Strength and conditioning work should form an integral part of the training of any athlete. Whilst widely accepted as being essential for power athletes, performance in endurance sports can also be improved through a well structured strength programme. A typical sport specific training programme would contain elements of the following:
General Conditioning – Most sports involve the repetition of similar movement patterns potentially leading to muscular imbalance. It is important that these imbalances are addressed in any sport specific programme. The general conditioning phase prepares the athlete for sport by focussing on whole body multi-planar movement, developing core strength, coordinated muscle strength, functional flexibility and muscular balance.
Hypertrophy – This is the increasing of muscle mass through specific strength training. Sports that involve high levels of body contact often require larger muscle mass to help absorb the repeated impacts. However increased muscle mass can be a hindrance in some sports and a balance must be found between mass and mobility.
Maximum Strength – The use of specific lifting protocols will aim to increase the maximum force an athlete can produce. The importance of maximum strength varies between sports but maximum strength forms the basis of power and strength endurance development.
Power – Refers to how quickly an athlete can apply force. Having a high level of maximum strength doesn’t necessarily equate to high levels of power. The use of plyometrics and other explosive exercise helps to increase power by developing the ability of muscle to contract quickly.
Strength Endurance – Most sports contain an element of strength endurance i.e. the ability to apply low levels of force for prolonged periods. High levels of maximum strength can make a particular sub-maximal effort level more efficient and hence sustainable.
Speed and Agility – Although top end speed is important in most sports the ability to accelerate, change direction and react quickly are almost certainly more important. These are skills that can be trained and developed through sport specific training.