̴ 500 words, 2-4 minute read
Being back at the University study has really had me packed full over the last couple of weeks, but it has definitely sparked my thinking. Here are a few random, and quick thoughts, on training to maximise sports performance.
- It takes years for endurance athletes to achieve elite level status.
Most endurance athletes look very short- to mid-term when setting goals, or they focus too much on what they need to do to get better today, or this week. Not where they need to be in 10 years from now.
If you recently looked at the results of any of the endurance cycling, or ironman events for example, you would notice that most of the top athletes who come in the top 1-2% are all in their late thirties or even early forties. This is due to the long-term responses seen in the cardiovascular system (such as a slow, but continued rise in VO2max), and potentially an increase of the percentage of type I muscle fibres due to a decrease of the amount of type II muscle fibres.
As it takes years for an endurance athlete to become elite, the training plan should reflect this and aim for long-term adaptations, not just the adaptations for a single mesocycle or macrocycle.
- Transfer of training to the competitive environment is key to exercise selection.
With the goal in mind of enhancing sports performance, the training program should include exercises that will have the greatest amount of transfer to the competitive environment as possible. For example, 1RM bilateral back squat has been associated with a 21% gain in vertical jump performance (1), which is very applicable to sports requiring vertical jumping. However, six weeks of unilateral training increased quadriceps and hamstrings strength by 7-11.8% but only an insignificant 2.3% increase in standing broad jump performance (1). Furthermore, a training program including plyometric, unilateral, and horizontal exercises showed significant 2.6% improvement in 10m sprint time (1), which is pretty applicable to sports requiring sprint acceleration. Therefore, when putting together a training program the coach needs to keep the goal of the athlete at the forefront of his/her mind. There is no right and wrong in terms of exercise selection, but there may be more optimal ways to program exercises for a specific goal.
- Ankle dorsi-flexion is often overlooked for movement efficiency and reducing injury risk.
A lot of athletes struggle to get into good positions purely because they lack ankle dorsi-flexion, this can clearly be seen when they try to squat. Now, if an athlete lacks mobility at the ankle when trying to move, let alone move at high speed, the body will adapt to this kink in the kinetic chain by attempting to gain mobility from another joint, most likely the knee. As we know from Boyle’s ‘Joint by Joint’ approach, having high levels of mobility in a joint that requires mostly stability is a recipe for disaster.
Picture Credit: ironprescription.com
Adding in some ankle mobility work to the movement preparation of the performance program works well in reducing dorsi flexion deficiency, aim to get 1-2 sets of an ankle dorsi flexion mobility exercise as well as including trigger point work on the ankle dorsi flexors and plantar flexors.
Young W. Transfer of Strength and Power Training to Sports Performance. Int. J. Sports Physiol. Perform. 2006:1;74-83.