Strength training is important for a multitude of reasons. Of course the main focus is to get stronger. But how else does strength training help an athlete? A trained athlete will be stronger than one who is untrained, they will be more resistant to injury than an untrained athlete, and they typically have better body control/hand-eye coordination than an untrained athlete.
Strength training will result in larger muscles, stronger contractions, and faster rates of recovery. These three adaptations are results of physiological improvements due to an external stress - these adaptations occur because the muscles are performing a resistance exercise. However, actual increases in strength are driven by advancements in the neuromuscular system.
The Human nervous system is split into two parts, the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system exists outside of the brain and spinal cord.. This is how the signal for muscular contraction travels from the brain to the corresponding muscle.
General strength training will result in strength gains when an athlete begins training. These strength gains typically will last for about 6-8 weeks, before the neuromuscular system begins to play a major role. Athletes that have not done a strength training program before will see some increases in strength, or ‘beginner gains’ for about 2 months, and then they notice they hit a plateau in their strength levels.
It is at this point where it is important to take into consideration the nervous system. In order to do this, a strength and conditioning professional will properly program an athlete’s training block. It is at this point where lifting percentages and rate of perceived exertion begin to play an important role in the training program. This part of the strength training program typically consists of heavier weights and lower repetitions. The neuromuscular benefit of this is that your brain and nervous system have to send an ‘all or nothing’ signal to the muscle being worked, so it will recruit the appropriate amount of force to complete the exercise. Programming this over time and completing scheduled workouts will then, in turn, improve the efficiency of which these signals travel throughout the nervous system. The more efficient it becomes, the stronger the signal will be at the neuromuscular junction. When trained appropriately, the athlete will be getting slightly larger due to the first 6-8 weeks of training, and then they will drive their neural connections in the added muscle mass. This cycle can be repeated and is a general principle for the training of athletes.
Coach Tim Treschitta