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Strength Training & Sports Specificity As It Relates To Athletes

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What is strength training?

Strength training is defined as using body weight or apparatuses to increase an individual's force production. Creating higher force production can be done in a magnitude of ways, some more efficient than others. When we look at two athletes at the highest level, the stronger athlete will always win when all other variables are the same.

Many times as coaches and parents we place the highest emphasis on skills. This is great in the youth years. But, as they reach middle school, kids have all been playing for many years and their technique/skill level is relatively equal. What does stand out is the difference in power, reactive forces, endurance and prowess on the field. After many years of play the strength and genetics deficit in developing athletes rears its head. So what can be done to give your athlete the competitive edge? There is a solution! The weight room coupled with proper programming. REMEMBER THIS: hard work does not equate to successful training.

I can give you a saw and ask you to go to town. But, working harder does not translate to efficient work. Instead I can teach you how to use the saw and enlist a team of supportive workers to make you work more effectively. A strength coach should be able to gather a team that will enhance the athlete's skills. An athlete's team consists not only of his skills coach, but his strength coach, dietitian, massage therapist, chiropractic doctor, and/or physical therapist. Why would you not give your kid the best tools to realize the best version of their selves?

First step, agility and explosiveness

Very often parents and coaches realize their kids are a step behind and are moving slower out of the blocks at sprints. This leads to coaches drilling agility ladder drills, plyometric jumps, sprint starts, hill sprints, and many resisted sled pulls. All of these tools are great to showcase power once the power has been developed. However, many times focusing on these tools is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. These tools do not address the lack of strength when there is a clear deficit in relation to the athlete and the demands of the sport.

First, we have to understand that explosiveness, quickness and speed are comprised of two major components. 1) How fast the muscles contract (this is highly genetic trait and not easily trained and often impossible to improve), and 2) The forcefulness of each muscle contraction. The forcefulness of each muscle contraction can be trained directly with proper lifting mechanics and programming. It's simple, if you want to be a more explosive athlete, you have to have dynamite. Dynamite is developed in the weight room, not with the agility ladder or the vertimax trainer. The vertimax and the agility ladder are best used to fine tune your explosive devices. BANG BABY!

Sport Specificity

Specificity relates the unique demands and developments that happen within each sport. In short, in order to get from good to great you have to meet the needs of the sport. You must put many hours, 10,000 or so, into your craft. Have you ever noticed how at the highest of levels of each sport, the athlete tends to fit a certain stereotype specific for the demands of the sport? For instance marathon runners are super lean and high level power lifters are sturdy. This is impart due to certain genetic traits that are desirable for each sport, but It is also a result of the time spent in each sport.

Bulking and looking like a bodybuilder, oh no!

I lost count of the times a parent of an athlete has told me they don't want their kid to look like a bodybuilder on the track or out on the field. Please trust me they wont!

Bodybuilding is an strategic sport with specific calorie and physical demands. It is highly unlikely that an athlete would get "bodybuilding results" without body building programming.

A huge portion of this is due to the amount of time spent in your particular sport. The principle of specificity means that the body will adapt to the type of training that is being undertaken. Your body will mold to the demands you put on it. If you spend 2 hours in the weight room working on specific drills it will never outshine the 12 hours a week spent biking or 7 hours a week spent swimming. It's impossible!

What strength training in the weight room will do is allow you to move your body faster, more forcefully, and restore joint muscle imbalances thus lowering the risk of injuries.

Tight muscles from weight lifting

Some of the common issues that cause tight muscles are: overactive muscles (meaning a particular muscle group is overworking for another muscle group), improper nutrition, stress, and joint limitations.

The body is smart at protecting itself and when there are muscle imbalances or injuries often times the body will tighten certain muscles to protect itself.

Post workouts, it's common to have inflammation and swelling of muscles. This is a good thing. This means the body is functioning perfectly and healing itself to grow stronger.

The myth that strength training will make you tight and bulky is just that, a myth. Improper training or improper body care will make you tight and stiff.

Take Homes;

The body will develop based on the demands it faces.

While you cannot change your genetics, you can increase your strength.

More strength = more explosiveness

Stronger athletes are less injury prone.

Lifting weights will not cause increased tightness.

A good strength program can help your athlete level up

As always have a powerful day!

David Piggott

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