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Training Sprinters and Jumpers with no Barbells: The Basement Gym of Chris Korfist

Guest Post by Chris Korfist

Chris Korfist Basement Gym

I do not have a power rack, squat rack or even squat standards, yet I still get really good results with my athletes”

Chris Korfist (Chris currently has two girls vertical jumping over 30” and two guys over 40”)

Last February I got the opportunity to meet Joel Smith at the Douglas Heel Be-Activated Level 1 class in Chicago. I had known Joel through the internet world but had never met him in person. During a break, he wanted to see my “gym” since I live a couple of miles from where we held the workshop. So we took a quick ride over.

When we got to the “gym”, which is really my basement he started taking pictures and later asked if I would write an article about the equipment that I have and how I use it, especially since I do not have a power rack, squat rack or even squat standards, yet I still get really good results with my athletes.

To start, I have a reasonably sized basement, 60×20’. My walls are painted with chalk board paint and which lists the numbers that athletes score on the exercises we use to mark.  The following are the records we keep for various movements:

  • 30 sec line hops which is measured with a just jump mat, who made me a special computer box that just measures contacts.
  • Next to that is our vertical jump wall.
  • We have a real runner section which has reps for time.
  • We have a Bosco wall for all of our Bosco jumps (ankle, vertical and CMJ- all with hands on hips).
  • A section for Exxentrix scores on the Kbox and a wall for gymaware scores for the various lifts that we do.
  • The main wall is a Hall of Fame for the season we are in (outdoor workouts are very different from indoor workouts) and an All-Time area for fly 10’s done on my street (best is .946) and verticals. I have had 2 male athletes jump 40” and 2 females jump 30” on the Just Jump mat. (Editors Note: Still think you absolutely need to squat or deadlift to jump high?)
  • My floors are a variety of surfaces so our feet always feel something different. We spend most of our time barefoot in the “gym”.

I started in my garage 11 years ago, when I left a program due to some coaching changes. Within a week of resigning, I had people ask if I could train them. I had no equipment or space at the time, so I took one car out of the garage and made an investment on a reverse hyper, a trap bar and a glut ham machine from Westside Barbell. Since it was spring, we did some posterior chain in the garage, and went out in the street to run flys, etc.

That summer, someone else’s bad luck was my stroke of good luck as I found a Hammer-Strength Deadlift and 4 way hip for less than $100 each. This was the basis of my garage. It was all I could fit in there. Winter was hard. I used insulated blanket’s to seal the garage shut and left my door to my house open to try to heat it. It was a constant fight with my wife about whether the door was open or not. A fire in our house forced us to build a new house.

The new house was bigger. The original plans were to have a separate garage to train in but it became too expensive and “the gym” was moved to the basement which allowed me to expand. Some of the equipment I have either modified or use it in a way that may be different than recommended. Most of our lifts are monitored with a Just Jump mat, Gymaware software and Exxentric software.

Equipment List:

Exxentric Kbox

Currently, my main piece of equipment is my Exxentric Kbox. I have not found a more effective piece of equipment that teaches athletes how to explode. It is based on a flywheel principle. The harder an athlete pulls on the wheel, the harder it pulls back and then the athlete has to reverse the momentum and reaccelerate. So, if an athlete pulls at 100%, the wheel will pull back at 130% just like in real athletic movements.

 

While using the kBox we have had great improvements in all of our measuremts, from vertical jumps to power output on other lifts. With the new Exxentric software, athletes can monitor their output and we keep track of their peak outputs and I am amazed at how much harder people attack their lift. (see Tony Holler’s article) I also use peak number’s instead of average because I remember Peter Weyand talking about the peak in sprinters output.

We do the following lifts with the Kbox;

  • Ankle squats
  • Douglas Heel hip rip which he created while playing with it (great hip extension exercise)
  • RDL’s
  • Hamstring mud curls (like a step over)
  • Psoas lifts with the small plate

 Run Rocket

This was a new machine that I picked up this winter and love it. To me, it is the best piece of equipment for acceleration that I have come across. It is a strap connected to a wheel that gives constant resistance. With a sled or a band or even the exer-genie, there is some slack and not such a smooth acceleration. The run rocket takes care of that issue. It is a smooth, even release. And, like real running, as you go further away from the machine, the tension decreases.

 

 

The strap goes out to 45 yds. So, you can run a 40 with variable resistance. At the lighter settings, you can achieve the 10% decrease in time for a textbook resistance run, you can also turn it up for a good 3 step drive. With my basketball players, lateral shuffles and lateral one leg hops all work well. I like it because I can work on acceleration year round. Using it with my track team, we have posted some great times in the 55m. I had one starter tell me that it almost looked like we were cheating. Again, another machine that gets used every workout.

Real Runner from Doc Sports

Again a machine to help simulate running in the cold months in the Midwest. We set the resistance on the lightest possible and run for 20 or 30 sec. and count the number of their right leg pumps. If they feel too much quad, we butt bungee them and get a great hip drive. This is a great finisher or can be super-setted with the run rocket.

Glute-ham raise and 45 degree back extension

We use both of these machines a-la Bret Contreras, for glute development. Athletes are instructed to drive hips into the machine and squeeze their glutes. When the squeeze stops, that is when the stop coming up. If they feel it in their back, they are coming too high. We rotate foot placement internally to hit adductors and external change glutes. We also bend knees to get a different contraction. We use the gym aware as well to see their power output on the exercise.

Glute-ham raise and 45 degree back extension

4-Way Hip Machine: Adductors/Abductors

Sprinters never exercise adductors enough in my opinion. Looking at the charts of muscle recruitment during a sprint, the adductor magnus does a ton of work but yet, it never gets trained in the weight room. We get it on the 4-way hip machine. Facing the machine, turn the foot out and adduct and facing sideways, foot rotates in and bring the leg past the standing leg. Knee needs to pass. Also on the 4 way hip, we do glute med. This is the one that is misused in the gym all of the time. It is the leg that is on the ground that should be doing the work, not the swing leg. We also do this with our foot in 3 positions,10 o’clock,noon and 2 o’clock, to hit all three parts of the glute medius. These exercises are our warm up cycles. We usually do 2-3 sets.

4-Way Hip Machine

MVP Shuttle

A great machine but we don’t use it like you see in the pictures. An athlete lying flat gets no hip explosion when they push. We lay on our sides so the whole chain can bend. We can really focus on some great ankle rocker action too. And we go face down in a kneeling position and kick back into the plate. We can really weigh it down and work on reaction time off the plate. It is as close as I can come to the forces crashing on the body to work on vertical forces.

Hammer Strength Deadlift

My main weight machine. Of course, we do Bulgarian single leg squats as well as reactive single leg squats. Both are measured by my gymaware. We also do an explosive deadlift where I can line up an athlete’s body and block the weight to the proper height so their explosion is all hip and not back. We also wear a butt bungee while performing this exercise. (Editors Note: Read more on Chris’s use of this machine in his article on FreelapUSA)

Hammer Strength Deadlift

Leaper

This is another Doc Sports machine. I use it for step ups, and put blue bands instead of the hydraulic pistons. We also use it for toe pops as well.

Pit Shark made by Doc Sports

This is a simple belt squat machine. It works great for girls who get freaked with big plates and the mental aspect gets in the way of training. They never realize how much weight they have on and get really strong, really fast.

Pit Shark

That’s how we work in the basement, once it gets warm outside, we add in fly 10’s , block 30’s and other running stuff.

So that’s my gym. I don’t know what the next big thing will be. I am hoping for an improvement on my hammer strength deadlift where the angle is not an arc. And I am always looking for new belts to hang weight on. Currently Spud belts are doing the job for me. I think my next step is vision software, like neurotracker.  Thanks for reading.


 

Chris Korfist has been coaching track for 22 years in Illinois. He has coached at Hinsdale Central, Downers Grove North and York HS, producing 59 All-state track athletes, 3 individual state champions, 2 team state champions, 3 second place team finishes, and 2 3rd place finishes.  He owns the Slow Guy Speed School which is a gym that focuses on running and athletic development from which other All-state athletes have trained. He used to run the Inno-sport website and wannagetfast.com with Dan Fichter. He also had the opportunity to work occasionally with some Olympic sprinters and other professional athletes.

4 comments

  1. Good article. Most gyms dont have equipments like the ones Chris Korfist uses in his basement. Barbells is in a lot of people training methods because they cant get access to other training equipments.

  2. Nice lab! Do you recommend any poor man alternative exercises?

  3. part 2 – how to make all of this!

  4. Thanks Chris and Joel for this article. Very insightful Chris. I’ve been meaning to reach out to you for a couple reasons and now you’ve just given me another! Thanks to both of you for the content and contributing to the greatness of so many athletes and coaches.
    In Gratitude

    Tanner

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