Simple guidance for strength and conditioning

Each one of us is different like a thumb impression. So specialised individual schedules are a must for peak performance.

The phosphagen system supplies energy for brief, high-power events like sprints, jumps, vaults, batting and fielding in cricket, powerlifting and weightlifting.   -  Getty Images

All sports vary in the specific and relative components of speed, agility, aerobic endurance, anaerobic power, strength, flexibility, stability, balance and coordination for excellence. When designing a periodised programme, all the above components have to be taken into consideration in the strength and conditioning schedule.

After the initial post-medical screening, all being fine, factors to be taken into consideration are age, maturation level, body composition, muscular strength, aerobic endurance, heat adaptation, nutritional level, and the psychological and emotional condition when designing programmes for different athletes.

Training the large muscle groups of the lower and upper back, glutes, abdomen, shoulders and hip musculature, commonly called the “core,” is of vital importance.

Varied angles in the posterior and anterior muscle groups along with open and closed chain exercises should be included as part of strength-training sessions.

Points to ponder

Does one train round the year for a single sport, or train for several sports in a single year? Be it at school or state or national level. Either way, it’s critical that one uses the strength and conditioning period efficiently to improve overall fitness for a specific sport and skill. But there is some crossover significance for any sport in most types of strength and conditioning workouts. It’s better off to make your training specific to the current sport that one is involved in, be it any yearly periodised regime or using a short-term periodised regime.

One single programme of strength and conditioning does not cater to all specific sports performance.

Energy system for sport

A particular sport depends on the specific or combination energy systems used and the skills required. The strength and conditioning protocols should address this issue and the programme should be designed accordingly.

The phosphagen system

The phosphagen system supplies energy for brief, high-power events like sprints, jumps, vaults, batting and fielding in cricket, powerlifting and weightlifting. Each of these activities lasts only a few seconds, and the energy is provided mostly by the breakdown of phosphocreatine stored in the muscle. Oxygen is not required during the exertion, so the energy is said to be supplied anaerobically.

If you are using mostly the phosphagen system in your sport, spend most of your workout time on short and near-maximal effort. For example, sprinters, weightlifters or jumpers can train in multi-repeated endurance runs. Most of the conditioning time should be devoted to repeated near-maximal-intensity sprints. For example, 8-10 sprint repeats with 100 percent effort with sufficient recovery time for excellent timing in repetitions. On strength sessions, two-six sets of one-six repetitions with the near-maximum or maximal load that can be lifted with perfect form with good recovery in place.

Aerobic system

The next energy system is the aerobic (oxygen) system that provides most of the energy for activities that last longer than a couple of minutes and for recovery between repeats of brief, high-intensity activities.

Other than explosive sprints at the beginning or end of the race, distance runners, endurance swimmers, Tour de France cyclists, triathletes and other endurance athletes rely almost entirely on the aerobic metabolic system. In most cases, athletes in these sports are not required to produce high-power outputs, so unwanted muscle mass or load would be counterproductive in performance domain. One should be building up the aerobic capacity of your muscles with longer-duration activities that require less than maximal intensities of exertion. In the weight room, your focus should be on lifting comparatively light weights, for example, those of you can lift correctly for three-five sets of 15-30 repetitions with about 30-90 seconds of rest between each set.

Anaerobic glycogen system

In this “in-between” system for activities that last longer than about 10 seconds but less than two minutes, the majority of the energy is supplied by the anaerobic breakdown of glycogen (a carbohydrate) stored in the muscles. (This is called the “lactic acid” system.) Events like a 400m sprint or a 100m swim or a series of quick dodging in basketball, or a series of repeated sprints down the field in soccer would require energy from this system. Strength and conditioning activities would be intermediate between those recommended for the phosphagen system and those for the aerobic system. Choice of exercise is key in this mode along with the load and recovery and the tempo.

Mixed energy systems

For most player positions in most sports — soccer, basketball, wrestling, badminton, table tennis, tennis, hockey, etc. — athletes must rely on both anaerobic and aerobic metabolism to produce their energy. This means that the optimal training for most sports should include a combination of brief, high-intensity activities along with more-prolonged, lesser-intensity exertions. If a major percentile of energy system banks on an anaerobic system, you should train more of the high-intensity activities, or if a major percentile of energy system is of an aerobic nature, you should focus more on the endurance training mode.

What sport skills can you improve during your strength and conditioning workouts?

One has to determine how the specific strength and conditioning programme is going to translate to on field performance. For that, one has to determine the most important skills set in one’s sport. The programme has to be translated or modified according to the skill and need on to the field.

They may be a crossover from one sport to another, but the intensity, tempo, load, choice of exercise, angles, recovery and the entire sequencing would change according to the individual.

As far as weight room sessions are concerned, it’s pertinent to design your strength exercises so that they reflect the general movement patterns used in your sport (not functional alone). Anti-rotational training too must be incorporated. What is important is to develop increased strength in the muscle groups used in the activity along with the local and global muscles. For example, a pace bowler’s strength training programme should be designed to strengthen the posterior chain and anterior chain of muscles at varied angles, and both the performing and non-performing sides to better muscle balance. The most important part of any sport-specific training cutting across varied sports is good core strength and stability along with the whole body compound exercise training to get the desired results.

Following or copying the same schedule of a successful person can be detrimental and one could pick up injuries and there could be a deterioration in performance. Each one of us is different like a thumb impression. So specialised individual schedules are a must for peak performance.

We just spoke about the base energy system of training and the base conditioning. There is more to come in designing a programme according to the sport and specific skills.

Take guidance from a qualified strength and conditioning coach, or a sports coach for a more comprehensive approach.

Acknowledgement: GSS