A great performance training program will reduce the chance that you sustain an injury, but sooner or later, if you have not already, chances are pretty good that you will be injured. It is one of the most defeating experiences an athlete will deal with during their career. If you have ever had an injury that has kept you sidelined for an extended period of time you know how it feels. All your focus is on returning to the game as soon as possible.
Let’s ask two very important questions to the sport medicine staff to see what approach should be taken with the injury. The first question would probably be how long am I out for and then a close second should be what can I do to get better while I’m injured? Is there a way to design a performance training program around an injury? The answer unfortunately is it depends on the injury, but for most injuries an experienced performance coach will be able to put together an appropriate program that keeps you strong and motivated! Trying to keep your training program on track will pay huge dividends when your injury has healed and it is time to return to play.
Let’s go over an example where our athlete has a right lower leg injury. Let’s assume this athlete will probably be sidelined for a few weeks. Here is a look at a program that might be appropriate for this athlete.
Single Leg Overhead Medicine Ball Slam 3x8
Three Point Prone Plank 3x60s.
Single Leg Deadlift 3x5
Alternating DB Press 3x6
Single Leg Band Push-Pull 3x10
Single Leg Squat 3x5
Chin Up 3x8
½ Kneeling Lift 3x10
Again this is just a hypothetical example; much thought has to go into writing performance programs, especially for an injured athlete. This program allows the athlete to work on power and strength, while staying off that injured foot. Yes every exercise is performed only on the healthy foot and yes if you did asymmetrical training forever it would be bad. For a short term training program this would not negatively affect you. It would have a tremendously positive effect and get you back into “game shape” sooner. Each training program should be individually programmed so these exercise movements have to be appropriate and beneficial to this athlete.
Each injury is a setback, some longer and some shorter than others. It is how we deal with those injuries that will decide how well we play once it is time to return to the game. The ability to train and stay in the right mind set will set us up for success in the future. Do not let an injury stop you from accomplishing your goals. Continue to train using appropriate modifications, attend practices and be a supportive teammate at games.
As strength coaches we all unfortunately know for many novice athletes there has to be a feel that they are doing something new and exciting …. It has to be fresh. I’m sure everyone that has coached has experienced it too many times to count. One of your athletes comes to you and asks “what new exercises am I going to be getting in my next program”? Well we know what our answer should be, which is explaining to them that training is a process that takes time, dedication and hard work. That they must learn the basics, groove the patterns, and become efficient with the movement. Mastering the basics is what is going to lead to gaining the most strength and power gains possible. Variety comes from changing angles, sets, repetitions, time under tension, rest periods, etc. This is what every athlete should be taught when they begin a training program.
Well as perfect as that sounds, it doesn’t always sound new and exciting to the athlete. The solution…a properly designed set of progressions for an exercise will make up for the variation that is desired when an athlete starts a training program for the first time. You might not be able to integrate the next progression quickly, but letting the athlete know that once they master the exercise they are working on at the moment they will get the next progression. This helps them stay focused on the task at hand.
An example of a four step lunge progression would be performing a reverse lunge, forward lunge, walking lunge, and finishing the progression with the slideboard reverse lunge. The athlete gets four “different” exercises while continuing to work on the on the same movement. This is a great example because the athlete is following a proper progression that pleases the need for something new and exciting to do. Honestly it is usually the athlete that is new to training that thinks variety, as far as exercise selection goes, should be part of a training program. An intermediate or advanced athlete would look at adding variety quite differently. They think about a training program as something that is going to help them reach their goals. This will come with time for the novices that stay dedicated to the process of training.
So the first thing to do is make sure that there is a proper progression, which will lead to a bit of variety for our novice trainee. It does take a little bit of creativity, but for the most part if the athlete is training hard and consistently they will be progressing to a point that the challenge of training far weights the desire for something fresh. This will lead to greater results which make both the athlete and coach happy.
Each athlete has a unique set of strength and power developmental goals based on many factors, some of which include training age, time commitment and physical strengths and weaknesses to name a few. With that being said a sport performance coach has to meet their athletes sport training goals using not only the best methods available, but also the most appropriate options available.
The most applicable and appropriate exercises come from the Powerlifting and weightlifting community. They give us an amazing exercise selection at developing tremendous amounts of strength and power. From variations in the squat, deadlift and bench press to the clean, snatch and jerk, the Powerlifting and weightlifting community have blessed us with great training tools.
When training athletes coaches sometimes get carried away with a certain training methodology that is sometimes not exactly what is appropriate for an athlete training for their sport. When athletes are asked to perform lifts that they are not physically ready to perform, due to either physical limitations or appropriate coaching cues injuries and/or movement limitations will take place. This is why weightlifting and powerlifting exercises sometimes get a bad rep, although they are some of the best exercises out there, if used inappropriately it will lead to undesired results. This is the question coaches must ask themselves when designed performance training programs “is this exercise appropriate for my athlete?” If the answer is yes, then by all means teach the appropriate progressions and have at it. If it is not then figure out what must be done to include the appropriate exercise. This could include using developmental exercises or regressing the movement until it becomes appropriate for the athlete.
This leads to my next point, athletes that play sports have other requirements that are unique to their own sport. Whether it is using single leg exercises for strength, medicine ball work for power, slide boards for lateral conditioning or anti-rotations exercises for core development, each training protocol should be geared toward meeting the demands of that individual athletes sport.
I love using Powerlifting and weightlifting exercises in my athletes programs, but they must be appropriate for the athlete’s physical abilities and appropriate for the demand of their sport.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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SPU PHYSICAL THERAPY
37 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT 06897
Phone (203) 810-4811, Fax (203) 831-0418