ATHLETE SPECIFIC TRAINING
If you are a non-strength sport athlete (field/court-based sport, track & field etc) your approach to resistance training should be different to that of a bodybuilder or strength sport athlete (e.g. weightlifter, powerlifter).
Training for bigger muscles like a bodybuilder or focusing solely on moving heavy weight slowly is an inefficient way to train. Bigger muscles, being shredded and being strong as an ox DO NOT equal performance.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to gain muscle mass and improve strength. In fact, there are many athletes who would benefit from adding a bit of muscle mass and even more that would benefit from improving their strength. BUT, there is are effective and less effective ways to go about it.
Athletes use their whole body and as such the focus should be on training movements AND muscles not just muscles. With this in mind, the typical bodybuilding split with a focus on training specific muscles to improve muscle mass / training for aesthetics is a poor use of an athlete’s time in the gym.
Athletes also require more than just strength to perform their best. Therefore, training purely to lift heavy stuff slowly is also inefficient and has its limitations.
WHAT IS THE PRIMARY GOAL OF RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR AN ATHLETE?
The full spectrum of the force-velocity curve (FVC) should be trained with a focus on the individual’s areas that will yield the greatest improvement in those performance parameters.
Athletes need to be strong, fast and powerful so training each part of the force-velocity curve is vital. You’ll only limit yourself & your athletes by only training one part of the FVC e.g. never doing explosive movements like plyometrics and only doing heavy ass lifts that produce a lot of force but very slowly.
Power = Force x Velocity
You could be the strongest person in the world, but if you don’t bring velocity you’ll be as powerful as a wet paper towel.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ATHLETE PERFORMANCE TRAINING PROGRAMS
We can take parts of bodybuilding, powerlifting & olympic lifting training and apply them in a well-rounded program that ticks the boxes necessary to improve important athletic qualities.
The major movements that should be trained are variations of a Squat (knee dominant), Hinge (hip dominant), Single Leg Variations, Horizontal Push, Horizontal Pull, Vertical Push, Vertical Pull and Carries.
These movements should make up ~80-90% of your program with isolation exercises making up around 10-20%.
Manipulating tempo, lifting with intent, dynamic effort, max effort, accumulation, intensification, performing explosive and powerful movements (jumps, throws, sprints) are all common components in athlete specific programs.
YOU WILL STILL BUILD A GOOD LOOKING PHYSIQUE
Increases in muscle mass & strength will still occur through correctly implemented and programmed resistance training, supported with adequate nutritional habits (adequate protein + calories)
Athletes should be training for performance not to look good in front of the mirror. Looking good in front of the mirror will be a by-product of adequate nutrition and being a fast, strong, powerful & athletic athlete.
There are many ways to organise your resistance training split and your program should change depending on your goals and what time of season it is (e.g. off-season vs pre-season vs in-season).
Two of my favourite training splits for an athlete are below
If you are an athlete make sure your training is specific to what you need to improve. Don’t just try to build muscle and don’t just lift heavy weight slowly. There will come a point where becoming stronger will not translate into any further benefits for performance or athleticism.