Shapes was brought to the forefront of my thinking about 10 years ago when I was working with one of my swim teams. The coach kept talking about getting smaller into the wall and taller off the wall into a streamline. I left the workout thinking what he was really telling the swimmers was to make different shapes. This got me thinking about the whole concept of shapes and what we needed to do to impact the athlete’s abilities to make the required shapes.
What are shapes? Shapes are postures, poses, and positions that enable the athlete to effectively produce and reduce force in the desired skill. What shapes do you need to make? What shapes can you make? How do you reconcile the two? This must be evaluated in the context of their particular sport demands. It usually involves work on body awareness, some strengthening and some lengthening. In my system, shapes are a specific training module. Shapes can be improved significantly with consistent investment of time. In analyzing programs for the last 10 years in volleyball and swimming work on shapes averaged about 30 to 35 minutes per seven-day microcyle. It does not seem like much but over a training year in addition to the individual athletes homework to help them work on specific shapes that they were deficient in it is a significant investment.
To make shapes effective it is imperative that it is connected to the desired movement skill in the sport. The athlete must understand this connection. It is really interesting to see how they enjoy it and how much they do relate to it until it becomes a part of their movement vocabulary. Use video of the desired sport shapes and then relate exercise in the shapes routine to help them understand the connection. For example, the overhead barbell squat for a swimmer is a categorized as a strength exercise but it’s more than a strength exercise, it represents an essential shape coming off the wall and transferring into a streamline. It is easy to show this to the swimmer. Now the shape on dryland has transfer for them to the water.
Shapes are FUNdamental therefore it is essential to challenge the athlete to make better shapes and have fun doing it.