Have you ever gone to the gym and seen little discs or half domes of different colors sitting around? Or perhaps you have seen someone training by tapping the disc with a hand or foot.
Aside from the appealing bright colors, what are they adding to a workout?
If you have watched athletes train, perhaps you have seen them shuffling or running to a disc or dome, tapping it with a foot or hand, and then shuffling to another one to do the same thing. The shuffling or running can be in all sorts of directions.
For anyone doing tapping drills like this one, the idea is three-fold.
- It is agility training. Meaning, training for quickness, ability to change directions, and managing footwork.
- Precision. The target gives them a goal, a focus, and a small area to hit (or miss). This is good for hand/eye or foot/eye coordination.
- It trains acceleration and deceleration. Being able to move forward is one thing, but you also need to be able to stop!
How about the rest of us?
Is it a good idea to train this way? I bet you figure I am going to say yes, right?
But before you go flinging yourself across the room at a little circle, consider these other, more subtle ways of training for these results.
First of all, when you lift a weight, you are training acceleration and deceleration. When you lift, that is accelerating the weight. On the way down, you have to decelerate the weight, or it will land on you or the floor with great abandon. It is important to train both ways or you can become vulnerable to injury.
Deceleration is especially tricky because it involves contracting your muscles while they are lengthening. This is known as an eccentric contraction. Many more injuries occur with this type of contraction, partly because the force generated is greater than when doing the contraction used when lifting (FYI, that one is called a concentric contraction).
Tapping Examples for Us
Chair Taps with Foot
You can stand in front of a chair or workout bench and then lift one knee so that you can TAP the edge of it. If you do this quickly, alternating between each leg, you are accomplishing a great deal. Most notably, all three of the training goals mentioned above – agility, quickness, precision, and acceleration or deceleration. On top of that, you are doing some balance training since you have to balance on one leg while the other one is tapping. Sweet!
Chair Taps with Hand
Here’s another one: Stand further away from the chair or bench so that you have to reach WAY out with an extended arm to TAP the edge of it. Don’t worry about doing this quickly. Go for precision and balance this time. By extending way out, you also can get a nice stretch on the back of your leg, the hamstring muscles. This exercise provides a goal, a focus, precision, and balance. Going slowly forces all of those things to happen. This can be difficult to do at first, but hang in there. There are so many benefits.
Side Lying Foot Taps
Lastly, lay down on a mat or towel. This one is taken directly from Pilates. Line yourself up with the back of the mat to make sure you are not curled forward but have your spine in its natural neutral position. Legs are extended, not bent. Activate your abdominal muscles in order to keep you stable and anchored on your side during this exercise.
Lift the top leg up as far as you can and then bring it down slightly behind the other leg. TAP the floor twice with your foot before lifting the leg up again. Now bring that leg down slightly in front of the other leg and TAP twice before lifting it up again. Alternate bringing the leg back and then to the front 10 times. Watch out for getting lazy and not bringing the leg up as far as you can in between the tapping. That is just as much a part of the precision of this exercise as the tapping.
Check out all three of these tapping exercises below. And, by all means use the shuffling or running exercises as another training tool if you want to add in more movement!
All the best,
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