*This is part #2 in a 3 part series on how I see the current state of “performance” or “strength and conditioning facilities”. Check back for part 3. Click HERE for Part #1.
In the previous post we talked about the various aspects of performance that we can aim to increase in both the Athletic and Technical/Tactical realm. While each attribute was explained, we didn’t discuss how you can go about increasing each one specifically. This post will outline how.
This is the group that Strength and Conditioning improves. Before we get to it though, I must stress that many of these strategies will only work once a base level of strength and stability are mastered. I recently read a great article by Eric Cressey on Why We’re losing Athleticism that highlighted America’s failure to keep standards of fitness at an acceptable level. It truly blows my mind how many athletes I have come into my facility who can’t do a pushup, pullup, or squat right off the bat. If that is the case, fix those issues first.
Don’t run before you can walk.
With that said, here we go.
As we discussed previously this is a large portion of the athleticism equation. If you want to run fast, jump high, and change direction quickly then you must be strong. Now, being strong by itself does not mean you will have those previous attributes, but it is a prerequisite.
How do we get stronger?
There are a few ways:
-High Training Loads
Many studies have shown that if you want to increase your maximum strength, you must lift heavy loads! While the exact percentage is not exactly specific, if you want to get stronger then you must add lifting weights at loads of 90% of your 1RM into your program (1, 2, 3).
While this one is not as cut and dry as the others, many studies have shown training frequency leads to greater increases in strength. This is especially true for athletes who have been training for a long time (4, 5). If you have been training only 1 or 2x/week and your progress has stalled, add in another session or two.
Adding volume will make you stronger. To put it simply, if you squat 4 sets of 10 2x/week at 150lbs, your total volume is 12,000lbs. If you add another set each day, that will make it 15,000 lbs. Lifting higher volumes over the course of a week will absolutely increase your strength (6).
Gaining speed is a little tougher. As discussed earlier, you need to be strong to be fast, but that is only part of the equation. Here are a few things you must train in order to be fast, in no particular order.
If you want to be fast you must train your posterior chain. This includes the hamstrings and glutes, which are vital when it comes to speed production (7). Exercises that work those muscles are things like Hip Thrusts, Glute Ham Raises, Good Mornings, Reverse Hyper Extensions, RDL’s, and Nordic Leg Curls. If you want to be FAST, you must add a mix of those to your programming.
In Usain Bolt’s documentary, his coach discussed trunk strength and how important it is to speed. In fact, that was predominantly the focus of Usain’s early career before he became the world record holder. The need for a strong trunk (both the front and back) is incredibly important for speed. Things like Paloff Presses, Ab Wheel Rollouts, Pullups (yes, pullups), Dragon Flags, Hanging Leg Raises, and many more will help strengthen the front part of your trunk, while Good Mornings, RDL’s, and Deadlifts will help out with the back portion.
-Rate of Force Development
As mentioned previously, strength does not automatically make you fast. That strength needs to be realized quickly! For example, you may have two athletes, both football lineman:
Athlete A: Bench presses 350 pounds. Can develop 80% of his force in 0.2 seconds (the snap of a football). So, by the time he “punches” the lineman in front of him, he can exhibit 280lbs of force.
Athlete B: Bench presses 400 pounds. Can develop 60% of his force in 0.2 seconds (the snap of a football). So, by the time he “punches” the lineman in front of him, he can exhibit 240lbs of force.
If you could pick which lineman you want on your team, who would you choose? I’d take the fast AND strong guy, not the slow and strong guy! While there are many ways to increase rate of force development, things like jumps, weighted jumps, reactive throws, olympic lift variations, and even just moving the bar as fast as possible all increase RFD.
Power=Force*Velocity. In order to increase power, you must increase Max Strength AND Speed. It is important to increase both ends of this spectrum in order to become a great athlete. Part 3 will address putting it all together.
This is a simple one, yet sad it is not addressed very well here in America. Young athletes need to be taught general movements in their early years. Squats, jumping, changing of direction, backpedaling, pushups, pullups, etc. By laying the foundation of movement at a young age when the Central Nervous System is receptive, it allows for an athlete who is much better prepared for any sport that comes his/her way. While an athlete may excel at a young age because he/she specializes in a sport early, I can guarantee that it will hurt their long term success. And, remember…
You can be the baddest, nastiest, fastest man on the planet, but if you don’t have any level of conditioning then you will be WORTHLESS in your sport of choice. You must have two “stores” of energy/conditioning. They are
This is your “long distance” conditioning. The conditioning that allows you to play an entire game or match. This is conditioning you develop from jumping rope, running long distance, drilling plays or moves at moderate intensity, biking, etc. This is long duration conditioning which also helps build the base for your anaerobic conditioning. For a more detailed look not in the scope of this article, check out this article.
Aerobic Conditioning should be done at 60-70% of Max Heart Rate, and done for a long duration.
While this is very important, in power sports (football, basketball, wrestling), your anaerobic conditioning is just as, if not more important…
Anaerobic Conditioning (Lactic and Alactic)
This is repeated “sprint” ability. Now, when I say sprints I don’t just mean sprints. I mean the ability to throw someone in wrestling, turn throw a fast punch combination in boxing, or handle the ball or puck while going as fast as you can towards the goal in soccer or hockey. This is your bodies ability to produce power, and be fast!
If you have a great aerobic base, but no anaerobic base, then you will be able to last long in sports but will never be able to produce a lot of power when the time comes.
If you have a great anaerobic base, but no aerobic base, then you will be able to produce a lot of power, but you will “gas” out very quickly.
If you have a great anaerobic and aerobic base then you will be able produce power over the duration of a game/match effectively.
This induces the production of lactic acid (that burning feeling when you are training hard). Shoot for 20-90secs @ 100% intensity. Exercise suggestions: Barbell complex, specific sport drills, sprints, sled pushes.
This does not produce lactic acid. Since the duration is shorter, power output will be higher. Shoot for ~10 seconds at 100% intensity. Exercise suggestions: Sprints, Maximum Strength Barbell lifts, jumps.
So what now?
How do we take all this and turn it into an actual program? Well, sorry to disappoint, but you’re gonna have to stay tuned for part #3.