If you are an athlete you must understand the difference between performance training and working out. If you do not know how to answer the question that is fine, I am going to go over it. There is just a slight difference in terminology, which most people will pay no attention to, but this difference will produce greater results in the training facility.
When I use the term performance training I am referring to an actual program or plan that is put together for a certain athlete to accomplish their specific goals. It can be a weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly or even a multi-yearly training program.
If you are just starting out begin with a weekly or monthly training plan. Focus on movement quality and getting stronger. Map out what your goals are each time you walk through the doors, what exercises you are going to do and the set & rep scheme you are going to use, among others things. There is a set of goals and plan to get those goals accomplished.
On the other hand, if an athlete goes to a training facility to get in a workout, there is no plan. It is total randomness. Sure you might know what exercises you like to do so chances are you will do them again, with the same reps, sets and weights. This will work for the novice that is just starting out, pretty much anything will. Then what? After awhile you stop seeing results and get discouraged. The results stop coming and you wonder why squatting 135 lbs for 10 over the past 6 months has not promoted any changes.
Let’s stop with all the working out and guess work and get on a properly designed training program that works!
A performance training program gives us direction and tells us what we are trying to accomplish in a certain time frame. For example a college football player in part of his off-season might be in a hypertrophy phase, where he is trying to add muscle mass. Depending on the time of year there will be certain focuses for higher level athletes. These athletes are most likely on a yearly training program.
In its simplest terms when there is a training program there is a plan. There are a set of goals that you are trying to accomplish each and every time you walk into the training facility. There is progress being made, even though at times it can be slow, it will take place.
When you go to school or work there is a plan and set of goals that need to be accomplished over the day, week, month, quarter and year. A performance training program is no different.
If you are serious about being the best athlete you can be, having a performance training program is a must. Set goals, map it out and get to work!
How many unqualified lawyers have you had take on your law issues, how about unqualified accountants to take care of your taxes, anyone letting their kids go to school without qualified teachers? I’m sure you all answered none and of course not to those questions. Why would you use someone that was not qualified to handle your personal issues and take care of your child? You wouldn’t, yet everyday there are unqualified individuals acting as strength & conditioning professionals and attempting to coach your children.
A strength & conditioning coach is no different than anyone else that considers themselves a professional. A strength and conditioning professional should have degrees in a related field to strength & conditioning such as exercise science, kinesiology or physical education. They should also possess certifications from accredited and well respected organizations within the field. The Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association, The National Strength & Conditioning Association and The United States of America Weightlifting are a few of the respected organizations out there. Experience is something else that you might want to find out about too. Who have they worked with, where have they worked, do they have references that support their efforts.
There are so many reasons why it is important to have a qualified strength and conditioning professional be the one that is actually working with your child, but I will only discuss a few here.
The first one is so blatantly obvious, but it bears repeating, they are qualified to do the job! They have done the schooling, received the certifications and have the work experience. Are you hiring someone that does not have the proper degrees and certifications to be an architect to design the building of your home? Of course you aren’t so why would you use someone that is going to help build and develop your most prized possession, your child? You wouldn’t, end of story.
Second, which plays off the first point somewhat. The biggest thing about being in a profession is you are continuing to learn new things about your industry on a daily basis. It has been said that taking a year off from the strength and conditioning field would put you years behind the rest. There is that much to learn every year! So if you are not continually learning and improving your skill set, you are falling behind. It is a consistently changing field that requires a deep understanding of the material and how to properly apply it. A 100% commitment is required to be a professional in any field, strength and conditioning is no different.
Third and I’ll finish with this point, when unqualified individuals attempt to run a strength and conditioning program the chance of injury goes up exponentially. One of the most difficult things to do is “give credit” to how some injuries present themselves. Chronic issues will not appear immediately (duh) and might not even develop until a few years down the road. A chronic issue could develop because an athlete might be asked to perform a movement they are not ready for; they shouldn’t be doing at all or are asked to do too much too soon.
Injuries, whether acute or chronic are unfortunate, but something that is caused due to chronic repetition of improper form due to poor coaching or the athlete not being able to physically perform the movement could take an extremely long amount of time to correct. There is a saying that goes, for every wrong repetition you do, you will have to do it properly five times. So think about doing something wrong for two years and add up all those repetitions, it’s not correcting itself over night. The proper movement pattern has been broken down so much that the repetitions that are needed to fix it will be substantial. Do not let these poor movement patterns lead to a broken athlete.
When it comes down to it, I want all young athletes to receive proper coaching and be able to increase their strength, power and speed while reducing their chance of injury. Every strength and conditioning professional should be able to tell you why they are doing everything in their program, if not, find someone that can. Make sure that your young athletes are getting what they need and deserve.
Swimmers perform the same movements, day in and day out, without as much as an after though. This is true for most athletes, but most athletes are not training year round and focusing only on one sport in the way that most swimmers do. It is great when an athlete is passionate about the sport they participate in and I fully support their decision to do so. When it takes place at a young age, as is usually the case with swimming, it can lead to overuse injuries if the right measures are not taken to prevent them.
When an athlete performs a movement repeatedly there should be a performance training aspect that assists in improving swim performance while reducing the chance that chronic injury develops. Swimmers are notorious for developing knee and shoulder injuries throughout their swimming careers. This is unfortunate because reducing and in most cases preventing an injury from ever taking place is possible, but it involves both the swim coach and performance coach doing their jobs both effectively and efficiently. Most of all, it involves both coaches being on the same page as far as training inside and outside of the pool.
There are going to be repeated movements that take place in sport, which is understandable and expected. There has to be an action plan that prevents these repeated movements from leading to chronic injuries. Swimming injuries are for the most part due to chronic overuse without having a properly designed performance training program. And no, running does NOT count as performance training!
The goal of the sport performance coach is to increase performance while minimizing injury. Knowing what the physical demands of the swimmers are gives the performance coach the ability to program a training plan that will strengthen their movement patterns, while continuing to give them the best shot at reducing their chance of injury. The sole goal of the swim coach is to increase performance while minimizing injury. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? For the swim coach to do these things there needs to be a well programmed training year, which includes recovery. When both coaches get on the same page great things start happening.
Everyone has to be involved in helping these young athletes become strong, powerful swimmers, while reducing their chance of injury and making sure that they are having fun. The parents and the coaches have to both do their part in making this an enjoyable and successful experience.
A key component in a strength and conditioning program is training specificity. Training should be specific to the athlete’s needs, goals, and sport. There are many components to consider in the realm of training specificity. The adaptations that occur from a training stimulus are specific to the mode (type), the intensity, and the duration of the training stimulus. In the Book Physiology of Sport and Exercise specificity of training can be defined as the principle that physiological adaptations in response to physical training are highly specific to the nature of the training activity. To maximize benefits, training should be carefully matched to an athlete’s specific performance needs.
Applying the specificity principle appropriately to a training program can help maximize the benefits of the program, and carry over to the performance of the athlete in their specific sport. One thing to look at when making a training program specific to an athlete is the movements to train. The types of movements that are used while playing should be closely mimicked in the training program. If an athlete needs to be strong unilaterally then the training program should include exercises performed unilaterally. If there is a lot of lateral movement in the sport, then train lateral movements. Along with the movements to be trained, the muscles and joints that perform the movements need to be taken into consideration.
Another important aspect of training specificity is the energy system or systems used by the athlete. If the athlete plays an anaerobic sport they are using the phosphagen system and the anaerobic glycolytic system. For an athlete that uses these anaerobic energy systems, in order to condition for this sport then the energy systems used in conditioning need to be the same ones used while playing the sport. One way to train for these systems is to alter the work to rest ratio. Athletes that compete in an anaerobic sport should condition by running shorter intense sprints. The length of the sprints, and the amount of rest in between sprints will be specific to that sport. Distance swimmers should condition mostly by doing distance swimming, and should include some swimming sprint work to aid in the all-out completion of the race.
Specificity of training is a very comprehensive approach to training, which can maximize the benefits of a program. It is a key component of any training regime, and should not be over looked when putting together a routine for anyone.
Written By: Joe Carillo, SportPerformanceU's Athletic Performance Intern
Sport conditioning is a topic that does not get nearly as much attention as its strength counterpart. If conditioning is even performed it is merely something that will be done without much thought put into it. Many sport coaches still look at conditioning as something that should be performed slowly and over a long period of time. This thought process is contradictory to what the actual practice and science of conditioning tells us. To the contrary, conditioning is something that should be performed quickly, include intervals and be relatively short in duration. For most athletes that play field sports it should be mainly anaerobic in nature and done with sufficient rest periods to mimic an actual sporting event.
Where did we go wrong and why are coaches still telling their athletes to perform long, slow conditioning protocols? Unfortunately old habits die hard. When new research comes out, some old school coaches want to write it off and refer back to their old cliché “this is how we use to do it when I played” nonsense. It takes time to change people’s minds especially when there is so much misinformation out there. We know how conditioning use to be done and now we know how it should be done. So let’s get things right.
Let me explain briefly how this all works. Field and court sports are mostly using the anaerobic system, which is used without oxygen, during play. It is used for short sprints, big jumps, hard throws and big swings. All of these movements require the use of mainly the anaerobic function. They are ballistic in nature and require a high energy source called (ATP) adenosine triphosphate. This energy source is used to perform the most amazing feats that have been seen. I cannot stress this point enough; the majority of sports played use the anaerobic system. Please stop telling me that athletes need an “aerobic base” before they are permitted to do anything else. The anaerobic system is quite different from its counterpart, the aerobic system, which is required in such sports as cross county running and long distance swimming. Even with the previously mentioned sports they do require some anaerobic conditioning aspects, especially at the end of races.
At the end of the off-season and beginning of the pre-season is when the focus on the conditioning takes place. Depending on how the specific individual has responded to conditioning in the past the program will start early or later at the end of the off season. Sport conditioning is sport specific; it should resemble the actual demand of the sport. If you play baseball and your coach wants you running for miles on end their understanding of the most basic fundamentals of sport conditioning is lacking and visa-versa if you do happen to participate is a more aerobic sport such as long distance swimming and your coach wants you to do additional aerobic conditioning on top of your six days in the pool, they are missing the point.
This topic is for some unknown reason unlikely to be cleared up anytime soon in the minds of coaches, athletes and parents alike. This means we will continue to plug away at educating everyone about how sport conditioning should be performed.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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