(Costa’s note: What started as a quick blog post on my general philosophy on training athletes turned into something much larger then intended. I’ve ended up breaking up the blog posts into a 4 part series that I will release on Wednesdays. Enjoy part 1)
Building an athlete – From Raw talent to realized potential
In the last 10 years sports coaches have finally started to realize that stronger athletes = better athletes. The myth of lifting weights getting you injured or slower has completely gone out the window and even the most old school of old school coaches have seen the benefits of a stronger athlete. The evidence is there and you can’t deny it. You put two athletes of same genetic skill together and the stronger guy will be better every single time. Strength training will not only get you better at your sport but will also do wonders to protect you from injury and help you recover faster.
While there are many different ways to get an athlete stronger there are still some general principles that must be followed to make sure that the athlete is training properly and not just putting together a mish mash of exercises that serve no purpose other than to injure the athlete or make them tired so they think they had a productive session.
Building an athlete from the moment they walk in the door at Tempus as a young kid to when they leave as pro (hopefully) is a long but rewarding process. It’s a process that involves very specific steps in order to get the best out of their potential. Cross-fit, P90x and all the other “systems” may be fine for the average person looking to get in shape for the beach but in order to become an elite athlete it takes a lot more programming and thought as the competition is fierce and if you aren’t prepared you will be left behind. Specificity of training is key to success. You must train specific energy systems and strength that apply to the sport in order for it to be effective. The body adapts to the stimulus it is given. Lance Armstrong was in tremendous shape and the greatest biker of all time but when he tried to do a marathon he was just average. Was this because he was a bad athlete? No it was because he had trained specifically for biking and the body was adapted to that. This is why programs that say they will prepare you for anything are not practical.
If you fail to plan you plan to fail. An athlete’s plan should be broken in to 3 cycles. Long Term, Mid Term and Short Term. The short is designed to support the mid and Long and the Mid is designed to support competition cycles and the Long term goal. Short term training is the most specific day to day while long term is the most general and outlines where the athlete needs to be at certain stages of development. Short term must also be flexible and adjusted based on athletes physical and mental indicators so as not to overtrain.
The plan for our athletes is something that I have found works and combines the knowledge that I have acquired over 15 years working with my own athletes, working with other coaches and lots and lots of reading, seminars and continuing education.
Long term goals are divided into 3 phases and phase one starts from the moment we complete an athletes assessment (if you don’t assess then you have no indicators of progress). In the first part of this series we will look at Phase 1 or the “Preparatory Phase”. This phase is for athletes who come in the door and have no or very little training experience.
Phase 1 – Preparatory Phase : This is where we prepare the body for the intensity of the more serious strength and explosive work that comes as the athlete advances. This stage involves creating a strength base and working out any imbalances that the athlete may have. Playing the same sport day in and day out tend to create imbalances from the repeated movement patterns that the athlete goes through. For example, hockey players tend to have hip issues due to skating patterns keeping the hips externally rotated during skating. This must be corrected before they start a squatting program or else hip pointer issues may arise. Muay Thai athletes tend to have a massive bilateral imbalance between the right and left leg from a repeated kicking motion of the dominant leg. Baseball players have shoulder and elbow issues due to the single throwing direction. I could continue but I think you see the point. An athlete would typically stay in this phase for around 3 months or until I feel that any imbalances have been corrected. They must have an adequate motor movement pattern that will enable their body to handle load of the more complicated lifts of the strength phase before they move on. By just correcting imbalances and preparing the body to handle the bigger loads the athlete will see a dramatic improve in their sport performance as they begin to adapt to different stimulus.
Next week we discuss the strength phase……