A proper strength and conditioning program can have numerous and essential benefits towards all forms of athletics. The most important being injury prevention. As an athlete, sustaining an injury is the last thing you want to have happen. Peak performance and often participation cannot be achieved in such a state. Other benefits range from motor development to development of sport specific abilities.
Having had the opportunity to compete in college, I got to see the physical demand and level of performance it requires to sustain a career in athletics. While sports continue to grow more competitive, the demand for involvement in a strength and conditioning program only gets greater. I want to be able to share the knowledge I have gathered with our youth athletes in the community where I grew up.
Durability and Injury Prevention
Components of strength and conditioning that translate directly to injury prevention can be seen in every sport and physically demanding scenario. One of the most important ones being the development of proper movement patterns. In the controlled environment that is the weight room, we repeatedly practice the habits of proper movement amongst the joints. This engrains these healthy patterns in athletes through neuromuscular motor development. The reason being that these specific gross motor patterns form in the brain, then athletes will automatically default to their training in competition and sport. Development of new neurological pathways can additionally have lifelong health benefits by avoiding limited childhood activity.
Other benefits seen are the increase in bone mineral density under a physical load, and the increase in tensile strength of the ligaments and tendons. A program containing the right aspects can assist in decreasing the time it takes to recover from an injury as well. All these components, amongst others, play directly into a concept I refer to as ‘Athlete Durability’. It’s quite simple, the stronger you are the more difficult it is to get hurt. Strength and conditioning’s absolute number one goal is injury prevention.
Sport Related Benefits
The following are all the aspects of strength and conditioning that can be seen through sport performance. The benefits will be listed with a quick explanation.
Speed – this is developed by training the rate and level of force at which the muscles can be contracted. Athletes will also practice proper running gate.
Agility – This is the ability to change directions at a rapid rate. Athletes develop this through plyometric and other exercises based off the stretch shortening cycle. The ability to use a pre-lengthening of the muscle to perform a larger and more powerful contraction.
Strength – The development of muscle is the easy one. The proper way to do so, is always the same procedure. Firstly, increase the size of the muscle. This is a concept called muscular hypertrophy. Secondly, increase the motor recruitment of the muscle fibers. This is a concept where the motor neuron is trained to signal for as many muscle fiber units as possible. Making the muscle more efficient.
Power – While similar to strength, power differentiates by also referring to both force and velocity. This can be understood by the weight that you move and how fast you can move it.
Endurance – Endurance can be found in cardio respiratory components as well as for localized musculature. Cardio respiratory aspects assist so that athletes can intake the demanded amount of oxygen for their muscles to perform. Localized muscular endurance is the ability for a muscle to replenish itself with energy to repeatedly perform a task. Such as a pitcher throwing for six innings.
Mobility – Before movement patterns can be developed, proper mobility needs to be achieved. If an athlete can only reach 160 degrees of an overhead position but their serve requires beyond 180 degrees, they can only perform so well in a match.
Stability – Along with mobility, stability also refers to performance at the joint. This refers to the ability to return a joint to the proper position. This is a major component of injury prevention in sport performance. This is developed through the training of proprioceptive feedback loops. This is the quickest neurological processing pathway to signal to the muscles to correct the movement fault.
Balance – This is the ability to maintains one’s center of gravity. This can be challenging during change of direction in sport when your feet may be great distances outside your center of mass. Stability is a major component along with the development of proper movement patterns.
Durability – This is the ability to sustain a long and healthy career as an athlete. No one wants to have a career cut short by acquired injuries. Development of this was explained in the previous paragraph.
In conclusion, strength and conditioning programs can have a number of essential benefits for youth athletes. As a result of a training program’s content, athletes can reduce their risk of injury as well as the time it takes them to recover from an injury. Also, through the many exercises in a program, all demanded performance aspects can be achieved in game play. If you’re looking to reach new heights in competition or just looking for a healthy physical activity for the summer, I will be hosting a Summer Athlete Clinic at Fitness Fusion in Easthampton. Contact me with interest and questions.
Jared Bean, BS, CSCS