It is widely accepted today that athletes need to engage in some form of strength training to enhance their sporting performance. However, the needs of a rugby player are obviously different to those of swimmer, and a cyclist will not benefit from a programme designed for a baseball player. The key points is that strength training for athletes must be specific to the demands of their sport.
This is a common sporting movement pattern, but is often neglected in training. Rotational sports include shot putt, hammer and discus throws, boxing, and golf, although there are few sports that require no rotation. There are two types of rotation that need targeted training. In trunk rotation, you rotate your shoulders through your trunk with little or no movement of your hips; an example is golf. In full pillar rotation, you rotate your body about your foot; a good example is tennis.
One of the key buzz-phrases in athletic conditioning, this term describes the way in which your ankle, knee, and hip joints go through near-simultaneous extension in jumping, running, lifting, and some throwing actions. In some sports, you will see this triple extension take place off two legs and in others, just one. In either case it is usually executed explosively. Athletes also use the single leg triple extension in a much less exaggerated, reactive fashion, when changing direction.
Many sports, for example American football or rugby, involve pushing actions, mostly with one arm, but sometimes two, and it makes sense to train these movements. However, the way in which you train a pushing action in the gym (for example in a bench press) does not really replicate the way you may push in sport, where your push may be combined with a rotation. As such, it may make sense to train the two together so that you do not neglect the muscles that fight to control torque.
Many sports, including martial arts and canoeing, involve variations of pull movements. In traditional strength training exercises. the movement is.often in just one plane (backwards and forwards) while in sports the movements are typically multiplanar – adding side-to-side and rotational moves. Training the pull in a sporting context should also involve elements of balance – keeping your body stable while pulling.
Weight shifting, acceleration, and deceleration
Weight shifting is a key skill in sports such as boxing, golf, and fencing. Acceleration and deceleration – getting the body moving and changing direction as quickly as possible (or “cutting”) – is key to activities such as sprinting, jumping, throwing, and lifting. While many athletes will consciously train their ability to accelerate, they will neglect their ability to decelerate. It is also common to see athletes struggle with deceleration as they enter a “cut”; injuries are a real risk at this point.
This movement pattern occurs in the vast majority of sports, including cycling, running, and rowing. It can occur in exaggerated or less exaggerated forms, on one or two legs, to accelerate or decelerate the body or to bring about change of direction. Squatting is also a core component of triple extension (see above), so training this movement is vital to the development of peak performance.