Five aspects of training that no athletes should ignore.
If it’s possible for someone to like variety to a fault, then that would be me. I’ve tried just about every system of strength training and exercise variation I’ve ever read about or heard of in the last fifteen years, and while some of these methods were an absolute waste of time, the majority were not. Through experimentation I’ve gained an appreciation for things that work really well and what a good training program entails. My main takeaway has been that simplicity is the best place to start if you’re an athlete who is serious about improving performance. The list that follows includes five, simple components that all athletes should incorporate into their training program if they’re looking to maximize their result and athletic performance.
1. Relative Strength Training
Almost all sports require relative strength. In other words you need to be strong for your body weight and improving relative strength should be the foundation upon which your entire program is built. Whenever an athlete comes to me wanting to know what speed or agility exercises he or she can do to get faster I explain to them that until they increase their relative strength, they aren’t going to get any faster no matter how many speed and agility drills they do. It’s important you understand that the stronger you get per pound of body weight, the quicker and more efficiently you will move your body through space. Ideally what you want to see is a strength increase, with a body composition (fat to lean mass ratio) decrease.
2. Basic Compound Movements
Basic compound movements or “big bang for your buck” exercises are those lifts that recruit a lot of muscle mass and give you the most return for your time and effort. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and chin-ups, overhead pressing, bench pressing and dips are some of the best exercises. Athletes should be devoting most of their time in the weight room to mastering these lifts. Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore have written a great book titled “Starting Strength” that any serious athlete or coach should read. They also have some great videos on youtube in which they cover some of the nuances of technique that can be extremely helpful even to experienced athletes.
3. Gradual Progression
It’s common for a novice lifter to make astounding gains in the first year of training, but eventually the consistent increases in strength will plateau. Assuming that you’re a serious athlete and have been at it for a while then you’ve probably ceased adding 5 and 10 pounds to the bar on a weekly basis. You may think that you need to seek out some sophisticated periodization plan so that you can continue making progress, but that’s not totally necessary. One of the most effective and simple methods for making constant and never ending progress is called the Kaizen principle. With this technique the athlete uses smaller increments in weight increases. Adding 5 or 10 pounds to the bar each week will eventually cause you to stall, but using 1 or 2 pound increases will allow you to continue adding weight to the bar for longer periods. You can purchase magnetic small plates from theplatemate.com. The athlete with the patience to make smaller increases over the years will be stronger than the one who is in a rush.
4. Record Everything
Tracking progress by writing everything down may seem like a no brainer, but some athletes still don’t do it. How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re at or where you started? Record everything including what exercises you do and in what order, the weight you used for each set and how many reps you completed to the amount of rest you took between exercises. Also, record your perceived level of exertion. This can help you figure out what your ideal training frequency, volume and intensity is. Not everything works the same for every person and keeping a record of how you physically feel from day to day will help you personalize your program to maximize your workouts.
5. Soft Tissue Work
I strongly recommend incorporating some type of soft tissue work into your strength and conditioning regimen. Training creates micro tears in the soft tissue and over time scarring and adhesions occur that impede function and performance. Simply put, anyone who trains hard will run into problems sooner or later if they don’t take care of tissue quality. Deep tissue massage and ART (Active Release Therapy) are two forms of soft tissue work that a trained professional can perform. You can also perform self-myofascial release (SMFR) on yourself via the use of foam rollers, tennis and lacrosse balls, and The Stick or Tiger Tail. Some say to perform SMFR before and some say after. I say just do it and the more it hurts, the more you need to keep doing it. Eventually it will become less painful and this is a sign of improved tissue quality.
And there you have it; five areas of training that you should focus on if you want to see consistent gains and perform at your best. Now I’m not saying that they’re overly complicated, but I am saying that they are easily ignored. So don’t make that mistake. Take care of these five and you’ll see and feel the difference throughout the season. Tune in next time when we discuss five more things all athletes should be doing.
To maximize your athletic performance, 1R would recommend the following supplements: