, but the power that drives the triple extension will lead to greater gains on and off the field
“Triple Extension: Why Is It Important.” Cornerstone, Personal Trainer | Camberley | CornerStone Performance & Development, 24 Jan. 2016, www.cornerstonesportsperformance.com/single-post/2016/1/31/Triple-Extension-Why-is-it-important.
Rojas, Mike. “Triple Extension Is Important for All Athletes.” Elitefts, www.elitefts.com/education/training/sports-performance/triple-extension-is-important-for-all-athletes/.
“Basic Biomechanics: The Foundation--Triple Extension.” By Any Means Basketball, www.byanymeansbball.com/blog/basic-biomechanics-the-foundation-triple-extension.