6 essential elements to optimizing athletic performance and sport skill - Part 2
Element #2 = Your “strength and conditioning” should be age specific and athletic movement based
“Do you even lift?” Before being a fun figure of speech, most coaches and athletes used the term “lifting” to describe strength training for sports. Lifting weights is one mechanism for strength training but far from the only. Recently the term “lifting” has been replaced by “strength and conditioning”. Even that term does not accurately describe the true needs of the athlete. “Neuromuscular performance training” would be most accurate because not only is strength important, but so is power, rate of force development, reaction, mobility, stability, recovery, and endurance/fatigue resistance.
Which of the following athletes is the most optimally trained?
This is a trick question. These athletes are all very highly trained ----- for their sport. Different sports require different muscle performance profiles. Distance runners have a higher percentage of type 1 slow twitch fibers. These are designed for long duration use and continuous energy fuel. Basketball players need to train and develop type II fast twitch fibers, designed for powerful short burst muscle activity. Football players need more bulk than basketball players to absorb contact forces. What are the needs of your sport? Basketball emphasizes short bursts of high intensity activity – jumping, sprinting, quick lateral reactions, stabilizing against
contact, etc. Thus basketball neuromuscular training should focus on those type II fibers. Type II fibers are recruited by short powerful burst activity, an intention of moving fast and near maximal loads. Specific groups of basketball players will also have special needs. Female basketball players are at a significantly increased risk for ACL injury. Research has shown that performance training that includes landing control, lateral hip strengthening, balance related exercises and frontal plane core strengthening can reduce the risk of ACL injury.
Youth athletes in growth velocity phases are at much higher risk for stress fractures of the spine. As a physical therapist and basketball coach I have seen too many of these. To minimize this risk these athletes should do leg strengthening exercises without directly loading the spine ---- for example substituting traditional back squats with hex bar squats or deadlifts. There is also a load to body weight failure ratio that should be considered, ie even if the athlete’s muscles are strong enough their skeleton (spine) may not be. Any lower body lifts over 100% of their body weight should be used and monitored with caution. Maximal intensity effort with exercises such as medicine ball throws for height or distance can be another way to recruit the type II fibers in this population. The should also avoid
What about group training? Group training allows some unique benefits – motivation, accountability, team atmosphere and partner training – reaction, spatial awareness, etc. The potential disadvantage is losing the specificity, thus groups must be of similar need – including age and sport requirements.
Top 10 Performance Training Guidelines:
Always complete a dynamic warm up prior to training. It should consist of movements in all three planes of motion, be of progressive speed and intensity and relative to your sport.
For the most part avoid static stretching, if you need to do it, do it after a general light warm up but prior to your dynamic warm up.
For athletes near puberty or early in to puberty - any lower body lifts over 100% of their body weight should be used and monitored with caution.
For athletes near puberty or early in to puberty – avoid exercises, such as back squats, that directly load the spine.
Avoid the use of machines that constrain and control the movement. This diminishes the athlete’s need to stabilize and adapt, as well as direct the force most efficiently.
Avoid single joint exercises. Sports are made up of multi-joint, multi-planar movements, and therefore so should your training.
For athletes involved in cutting and pivoting sports (basketball, soccer, football) – single leg strengthening and single leg balance exercises should be part of the program.
For athletes involved in jumping sports (basketball, volleyball) – single and double leg landing exercises should be part of the program.
Train the breaks. Deceleration and “breaking speed” not only provides an athletic advantage, it is a key component to reducing the risk of injury.
Not everybody has the same body. It is important to respect the differences in height, limb length, flexibility and joint mobility when designing exercises.