Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Training Athletes for Sports - WEIGHT TRAINING - Part One - By Jamie Labelle

Athletes must be very careful when developing a training program. There is only so much time and energy that the human body can endure before breaking down. Results from any type of training will only be realized if the plan is safe, progressive and allows for recovery. This allows one to be able to accelerate natural genetic gifts and safeguard a less vulnerable, reinforced physique for the rigors of the athletic battlefield. My goal when training athletes for sports is to help them make the team and participate in practice and games. I want them to perform at a higher level and keep themselves off the sidelines due to injury and/or less than optimal performance. Weight training is only one part of the overall program. The athlete must also include visualization exercises and studying opponents as well as their own team strategies and tactics. The same level of importance needs to be applied to flexibility/mobility, general/specific conditioning, muscular maintenance of prior injuries, and sport-specific skill work. In addition, they must follow a daily recuperation plan to ensure that the training is of high quality while preventing overuse injuries and mental/physical burn-out. Surrounding this mandatory program are the basic human essentials that require our daily attention. They must navigate life, school, diet, work and relationships. These life necessities can also make inroads into ones’ recovery reserves if not managed properly.

Striking a balance between all of these critical activities and timing it with the first day of official practice should be the ultimate goal. Recovery, it turns out, is the least understood and a highly individual process that can quietly derail any athlete. The main by-product of an unfocused recovery program, which usually goes unrecognized until it’s too late, is overtraining. Overtraining is camouflaged by misguided beliefs and a philosophy which confuses hard/intense training with more time spent in the gym. It could lead to injury, sub-par workouts and/or simply steal your thunder on the opening day of practice as you attempt to retain or earn a position. This becomes even more critical as the season nears, where vital energy stores must be taxed intermittently, efficiently and intelligently. Everything one does must have a purpose and an outcome that produces results. On the opposite end of the spectrum is under training, categorized by a lack of intensity and using an exercise form in which momentum, not muscle, moves the resistance.

Still another useless waste of valuable time is attempting to copy athletic movements with gadgets or weights. A boxer who practices throwing punches with a dumbbell in each hand gets better at that skill, while subjecting themselves to neuromuscular confusion and injury. Immediately following this “exercise”, thought to build quickness and explosiveness, they now feel quicker when they punch. Unfortunately, this kinesthetic after-effect usually lasts for about fifteen seconds and then disappears forever. However, if the boxer continues performing this “exercise”, the brain will set a new neuromuscular connection for dumbbell boxing. The injury occurs in the wrists, elbows and shoulders as the body constantly attempts to stop the forward acceleration forces generated by each punch. How good would a boxer be after creating injuries in the very part of the body that allows him/her to perform? This all unknowingly leaves the athlete underprepared and unprotected.

Each repetition of every weight training exercise should require the muscles to do ALL of the work. This establishes the development of muscles which enable the athlete, rather than present a clear risk, both on the field or in the weight room. Almost all of the required movements for sports will place the athlete in any number of defenseless positions as soon as the whistle blows. There is no need to create the origin of an on-field injury in the weight room or leave the athlete more susceptible by using methods that are inherently dangerous. Yes, even if done correctly! The weight room and the playing surface are two, distinctly different places. Any effort to mimic the skills and speed of the game inside the walls of the weight room is a complete waste of time and energy. The only true connection is that training will enable an athlete to develop USABLE muscle, less body-fat with less chance of injury, or at least the severity of injury. If done correctly, it will also enhance skills, allowing an athlete to move faster and quicker. PROPER weight training by itself, will also improve flexibility. However, I believe a post-workout stretching routine will complete the circle of preparation.

The only way to make a weight training program sport-specific is to identify the muscles most often injured and make sure those muscles are an integral part of the overall program. Other than that, every athlete can basically utilize a similar strength training program of free weights, machines and bodyweight exercises. These tools in the athlete's tool box are merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, everything related to the demonstration of weightlifting prowess and technique, similar to Olympic/Powerlifting, is counterproductive to the development of the athletic performance type of strength essential for all athletes. Olympic lifters and Powerlifters are certainly athletes, but they lift barbells both in practice and competition. The boxer must box and the football receiver must run and catch. To subject athletes to learn anything other than the basic up and down motions of strength training is useless at best! Muscles that are required to serve the dual purpose of being stronger AND preventative are only formed through specific, slow, controlled movements with deliberate pauses at the top and bottom of each repetition. The program, for the most part, is unrelated to a specific sport. Can an athlete look better in the mirror or in uniform without using this exercise form? Of course, but remember, the goal here is what happens on the playing surface, not on the bench press, the oily stage or the power clean platform.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
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