Is muscle soreness a good indicator of hypertrophy (muscle growth) stimulation and is it necessary to get bigger?
Yes it's a pretty good indicator that the muscle has been stimulated to grow, yet it's not 100% necessary to get bigger. If you're training to gain muscle you should be slightly sore after a workout yet not so sore that you can't move. If you get too sore it's a good sign that you have induced too much inflammation and this can actually cause muscle cell death.
The reason soreness isn't always necessary to grow is because hormones like testosterone cause exercise independent muscle growth. Think of how much a male grows when he goes through puberty. That growth takes place even without exercise induced muscle soreness. So it is possible to train and stimulate growth simply because you stimulate anabolic hormones and eat enough to grow. It's also possible to stimulate growth via training and not grow because you either don't eat enough or have suboptimal anabolic hormone levels.
Q: Do you have any techniques useful for immediately increasing sprinting speed that work similar to the static-dynamic or potentiation method? I have a tryout coming up where I will be required to run a 40 yard dash and I was wondering if there was anything like this I could try
That's a very good question. There was a rumor (that did in fact turn out to be a rumor) that Ben Johnson performed a set of 600 lb squats a few minutes before setting his world record 9.79 100 meter dash back in 1988. If this were true then it would be a perfect example of what you describe above yet it probably won't work because the muscle fatigue induced by the squats.
Here's a potentiation method that I have done some experimentation with and have found works in the 3 people I personally know who've used it so far. It might give you up to a .2 decrease in your 40 yard dash time, as one person experienced. I do recommend that you experiment with this at least once before your test to make sure it does in fact work for you. Like I said, the number of people I've seen use this is so small that I can't flat out say it will work for everyone but the results look impressive so far.
Ok here's what you do. Start your warm-up wearing a weight vest loaded with 5-10 total lbs. If you don't have a weight vest you can use something like a scuba diving belt. It isn't all the comfortable but it gets the job done. I suppose you could also use a loaded sled. Next, make sure you don't start off wearing the shoes that you're going to be racing in. If anything, choose a rather bulky (slow), pair of shoes to do your warm-up in. That doesn't mean you should warm up in a pair of cowboy boots but you get the idea! Next, get good and loose. Perform your warmup the way you normally would. Something like this:
jog - 100 x 4
lunge - 25 yds x 2
high knees - 25 yds x 3
butt kickers - 25 yds x 3
skip - 40 yds x 3
swing leg up and touch toes - 3 x 10 (per leg)
build-ups - up to 75% speed - 50 yds x 3
When you're good and loose go ahead and walk around for a few minutes, remove your weight vest, and then change into your sprinting flats. By now you should feel ready to go and the removal of the weight vest will make you feel as light as a feather and the change of shoes will enhance this effect even more. Now go ahead and turn yourself loose and have at it. You'll blow out of the hole faster then normal and should notice you fly down the track faster then you normally would. Make sure you relax and don't strain. You should find your 2nd or 3rd sprint will be your fastest. The potentiation effect from the weight vest will last for a good 5 sprints.
Go ahead and try this and let me know how it goes. Anyone else who decides to try it let me know how it goes regardless of whether your results are positive or negative.
Q: How is that some skinny guy has a more explosive power than another one (me), even though I'm stronger at the gym and I run very fast, so theoretically my reactive level should be high enough.
Let me put it like this:
Athlete A has the following:
1.79 m height (5'10)
69 KG (153 lbs)
Squat 1RM = 65 KG (145 lbs)
Standing Vertical = 65 cm (25 inches)
One-Step Vertical or running two-legs vertical = 70+ cm (28+ inches)
Running One Leg = 1.05 m - 1.15 m (41 - 45 inches)
50 meter sprint = 6.0 seconds
Limb Lenghts = Long to Very Long
Athlete B has this:
1.81 height (5'11)
69 KG (153 lbs)
Squat 1RM = 75 KG
Standing Vertical = 45 - 55 cm (18 - 22 inches)
One Step Vertical or running two-legs vertical = 55 - 65 cm (22 - 26 inches)
Running One Leg = 80-90 cm (32 - 36 inches)
50 meter sprint = 6.1 seconds
Limb Lenghts = Medium to Long
As you can see, the most difference into this is the vertical jump. Athlete B has slower start than Athlete A, thus concluding that Athlete A is more explosive (starts faster). At the top speed A and B are somewhat the same, altough A has an advantage since he covers more ground with longer stride length due to the fact he's having longer legs.
Now what's the big deal? Why someone is more explosive than somebody else, while having the same weight and same strength, and sometimes (this case) the explosive(r) athlete has even less strength than the other less-explosive athlete.
Is this a matter of inter-muscular coordination (using more fibers at the same time) that gives the weaker athlete more power and explosion?
Simply put, how some skinny, no-muscle guys can be so explosive and some more stronger guys aren't, other than the skinny guys being genetically gifted?
By the way, Athlete A is a friend of mine and "Athlete" B is me.
Finally, what's the approach to increase power for both of us? What am I (Athlete B) lacking? Rate of force development?
A: That's a good example you use. The one thing that stands out in my mind is the limb lengths in Athlete A. He probably has big time leverage advantages in his lower leg illustrated by the difference in his running unilateral jump vs stationary jump. Those (limb ratios and muscle attachments) are more important then anything else. Look at high level athletes in any sport. Most of the time their tends to be a build that is conducive to high level performance in a particular sport (for the most part). A lot of scouts will even go searching for a particular build in the lower level ranks when they scout players. What looks right flyes right the saying goes.
Stand on the sidelines of an NFL football game and from the waist down nearly everyone looks like an oversized sprinter (including the lineman)...most 100 meter sprinters are built roughly the same as each other....most rowers are built the same....most long and high jumpers are built the same......most gymnasts are built the same etc. Not that a football player looks like a basketball player or anything but you get the idea.
Fortunately, disadvantageous limb leverages can often be offset by disproportionate strength qualities. How many baseball pitchers do you know with very short arms? I don't follow baseball much but Ray King of the Cardinals is one of a few that I can think of. The only way he's able to throw the ball with the velocity he does with his short arms is because he's strong as a brick shithouse. Or how about Maurice Greene? Certainly no ideal limb ratios for a sprinter there but he's able to make up for it.
After you look at limb ratios and muscular attachment differences the next most important thing is muscular recruitment, or the capability of the nervous system to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers. This can be improved. Your friend may very well have an advantage on you in that department.
In the case of both you and your friend both of you'll still have a lot of room for improvement by increasing your squat poundages. Until you're up to a 1.50 bw squat and deadlift in lbs. there's little need to overcomplicate things. However, in your case you might find that you'll need to be quite a bit stronger then he is in order to demonstrate the same vertical jump. You will probably also have to work harder increaseing the proficiency of your nervous system to recruit more FT muscle fibers.
Q: In order to maximize speed and jumping ability, how strong is 'strong enough'? Obviously too little strength doesn't work. But at some point you reach diminishing returns or Olympic powerlifters would hold all the jumping records in the Olympics! Rate x force = power. How much force is optimal?
That's a good question! Actually though, olympic lifters and shotputters do hold the records for jumping from standstill positions! The world record broad jump is held by a 280 pound shotputter! Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer how much strength is enough because it depends on too many things....limb lengths and muscle attachments for one. There is no direct correlation between absolute strength and the ability to execute an unloaded movement quickly but absolute strength determines the magnitude of force so it is important.
To keep it simple I'd say that there's no need to try to get cute and overly complicated until one can squat and deadlift 1.50 times their bodyweight. That would be a minimum and I prefer to see 50% of their 1rm be equal to or greater then their bodyweight. When one reaches this level of strength they can then get a little more complicated. Keep in mind one can still make gains in movement efficiency while they're gaining strength so there's no need to "only" focus on getting stronger etc. it's just that a person does't need to be doing 5 hours of speed work per week when they could make better gains by doing an hour of weights per week! Now let me give you an example of "complicated".
Someone told me recently - You got 3 guys who weigh 200 lbs and you need to make them faster. The obvious best way to make them faster can be summed up with this statement "Who squats 200 lbs faster - a 200 lb. squatter, a 400 lb. squatter, or a 600 lb. squatter?"
Obviously, it's gonna come down to the 400 lb or 600 lb squatter. At first glance you would expect a 600 lb squatter to be able to squat 200 lbs faster then a 400 lb squatter but not so fast. Let's say the 400 lb squatter produces peak power with 75% of his squat and the 600 lb squatter produces peak power with 50% of his squat. Get your calculator out. That means both will be producing peak power with 300 lbs. Which means they will be moving 300 lbs with the same amount of speed.
So obviously if they're moving 300 lbs at the same speed you wouldn't expect the 600 lb squatter to be able to move 200 lbs with any more efficiency then the 400 lb squatter....in fact, in most cases the 600 lb. squatter would be slower and less powerful with the 200 lbs. and the 400 lb squatter would be faster and more powerful with the 200 lbs even though he squats 200 lbs less!! This is a perfect example of how 2 guys can be the same size and bodyweight and one guy can be 200 lbs stronger then the other guy in a particular movement and yet still get blown away on the field.
The large gap between the 600 lbs squatters f-max (peak power %) and absolute strength (600 lbs.) is something the old russian scientists would look at as a big negative. The definition of a great athlete, first and foremost, they said, is one who's peak power % comes close to his max strength....Now say you're that 400 lb squatter able to produce f-max with 75%. That's about as good as it's going to get or that's about as close as you can get the f-max/absolute strength relationship. So if you're that guy you could go ahead and keep trying to increase your f-max(power) or just get stronger. Getting stronger will be the most effective road to take for this 400 lb. squatter simply because he's already as powerful as he can get for his level of strength. Remember power and explosive strength are the ability to "display" strength. You can only display something that you already have. So if you're able to use nearly all of your strength you need to go out and get more of it!
Now let's take a look at the 600 lb squatter. He has 2 options to get more powerful. In order to use as much of his strength as the 400 lb squatter does he would have to increase his f-max up from 300 lbs to 450 lbs., or from 50 to 75% of his current 600 lb squat. He could also keep his f-max or peak power % the same, at 50%, and increase his squat all the way to 900 lbs (900 x 50%= 450) or he could just go ahead and improve his power potential by improving the speed at which he can move 450 lbs.
If you're a 600 lb. squatter which of these 2 is easier to attain - Improving the speed that you can move 450 lbs. or advancing your squat from 600 to 900 lbs? Obviously the 1st option can be achieved much quicker. In fact it only takes weeks or a couple of months to improve your peak power percents or the speed at which you move a given load, if you have the potential to do so, but it can take a lot longer to build strength.
To get that precise with your percents you will need access to a tendo unit or something that can measure power. Without that you just have to pay attention to the speed of execution and ease of execution. Find the point in your squat where you start to strain when coming out of the hole. Most can drop into a squat and explode up out of the hole with no problem, rattling the plates, when working with around 50% of 1rm, - which they can often perform at a speed of almost 1 rep per second if you cue them to do that. Only explosive or very weak athletes can do the same when working with around 70% of 1rm.
So, if you squat more then 1.5 X your bodyweight and you find that you struggle moving 50% with any kind've speed, then you would be better off working on advancing that ability. On the other hand, if you can explode easily out of the hole with 70% of your max and come close to performing 3 reps in 3 seconds with that 70%, then you would be better off getting stronger, so that you create more strength to express.