One of the misconceptions in the sporting world is that to become great, all you need to do is devote endless hours to playing your chosen sport. While it is true you need to put in lots of practice and dedication to learning the skills needed to excel at your sport, just playing the sport and not working on the finer principles of movement will not make you great. If you want an average level of performance, and be good at completing a few limited skills, then just playing your sport will achieve that, but your true potential will never be reached.
But as Nick Jack from No Regrets Personal Training explains, if an athlete wants to achieve their potential and become great, it is imperative to design and implement a ‘specific to you and your sport’ conditioning program.
In a world where ‘bulking up’ and ‘body building’ has been considered the norm, it is now clear that these methods do not help improve the skills needed for elite sporting performance.
As Nick highlights, the days of just bulking up by using body building exercises are over.
“Just adding bulk to someone does not improve any of the skills needed for elite sporting performance such as speed, power, agility, balance and strength. In fact, many of the more popular gym exercises such as bench press or leg press are performed lying down while lifting weights at slow speeds. The majority of sports are played standing up and at high speed, usually on an unstable surface while performing complex movement. It doesn’t marry up. This type of training will not only make you dysfunctional and will likely result in postural injuries. A well designed program will take all of these variables into account to properly prepare the athlete for their chosen sport.”
Rather than taking a ‘cookie cutter’ approach, such as following a program that was designed for a different sport or using traditional strength training exercises with the thought that stronger automatically means better, athletes need to take a different approach.
To get the most out of the body, it needs a program that focusses on weaknesses and continually challenges it across many different abilities, movements and skills.
“It is imperative that athletes evolve to using advanced training methods that mimic their chosen sport with the intention of creating improvement in speed, power, agility, balance and strength. By focusing on superior movement patterns and abilities specific to your sport, it will not only improve general performance but decrease the risk of injury.”
“Learning the new movement or skill challenge, developing the skill with absolute precision to the point where it becomes automatic, and then progressing the challenge again to a level you never had before by adopting training techniques is how elite athletes take their games to new heights. Sports specific training that comprises of complex, integrated movements and key elements can be utilized by anyone involved in sport regardless of whether they are simply a weekend warrior or a professional athlete at the top of their game,” explains Nick.
The 9 key elements in any well designed sports performance program are as follows:
Strength – The extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (tackling in AFL Football or holding position to take a mark). We refer to this as Linked Strength that requires the body to coordinate athletic actions against resistance. Execution of successful movement involves the integrated coordination of the entire body. Sport strength exercises and drills are based on training movement, not muscles, with the goal of firing the muscles in the correct sequence and developing strength and body control within athletic movement. Body building exercises serve no purpose for an athlete or for the person needing to get into good health. If you can improve your ability to move, you can do so much more in life and also in sport.
Power – The ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements (golf swing, jumping or sprint starting). Power is the ability to apply force quickly. In order to produce power, the athlete must be able to efficiently stabilize the body, handle fast deceleration forces, and explosively co-ordinate and activate the appropriate muscles to produce the desired explosive movement.
Speed – Similar to power but different in that it requires maximum contraction between 5-15 seconds (running 20 meters to the ball in football). Understand that power and speed cannot fully reach their potential without strength being developed first. This is why many athletes fail to reach the standards they set or are constantly injured by ignoring this fact.
Agility – The ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (tennis & basketball).
Balance – The ability to control the body’s position, either stationary (a handstand) or while moving (kicking a football on the run). An often overlooked and ignored part of many sporting athletes programs who focus too heavily on strength. It is in this phase of a conditioning program that injuries are usually prevented and exceptional skills can be executed. Always remember an unbalanced body is weak and prone to mistakes.
Flexibility – The ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being restricted by tight muscles or connective tissue (reaching wide for an out of court forehand such as Novak Djokovic)
Cardiovascular Endurance – The heart’s ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (running long distances). The use of interval training is an essential part of any athlete, yet rarely used by the general population who prefer to adopt a ‘go slow’ program.
Strength Endurance – A muscle’s ability to perform at maximum contracture time after time (continuous explosive tennis forehands during a 5 set tennis match or repeated sprints during a football match).
Co-ordination – The ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved. This can only be enhanced by using complex sports specific movements that challenge the brain to integrate many movements and abilities all in a split second.
Strength and cardiovascular fitness are just two of many elements needed for sports and despite advice provided by most personal trainers, are not as important as agility, balance, coordination and power.
Equipment such as swiss balls, BOSU’s, balance boards, slingshots, medicine balls, cables, dumbbells and barbells are just some of the tools used in conjunction with a sports specific program to help build the vital skills needed for elite sports performance.
A sports conditioning program gives athletes every chance of reaching their full potential and preventing injury at the same time.
For more information about our Sports Conditioning program, videos and articles, please visit the following links:
All media enquiries should be directed to Nick Jack (No Regrets Personal Training Owner/Operator):
M: +61 408 525 564
T: +61 3 8822 3723
A: 10/18-20 Redland Drive, Mitcham, Victoria, Australia 3132