May 12, 2017
Mix It Up

Having a properly periodized and well-rounded training regimen is essential for improving athlete performance. Designing this ideal strength-training program requires strategic planning with a focus on the specific needs of your athletes. Here are some tips on how to make that happen.

There are a few common misconceptions about strength training that should be avoided. Christye Estes, CSCS, of Volt Athletics, explains many of these misconceptions and outlines how to develop a well-rounded strength-training program for athletes. She is an NSCA-certified strength coach and a Sport Performance Specialist at Volt.

First, the trend of focusing on one set of muscles per day or session (leg day, arm day, back day, etc.) can actually be detrimental to athletic performance. This trend stems from bodybuilding and has made its way into many gym cultures, but does not address the needs of athletes. Athletic movements involve using multiple muscles at a time, and therefore this isolated approach is insufficient and sometimes detrimental.

Secondly, there is a belief that every training session should be done as hard as possible in order to make the most gains. But for athletes, the goal is to be prepared for the specific needs of their sports and not to simply get as big and strong as possible. In addition, over training can lead to extreme soreness, which may be praised in certain fitness circles but is detrimental to athletic performance.

Now that you understand some of the common misconceptions around athlete strength training, here are tips on how to design the ideal program:

Identify the movement patterns that are common in your sport and train these muscles in the weight room.

“Human movement is created not through isolated contractions of singular muscles, but rather through a coordinated synergy of kinetic chains of muscle: in other words, everything is connected,” Estes writes. “If you’re an athlete, your training should focus on improving the performance qualities of movement patterns — so that you can move better, faster, and more efficiently in competition — rather than isolating a muscle based on an aesthetic goal.”

Create a strength training calendar that keeps track of the work done in the weight room and helps you identify what areas need to be focused on, when to incorporate rest, and when to increase intensity.

“Your training calendar dictates how much time you can allot to training different adaptations… In a periodized strength and conditioning plan, the volume and training intensity of each workout is strategically placed within the calendar in order to elicit the greatest training adaptation — and you cannot create adaptation without also allowing time for recovery,” writes Estes.

Remember that the body can handle only so much stress. If you continually put your athletes through intense workouts, you may cause them to over train, which can inhibit their ability to recover and make proper gains, while also increasing chances of injury. This is where periodization becomes so important. One simple way to address this is to follow any high-intensity day with a low-intensity day so that your athletes can continue to improve while also having a chance to recover and rest their central nervous system (CNS).

“With a properly periodized calendar and well-rounded movement selection in your program, you can effectively distribute stress — both local stress, to specific muscle groups like the quadriceps, and global stress, to your CNS as a whole — and achieve optimal training adaptation,” Estes writes. “Remember, too, that the goal of athletics is to improve performance in your sport or event of choice — and the lifts you do in the weight room are simply tools to help improve that performance.”

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