There aren’t many things I like more than strength training.
Not even Lord of the Rings. Not even sushi. Not even Zac Effron’s face.
Strength training is that high on my list of things I love, if not, number one.
From a physiological standpoint, it serves a wealth of benefits: improved athleticism, reduced chance of injury, increased confidence, improved body composition, and unlimited bragging rights:
Sorry, had to.
Put simply, strength training is a life changer and I can’t think of one bad thing that comes from it.
And going beyond performance benefits, it improves bone mineral density, joint health, cardiovascular capacity, mood, and ability to grab life by the balls.
In fact, the other day, I told my athletes, “life is the longest sport you’ll ever play.”
“That’s deep,” one soccer girl replied, as they all nodded in agreement.
To that end, there is so much more going on here than just getting athletes strong, faster, and better. They’re becoming life athletes who are learning what they are made of and what hard work really means.
So yes, strength training is AWESOME.
However, even though it has its benefits, we can’t just train this component alone. In the past, I’ve preached strength training helps to improve speed and other areas of athleticism, but there are so many more buckets that need to be filled IN ADDITION to lifting heavy weights.
These buckets include:
You may have an athlete is strong as shit, can knock down the Great Wall of China, or can do this:
Alas, he has no power, and has piss poor fast twitch muscle recruitment. This will hinder his potential for speed, acceleration, and explosiveness.
You may have an athlete who is fast, explosive, and powerful, but gets knocked down by a gust of wind. He’s weak as shit. And now that he’s older, he’s realizing he can’t just get away with googling plyometric drills and doing 45 minutes of ladder workouts.
Or. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you may have an athlete who is juuuuuuuust right. He trains all the buckets of performance training, and falls in the middle of the strength and power spectrum:
For those visual learners, this curve sums it up. Here’s what you need to know: in order to be the most powerful athlete, you can’t train one end of the curve. Your training should encompass all pieces along the curve in order to optimize power.
An athlete who does this is most likely to get a D1 scholarship and land the lead acting role in the inevitable 300 remake.
Taking the conversation back to training solely for strength, this comes down to knowing the needs of your athletes.
I’d argue this takes is common sense and to discern who needs what after a few training sessions, evaluations, or just knowing your athletes for years.
So what can you do if you have an athlete who is the strongest one and needs to be quicker?
A few sample exercises:
Lateral bounding is great for frontal plane power work, which will improve agility, increase fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment, and rate of force development (RFD).
It’s excellent news that this type of athlete already has a base of super-human strength, so they’re better able to produce more power on jump variations:
Now for the athlete who is the fastest on the team, their best bet is to increase resistance training volume.
This could mean more hypertrophy work to build muscle mass, or strength work to increase ability to withstand the forces of competition:
Full disclosure: strength will always be awesome for everyone.
Even the athletes who fall under the maximal strength category, this doesn’t mean we toss the dumbbells and barbells away and put them on a strict plyometric program.
Programming for athletes, again, should be a multi faceted approach, filling all of the buckets evenly.
It’s best to give everything – from strength, to power, to mobility, to balance, to conditioning and agility some love.
Strength improves power.
Strength/power improves agility and conditioning.
Mobility improves power and agility and strength.
Balance improves agility.
Movement improves everything.
See how these all connect?
So before I wrap up today’s article, here are a few examples of exercises from the performance “buckets” I just listed:
Oh snap. I don’t have a video of conditioning. This is probably because after I run my athletes, they fall to the ground and die. *cue Let the Bodies Hit the Floor song*
But I recommend heart rate based drills, where athletes are working to 85-93% of their max to achieve a higher intensity than competition. This is especially great for soccer, lacrosse, and basketball players. The Polar Heart Monitor is the easiest to use and you can hook it up to your phone.
I hope your athletes achieve their optimal potential after reading this post. Please let me know if anyone lands the 300 movie role.