Monday, March 8, 2010

Sports Conditioning to Gain a Competitive Edge

Today all elite athletes are well aware of the importance of cross training to boost performance in their particular sport. As we saw and heard during the 2010 Olympic Games, just practicing your sport isn’t enough anymore. Athletes need to build a strong fitness base in the gym.

Enter the world of general sports conditioning. Increasingly sports training programs are becoming more generalized rather than highly specific because of the similarities found in all sports. An intense fitness base can be built in the gym following the same sequence of working on stability and mobility first, then strength and power. I will talk about each element here and the importance of a functional movement screen as a measuring tool.

It is important to begin with a functional movement screen which will test mobility and stability and give an idea of how strong an individuals functional foundation is. Many people build fitness on a poor foundation, hindering performance and thus increasing the chance of injury. Stability is the ability of a joint to remain static against an external force while mobility is the ability for that joint to move through a range of motion. Both are very important for sports. Gray Cook, a physical therapist and trainer, has designed five exercises to test functional movement. He also recommends learning and performing the turkish get-up with a kettlebell to test functional movement and build greater mobility and stability.

Strength is the ability to move a weight through a particular range of motion. Speed is not important here but will be when we come to power. Mike Boyle, a top expert in the sports conditioning arena, highly recommends training on one leg for sports. The reason being is that athletes perform almost every movement in a split stance, or by pushing off from one leg in a parallel stance. Applying this principle, athletes can reap huge rewards by learning a perfect full range single leg squat with their own body weight or even adding extra weight to build strength.

Power is the element that will be most individualized based on the particular sport. However power is also the phase that most people jump ahead to without working on the previous three phases. Using the afore mentioned example as a reference, once you have mastered the single leg squat you will want to add a jump on the top of it to add the component of speed. This type of combination is great for a sprinter since they are jumping off of one leg during a sprint, but a skier may want to jump off of two legs since that is more specific to his or her sport. Pavel Tsatsouline, a world renowned kettlebell expert, has stressed the importance of creating power in the hinging movement which occurs at the hips. Especially the ability to extend the hips powerfully from a flexed position. This movement transfers directly to sports requiring running, jumping and throwing. Nothing trains this better than the kettlebell swing.

These are just some examples from the experts that athletes are using in their training sessions at the gym. Building a general fitness base in these categories is key, along with practicing the particular sport, for top performance. Many of the exercises mentioned above are highly advanced and difficult to perform without proper conditioning. Be sure to contact a fitness professional to learn the proper way to start conditioning for your sport and learn these exercises.

Written by Paul Nelson
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

No comments:

Post a Comment