For many athletic skills, strength and power originate by simultaneously extending the hips, knees and ankles—referred to as triple extension. The more explosively you can execute triple extension, the faster you’ll run and the higher you’ll jump.
Consider the vertical jump. You start in a squatting position with your hips, knees and ankles flexed. As you initiate the jump, your hips and knees begin to extend to drive you into the air. As those two joints approach full extension, the ankles also extend to give you an added boost. Without each individual part of the sequence, you could not reach your full vertical jump potential.
When hitting the weight room, a key objective should be to continuously develop this ability by performing exercises that work all three lower body joints in unison.
According to Chuck Williams, sports performance and nutrition expert, the advantages of triple extension are not limited to jumping skills. He says, “Whether you’re doing a vert or coming out of the 40, it’s a triple extension. You pop your ankles, knees and hips.”
The primary method to develop triple extension is to load the movement and extend rapidly. Relevant exercises include Olympic Lifts, because each lift requires you to forcefully triple extend to propel the weight load into the specified position. Plyometrics further enhance your triple extension in positions similar to what you experience during competition.
Improve your ability to generate powerful strength and speed on the field. Perform these triple extension exercises, which engage your hips, knees and ankles.
Explosive Med Ball Press
- Assume athletic stance holding med ball at chest
- Lower into semi-squat
- Explosively extend hips, knees and ankles while driving arms up and forward to throw med ball as far and high as possible
- Retrieve med ball and immediately repeat
- Repeat for specified reps
Benefits: The full-body movement improves your ability to transfer power from a lower body triple extension to your upper body. This improves tackling, throwing and jumping skills.
- Assume athletic stance in front of knee-high box
- Step onto box with left foot
- Explosively extend left hip, knee and ankle, drive body up as high as possible while driving right knee up
- Land softly with both feet on box; step down
- Repeat for specified reps
- Perform set with opposite leg
Sets/Reps: 3×6-8 each leg
Benefits: Enhances your ability to apply force into the ground in single-leg fashion, similar to how the legs are used during sprinting or competition.
- Assume athletic stance holding bar with wide grip at mid-thigh
- Keeping chest up and core tight, explode upward by fully extending hips, knees and ankles while forcefully shrugging with straight arms
- Pull bar up close to chest
- Drop under bar and catch it overhead in athletic stance
- Return to start position; repeat for specified reps
Benefits: Your lower body generates the force necessary to propel the weight overhead, strengthening all three joints. The lighter weight and greater range of motion of the Snatch make it the most explosive of all the Olympic Lifts.