SPORTS CONDITIONING - What You Need To Know
One thing I've seen a lot in the fitness industry is trainers giving everyone the same workout regardless of their goals and needs. For the most part, this is a bodybuilding style split routine. You know the ones I'm talking about. The programs where you train different muscles on different days. You may have an upper body day and a lower body day, or you may do your chest and back one day, legs and abs, one day, arms and shoulders one day, etc. And depending on your goals, that may be the right program for you. Or it might not be. But there are far too many trainers who just give it out to everyone probably because they themselves use that type of program or maybe it's just easier for them.
But when it comes to sports conditioning, a different training methodology is required. Performance is the number one goal and everything you do must be geared towards that. Forget about having leg day or arm day or whatever. You need to train the entire body when you train along with plyometrics/metabolic exercises, agility, joint integrity movements, flexibility, and of course sport specific skills. These are vastly different requirements from someone who just wants to drop a few pounds.
So how do we go about setting up a sports conditioning program? First of all, it's important to point out that sports conditioning and sports specific skills training should be trained separately. Many trainers try to combine them such as punching with dumbbells or doing ab crunches with one or two punches in between. I've also seen people doing squats while throwing in some uppercuts in between reps. This is pointless. By doing things like this. you're simply making both exercises ineffective. Taking unnecessary breaks between reps of squats to do your punches and just throwing punches while not properly rooted and in the incorrect stance are just a massive waste of time. In short, your training is split up into three different categories.
2) JOINT INTEGRITY / INJURY PREVENTION
3) SPORT SPECIFIC SKILLS
Attributes is what you want to accomplish with your sports conditioning, Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Explosiveness, Balance, Endurance are the things you need to perform at an optimum level and your training should be geared towards that. Joint Integrity and Injury Prevention is important to keep you safe and injury free. Flexibility exercises, breathing exercises, and exercises for other muscle groups to keep you well balanced are essential for this. And then you have sport specific skills. Whether it's baseball, hockey, football, basketball, etc, you need to practice your throws, catching, hitting, punching, or whatever.
Ideally the sport specific skills should be trained at a different time than the other exercises, but if necessary it can be combined into one session. Just remember as I said earlier, to not literally combine the movements together into one.
So now that we have the training separated into different categories, let's break that down. It's best to keep things simple. There is no need to do dozens of different exercises. Quality over quantity is the name of the game here. Let's look at what you need to set up your program.
1) STRENGTH TRAINING
Don't think like a bodybuilder who has a chest exercise and a back exercise, etc. Think instead of movement and function. Of course you will train all those muscles, but it makes things a lot easier if you think in terms of function. These are the movements that should be included.
1) Squat / Knee flexion movement such as a Squat, Step Up, or Lunge
2) Bend / Waist hinging movement such as a Deadlift
3) Upper Body Push such as a Pushup or Bench Press
4) Upper Body Pull such as a Chinup or Dumbbell Bentover Row
5) Core Stability such as a Plank and variations of it
6) Core Contraction / Twist such as Crunches, Bicycle Crunches, or Russian Twists
2) PLYOMETRICS / METABOLIC
This includes movements for both the lower body and the upper body. It's necessary for explosiveness and also endurance. Exercises such as Burpees, Jump Squats, Box Jumps, Medicine Ball Wall Throws, and Battle Ropes are what makes up this element of the training.
This is essential for learning to change direction quickly. It's one of the most important attributes to have in any sport. Personally I believe in training agility with two major tools. One is the agility ladder and the second is cones. There are other exercises as well, but these are my absolute favourites.
4) JOINT INTEGRITY / INJURY PREVENTION
This is also important to keep your joints health and safe as well as correcting possible muscle imbalances. From my years in martial arts and Boxing, I can tell you that there are a ton of guys who have really overdeveloped front deltoids. Tons of punches along with tons of pushups combined with absolutely nothing for the upper back and shoulders creates some horrible muscle imbalances. Exercises such as bentover dumbbell lateral raises and flexibility exercises must therefore be included in the prorgram.
That takes care of the conditioning part of the workout. By including all of these elements, your performance will dramatically improve. Of course it would be impossible to lay out specific programs here without knowing more about the individual, but these elements are universal for all sports. The other element of course is the sport specific training which will of course vary depending on the sport. Ideally it should be done at a separate session, but it can be combined into one session as well. Remember to keep things simple and also remember that you are a sports athlete, NOT a bodybuilder. Your training should therefore be designed for that.
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