Saturation Vs. Deficiency: Fill your empty buckets

The concept of buckets can be so powerful when thinking about where to direct your coaching or training attention, and is such a strong metaphor that we decided it deserves its own article.

Big shout out to the great Mike Boyle. He is one of the worlds leading strength coaches and thinkers and he was the originator of this concept. His work has been hugely influential to our philosophy over the years.

What are buckets?

Imagine each skill or competency that contributes to your overall athleticism as a bucket.

Whether you are a coach or an athlete, your goal is to fill the buckets as evenly as possible. A well rounded athletes should have an adequate amount of their weekly training spent addressing all the qualities needed to be great.

Junior athletes in Australia generally have a major problem; they are ignoring many of their athletic buckets. This is hurting their long term development, and exposes them to greater injury risk than necessary. The real skill as a coach (or a self-directed athlete) is knowing which buckets are full, and which are empty.

The full buckets

If you play organised junior sport in Australia, I can almost guarantee that the following buckets are overflowing, and extra time spent on these traits is like trying to fill an already full bucket - a lot of water (training time) is ending up down the drain.

Game sense

Coaches tend to spend a bunch of time working on the Xs and Os, and who can blame them - that is really why so many people get into sports coaching to begin with. While you can always improve your game sense, it is likely there are other buckets that are empty which could have a greater impact on your performance.

Aerobic fitness

This one is almost alway topped up. Between the multiple training sessions and games each week and school sport most junior athletes are at an excellent fitness level already, and pounding the pavement or running up sand dunes for a 1% increase is not a good use of time, and comes with risk that can be avoided. Durham wrote an article outlining our thinking on sports specific fitness if you want more details.

Plyometric load

Plyometrics sound very fancy, but really aren't; nearly everything in sport is in some way or other a 'plyometric' movement. Specific plyometric training was developed in Russia in the 1960s by track coach Yuri Verkhoshansky who was looking for an extra edge for his already insanely strong elite athletes. He found that by completing short sets of high intensity drills he could add marginal increases to power and performance.

What has been lost since then is the two most important conclusions he drew from his experiments:

  1. Plyometrics had the greatest effect on athletes who were already insanely strong (squatting double body weight seemed to be the turning point)
  2. Plyometrics had the greatest impact when used sparingly, i.e. 1-2 times per week and just a few minutes spent on drills at a time (very minimal effective dose).

For the modern day junior athlete, we frequently see them breaking these rules. They play their sport almost every day, which actually equates to a bunch of plyometrics. This is a ton of ground reaction forces being absorbed by their muscles, tendons, and bones well before they are even strong enough to squat 1/10th of their body weight.

So the online vertical leap program loading kids with 5 weekly jumping and landing sessions? It is a short-cut to chronic joint injury for the pursuit of a couple of centimetres if you are lucky. There are better ways to increase vertical leap!

The empty buckets

Mobility and flexibility

These really are the broccoli of sport. Foam rolling and static stretching might seem dull, but there is a reason they form the cornerstone of our physical preparation philosophy. Without a doubt the improvement to durability and performance you can get from our warmup protocols is enormous. Without even addressing any other area of training, we have had basketball athletes massively increase their vertical leap in a couple of weeks, and track athletes record PBs in a matter of days. We think of it like being a Ferrari with the handbrake on - most athletes are trying to make the engine bigger but if you just simply remove the handbrake first you can access so much more athleticism without touching a weight or doing a single plyometric.

Movement skill

While constant games and training works wonders for athlete's game sense and sports specific skills, all too often the fundamental building blocks are neglected. Good athleticism becomes great athleticism when excellent game sense meets excellent movement skill. Improve body awareness and core control, and aim to maximise movement efficiency.

Fundamental is a good hip dominant medium depth squat pattern. This is the bedrock of a low, agile, and explosive athletic stance, a safe landing pattern, quick lateral movement, and a greater vertical leap. It is also important to drill great sprint mechanics, agility, and lateral power. If you have the game sense to read the play, but don't have the acceleration and efficiency to get there ahead of your opponent it is next to worthless.

Strength

Most often strength is the emptiest bucket. I think a lot of athletes (and parents) associate strength with getting massive muscles like a body builder, and lifting scary heavy weights. But true neuromuscular strength isn't like that, and is the underpinning trait of all other athletic traits. I always refer to a great quote from strength coach Kier Wenham-Flatt: "Making a weak athlete fitter only makes them weak for longer". Making a fit athlete stronger on the other hand is a game-changer.

In Australia our junior development programs are heavily biased toward skills, running capacity, and endurance. The absence of strength development has resulted in low durability athletes with scarily high rates of hamstring tears, grumpy knees, rolled ankles, ACL ruptures and sore lower backs etc. At the elite level the real determining factor for success is often how few injuries you get, and stronger muscles are generally more resilient to all types of injury, do a better job of absorbing energy, and protect joints from the wear and tear of landing and running.

"Durability is more important than ability" - Eric Cressey

Spending a small amount of time each week from a young age working on filling these empty buckets will pay massive dividends when you are looking to nominate for the draft or sign with a college.

You don't have to love the gym, or love rolling and stretching, but great athletes eat their broccoli, and make sure their buckets are equally full!

Download Our Free Jumping Resources

We've built free resources to help athletes around the world improve their vertical leap.

Sign up to get access to:

  • A warm up and cool down guide for maximising jump ability
  • The key to making vertical leap gains in the gym
  • All our vertical leap training tips and tricks for strength, mobility, technique and plyometric power development
Thanks! We've just emailed you access to our free resources, they should arrive in a few minutes.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Learn more about Velocity Based Training with VBTCoach.com

Velocity Based Training, or commonly known as VBT is a fantastic way to inform us about the quality of our training, adding an objective velocity value on the quality of every rep. At VBTCoach.com, Jacob delves into how you can improve performance, build power, strength and muscle, and allow for auto-regulating training in real time. ⁠

More posts

Compensatory Patterns
April 25, 2017

Compensatory Patterns

The Invention of Jogging
April 25, 2017

The Invention of Jogging

How Not to Interview: A Lesson for Fitness Professionals
November 10, 2016

How Not to Interview: A Lesson for Fitness Professionals

The Problems with a Heel Strike
October 5, 2016

The Problems with a Heel Strike

Rehabilitation
July 30, 2015

Rehabilitation

How to book your workouts at Core Advantage
June 23, 2020

How to book your workouts at Core Advantage

Training When Injured, the Ultimate Guide
August 9, 2019

Training When Injured, the Ultimate Guide

Our Combine Infographics
May 23, 2019

Our Combine Infographics

Bulgarian Split Squat or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat?
May 21, 2019

Bulgarian Split Squat or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat?

Medicine Balls, Wall Balls and Dead Balls, what's the difference?
May 27, 2019

Medicine Balls, Wall Balls and Dead Balls, what's the difference?

A Coaches Guide to Keeping Your Team Fit Over Christmas
December 22, 2018

A Coaches Guide to Keeping Your Team Fit Over Christmas

The Athletic Combine Part 3: Results, The Most Important Thing in Athletic Performance Testing
May 9, 2018

The Athletic Combine Part 3: Results, The Most Important Thing in Athletic Performance Testing

Three Supplements for this Winter
June 5, 2018

Three Supplements for this Winter

The Athletic Combine Part 2: Interpreting your Athletic Testing Results
April 30, 2018

The Athletic Combine Part 2: Interpreting your Athletic Testing Results

The Athletic Combine Part 1: The Tests and Why They Matter
April 11, 2018

The Athletic Combine Part 1: The Tests and Why They Matter

5 Do's and Don't for Surviving the Holidays
December 28, 2017

5 Do's and Don't for Surviving the Holidays

Maximise Performance, Reduce Injury and Improve Your Running Technique all before training starts
December 11, 2017

Maximise Performance, Reduce Injury and Improve Your Running Technique all before training starts

5 Elite Habits Every Athletes Can do Now (for free)
November 8, 2017

5 Elite Habits Every Athletes Can do Now (for free)

Taper Like a Boss
September 13, 2017

Taper Like a Boss

9 Reasons Humans were Born to Run
August 23, 2017

9 Reasons Humans were Born to Run

Mailbag - How Can I Dunk in Two Weeks?
June 21, 2017

Mailbag - How Can I Dunk in Two Weeks?

Neutral Spine? How to Deadlift and Squat Without Hurting Your Back
May 22, 2017

Neutral Spine? How to Deadlift and Squat Without Hurting Your Back

Rockstar Muscles: Multifidus
August 30, 2017

Rockstar Muscles: Multifidus

Workout Soreness: What Causes DOMS?
August 16, 2017

Workout Soreness: What Causes DOMS?

48,360 hours of muscular creep
June 9, 2017

48,360 hours of muscular creep

Mini Desk Workout: Fix a Slouched Posture
June 28, 2017

Mini Desk Workout: Fix a Slouched Posture

How to do a Chin Up & Pull Up Properly: The Problem and Solution
May 11, 2017

How to do a Chin Up & Pull Up Properly: The Problem and Solution

The Push:Pull Ratio
May 11, 2017

The Push:Pull Ratio

Reinventing the Shoulder
May 9, 2017

Reinventing the Shoulder

Anti-Desk: Hips and Pot Belly Edition
June 14, 2017

Anti-Desk: Hips and Pot Belly Edition

Why is My Back Sore? The Reasons We Get Lower Back Pain
May 3, 2017

Why is My Back Sore? The Reasons We Get Lower Back Pain

Biomechanics of the Spine - How Posture Influences our Structures
May 16, 2017

Biomechanics of the Spine - How Posture Influences our Structures

Are Sit Ups Bad for You?
June 3, 2017

Are Sit Ups Bad for You?

Why Can't I Jump High? The Science Behind Vertical Leap
May 3, 2017

Why Can't I Jump High? The Science Behind Vertical Leap

Olympic Lifting vs Plyometrics
April 26, 2017

Olympic Lifting vs Plyometrics

Instant Strength: Push the Ground Away
April 11, 2017

Instant Strength: Push the Ground Away

Front Side vs Back Side Mechanics: What makes Better Sprinters
April 18, 2017

Front Side vs Back Side Mechanics: What makes Better Sprinters

What is Fatigue? Causes of Fatigue
April 19, 2017

What is Fatigue? Causes of Fatigue

Drills to Improve your Knee Drive for Sprinting and Acceleration
April 9, 2017

Drills to Improve your Knee Drive for Sprinting and Acceleration

Two Cues for Better Acceleration
April 10, 2017

Two Cues for Better Acceleration

Four Reasons My Brother Beat Me Over 50m
April 5, 2017

Four Reasons My Brother Beat Me Over 50m

Taking off the Athletic Handbrake: The World's Greatest Most Important, Best Stretch
April 5, 2017

Taking off the Athletic Handbrake: The World's Greatest Most Important, Best Stretch

Anti-Desk: Fixing Texting Neck
April 2, 2017

Anti-Desk: Fixing Texting Neck

High Protein Breakfast: Homemade Baked Beans
March 28, 2017

High Protein Breakfast: Homemade Baked Beans

How to Run Faster: Tips for Injury Free Effortless Running
March 27, 2017

How to Run Faster: Tips for Injury Free Effortless Running

Calf Raises: An Easy Home Workout to Jump Higher and Run Faster
March 26, 2017

Calf Raises: An Easy Home Workout to Jump Higher and Run Faster

Why aren’t shoes shaped like feet? A history of shoes: Part II
March 22, 2017

Why aren’t shoes shaped like feet? A history of shoes: Part II

Toga - Yoga for Your Toes
March 21, 2017

Toga - Yoga for Your Toes

Running Program for Transitioning to Barefoot Shoes (Minimalist/Zero Drop)
March 15, 2017

Running Program for Transitioning to Barefoot Shoes (Minimalist/Zero Drop)

ISOMETRICS: A POWERFUL WORKOUT TOOL TO INCREASE STRENGTH AND REHAB INJURIES
February 21, 2017

ISOMETRICS: A POWERFUL WORKOUT TOOL TO INCREASE STRENGTH AND REHAB INJURIES

The #1 Factor in Ankle and Hamstring Injuries (Hint: it's the same for both!)
February 2, 2017

The #1 Factor in Ankle and Hamstring Injuries (Hint: it's the same for both!)

Does Cardio Kill Your Gains?
February 2, 2017

Does Cardio Kill Your Gains?

The Conditioning Continuum: Is it possible to get 400m fit without running further than 50m?
February 2, 2017

The Conditioning Continuum: Is it possible to get 400m fit without running further than 50m?

Gym Shoes: Find the Shoe That is Best For Your Training Style
April 19, 2017

Gym Shoes: Find the Shoe That is Best For Your Training Style

Training Tips to Increase Strength on the Bench Press
January 16, 2017

Training Tips to Increase Strength on the Bench Press

The Fat Burning Zone Myth and 11 Other Ways High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Improves Fitness
January 16, 2017

The Fat Burning Zone Myth and 11 Other Ways High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Improves Fitness

Increase Strength and Hypertrophy with these Plateau Busting Gym Program Ideas
January 11, 2017

Increase Strength and Hypertrophy with these Plateau Busting Gym Program Ideas

Split Workout: Is it worth the extra effort?
January 3, 2017

Split Workout: Is it worth the extra effort?

High Intensity Interval Training: Repeat Sprints for Sport Specific Fitness
December 20, 2016

High Intensity Interval Training: Repeat Sprints for Sport Specific Fitness

Game Fit - The Best Training Method to Improve Fitness During the Preseason
December 20, 2016

Game Fit - The Best Training Method to Improve Fitness During the Preseason

Sweet potato or White? And a Killer Baked Potato Recipe
December 15, 2016

Sweet potato or White? And a Killer Baked Potato Recipe

The World's Best HIIT Workout: How To do 8:12 Intervals on a Spin Bike
December 14, 2016

The World's Best HIIT Workout: How To do 8:12 Intervals on a Spin Bike

Summer time Oats & Yoghurt
December 7, 2016

Summer time Oats & Yoghurt

Acute to Chronic Workload Ratio: Managing Errors in Training Load
December 7, 2016

Acute to Chronic Workload Ratio: Managing Errors in Training Load

Rules for Buying Sneakers
November 30, 2016

Rules for Buying Sneakers

Are Roches Killing Your Athleticism?
November 23, 2016

Are Roches Killing Your Athleticism?

The Power of Placebo
November 16, 2016

The Power of Placebo

What is a Trigger Point/Knot and How do They Work?
November 14, 2016

What is a Trigger Point/Knot and How do They Work?

Is Sleep Deprivation Killing your Athleticism?
October 31, 2016

Is Sleep Deprivation Killing your Athleticism?

Sprint Unification Theory
October 30, 2016

Sprint Unification Theory

Ankle Sprain/Ankle Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Training
November 14, 2016

Ankle Sprain/Ankle Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Training

An Effective Solution for Treating Shin Splints
December 14, 2016

An Effective Solution for Treating Shin Splints

Become Instantly Stronger: Creating Bar Tension/Picking Up the Slack
November 10, 2016

Become Instantly Stronger: Creating Bar Tension/Picking Up the Slack

Anti-Valgus Training Tips: Gluteus Medius
December 20, 2016

Anti-Valgus Training Tips: Gluteus Medius

Warmup 2.0 For Every Body
August 30, 2016

Warmup 2.0 For Every Body

Mailbag: General nutrition advice
May 19, 2016

Mailbag: General nutrition advice

Intent to Move: The secret of explosive athletes
April 12, 2016

Intent to Move: The secret of explosive athletes

Easy steps to increase your vertical Jump
April 5, 2016

Easy steps to increase your vertical Jump

Breakfast for Dinner? Science says yes!
April 21, 2016

Breakfast for Dinner? Science says yes!

Training the core for performance
October 29, 2015

Training the core for performance

Do you need protein shakes to improve performance?
October 22, 2015

Do you need protein shakes to improve performance?

Increase Your Vertical Jump in Less Than 10 Minutes a Day
October 27, 2013

Increase Your Vertical Jump in Less Than 10 Minutes a Day

Sports Specific Fitness: You're probably doing it wrong!
August 18, 2015

Sports Specific Fitness: You're probably doing it wrong!

The Magic of Foam Rolling
February 25, 2014

The Magic of Foam Rolling

Hydration Strategies for High Performance
January 23, 2014

Hydration Strategies for High Performance

One Muscle to Rule Them All: Gluteus Maximus
March 22, 2014

One Muscle to Rule Them All: Gluteus Maximus

Loading the Glutes: The power of the squat
April 2, 2014

Loading the Glutes: The power of the squat

How to Maximise Tournament Performance
May 19, 2014

How to Maximise Tournament Performance

The Perfect Pre-Game Meal
August 27, 2016

The Perfect Pre-Game Meal