Progressions of training for athletes:
Last week I mentioned that an individual’s advancement in the progressions depends on his or her specific goals and capacity to complete them. The next two phases, maximum strength and power, consist of advanced movements and total body awareness. No matter what sport you compete in, or goal set. The next two stages are essential. In the same respect, many of the exercises from these phases are thrown about the gym with no regard to the risk of injury.
Phase 3: Maximum Strength. This refers to the highest force produced within the muscles to create a maximum contraction. More simply stated, it’s the most amount of weight that can be lifted in a given exercise. An effect of maximum strength training is a synchronization of muscle fiber firing during a contraction. To give you a picture, lets dive into the muscle. Strings of muscle fibers run along the inside of the muscle and act as small rubber bands. If more of these muscle fibers pull at once, the muscle contraction as a whole will be stronger. Another effect of maximum strength training is an increase in contractile force. Muscles must adapt to the load placed upon them. Consistently lifting heavy weights will enable the muscle fibers to contract with more force. One misconception about strengthening is that you must push until fatigue for the best result. When an individual pushes to exhaustion they have strayed away from the goal in mind, PURE STRENGTH. One hundred pushups is an example of muscle endurance and will allow you to make that movement repeatedly. If you are strengthening, the aim is to bench press as much weight as possible only once. These are different modes of exercise and challenge different energy systems. Therefore, one does not equal the other.
“Because strength is a crucial athletic ability, it always has to be trained with the other abilities.”(periodization training for sports) This phase is a main focus during pre-season in athletics and can last for 3 to 9 weeks. During the competitive season strength training is woven into the week to assure that the athletes will lose as little strength as possible. Exercises are high intensity and low volume with rest intervals between 2 and 5 minutes for the muscles to fully recover between sets. The movements are slow and controlled to create a large amount of tension in the fibers. Eccentric and tempo training can be utilized to increase the contractile force in the muscle fibers. Pay special attention to range of motion and technique due to the elevated risk of injury. Make sure you are breathing properly so there is no loss in power.
Phase 4: Power. Work divided by time. How quickly can you synchronize your muscles to lift large amounts of weight? This is why body awareness is important from the day we start. Exercises such as the power clean, clean and jerk, and power snatch require more than just pure strength, they require extreme coordination. The advanced movements performed in the barbell power clean, for example, replicate multiple actions from other exercises. It includes the deadlift, shrug, calf raise, high pull, and front squat to be completed consecutively in an explosive motion. Easy? Olympic weightlifters do this exercise lifting hundreds of pounds! The muscles, again, need to be perfectly synchronized and must know the appropriate time to contract and relax.
This is usually the last phase before transferring to sport specific plyometrics, sprints, agility, hand-eye coordination, etc. The heavy weights that you are lifting very quickly with a jumping motion (power clean), is reduced to weights slightly more than your body weight. Now we have the ability to move quicker with more power and strength to be utilized in competition. There is still plenty of training to be done, but our progression of resistance has elevated our physical potential to be the absolute best we can possibly be.
Zak Goodman BS, CSCS
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