Train Like The Pro’s Do

3 December 2013

By David Slater Accredited Exercise Physiologist The object of any competitive sport is to win! But how do you develop a winner physically? There are varying levels/grades of competition that get more competitive the closer you are to the elite pinnacle. With greater competition comes a great requirement for superior skill and physical dominance. At the elite level of most sports, players gain access to professional coaching that targets both skill and physical development. However, a club level athlete often only has access to skills-based training sessions during their designated season and is often left to complete their own physical development So without any professional guidance where is a club level athlete supposed to start? How do they develop a plan and how do they overcome barriers and complacency? If you fail to prepare, you've prepared to fail The off-season should initially be a time to recover and reflect on the season past. However, after a few weeks of rest & recovery if you are serious about your sport the attention should quickly turn to -how can I improve myself to be better next season?. For most field-based sports physicality and athletic prowess can often be the critical difference between athletes. Therefore, it is essential to improve the various physical attributes specific to the sport (strength, speed, power, etc). When looking to prepare an offseason program, each individual athlete needs to identify what his/her physical shortcomings are (too heavy, lean, weak, slow, injury prone, etc). These shortcomings should then be prioritized to ensure the program is designed accordingly to sufficiently accommodate these goals. Once these first two components have been clarified, the program length and frequency can then be mapped out. A common question surrounding gym-based training is "how often should I train?" The simple fact of the matter is that there is no black or white answer as each individual is different. However, there are guidelines to help steer you into the right direction because training frequency depends on the training goals and available time. Muscle hypertrophy is defined by time under tension and thus requires increased volume to ensure the muscles are stimulated enough to adapt and grow. Strength is defined as the maximal force you can apply against a load. Power is defined as the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible. Therefore, if the training goals include hypertrophy for example, then the training program will require more training time due to increased volume, as where power and strength require a greater intensity (working hard at the time) but likely greater break between sessions. Volume can be implemented in various ways, such as more repetitions (8-12), more sets (4+), more exercises or more training days (3+). At the completion of this process, the training plan should have identified the following key features: Table Variety is the spice of life All too often athletes and weekend warriors complain about 'hitting a wall' with their training. However, most people don't understand that because the body is the ultimate adaption tool, it gets comfortable with training regimes and needs to be challenged out of its comfort zone. For example, flat bench press with a barbell may be the testing modality but it can?t be the only chest focused training exercise. Varying lifting apparatus, lifting speed ratio, volume and intensity will ensure the muscles do not get comfortable. Another important element of a training program for a functional athlete is their injury prevention training. This should be a key feature of every athletes training program because without the ability of the joints to stabilize and control force, there is increased risk of injury. Injury prevention training should be included at the beginning of each training session as part of the warm-up. It?s during this time when the body is fresh that the various muscle groups can be warmed-up using highly neuromuscular focused exercises (jungle gym push-ups, Turkish get-ups, mini-tramp hops, etc). Pre-existing injuries should always be prioritized, otherwise a general combination of upper and lower body exercises. The final element to consider with the training program is postural/abdominal/core strength and capacity. This is best done at the end of a training session because pre-fatigue of these important muscles can severely impair the body's ability to maintain technique during compound lifts such as squats. When mapping out exercise variety, various modalities should be used to ensure muscle groups are continuously challenged and stimulated in line with the training goals. Continuing on from the above training plan, lower limb exercise variation may include: Program 1 Day 1 - Squat & Single leg bridge Day 2 - Split squat & Nordics Day 3 - Diamond deadlift Program 2 Day 1 - Box squat with power band & Glute-ham raise Day 2 - Deadlift & Glute-ham hold Day 3 - Bulgarian squat & Leg press Program 3 Day 1 - Lateral box lunge & Romanian deadlifts Day 2 - Squat from rails & Single leg glute-ham holds Day 3 - Front squat & Step-up with gluteal endurance With strategies and a plan any goal can be strived for, the final step is implementation. For further information or guidance with any of the above information please contact the practice.