Everybody has their own ideas and training philosophies. Some like to keep their programming simple and some like to try new and inventive ways to work their athletes. The thing about strength and conditioning that is so cool is that there is no one right way to train. To use my father’s favorite phrase: “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” As long as you can justify your training methods using legitimate scientific research (not ‘it’s how we trained when I was playing’) and it makes sense from a programmatic and physiological standpoint, go for it. There is one thing that your strength coach should always keep in mind when programming: train like you play. You need to make sure that the movements and intensities you use in your training reflect, in whole or in part, the movements seen on the field. Specificity is the key to your players’ success.
If you couldn’t tell from my last post, I love metaphors. Sometimes they’re not that good but as long as you get my point that is all that matters. Imagine you are learning to play the piano. It wouldn’t do you much good to play the guitar and think you’re improving your ability to play the piano, right? Yes, there are some similarities in having to learn scales as well as developing finger flexibility and dexterity but the mechanisms and patterning behind playing those instruments are completely different. Strength and conditioning is the same way. If you want to become a faster sprinter, it doesn’t do you much good to work on your mile pace. That is why you never see bodybuilders in strongman contests, they are training their muscles in two completely different ways.
Ok, enough with the metaphors for today, I promise. So what does that mean for your athletes? I will just touch on one aspect of training because I could write an entire book on specificity and strength and conditioning. Think about your conditioning programs. How many of you had to go out and run long distances multiple times per week (when I was in school, we had to run 3 miles 3 times a week)? The idea was that if you get used to running long distances, you would be in better shape and could last longer during game time before fatiguing. What if I told you that wasn’t the best way to train your body? Yes, you develop greater cardiovascular endurance and can go longer before fatiguing but you sacrifice your ability to sprint at high velocities and your sprint repeatability. There are a lot of different physiological mechanisms that go behind training and I would be more than happy to discuss them if you would like to reach out to me but suffice it to say, by doing those slow, long distance runs, you can compromise your ability to generate forces at high velocities and repeat those sprints which means slower athletes. If you read the research that breaks down metabolic demands of sport, you will find that all points scored are during bouts of high velocity running. So, if your athlete can get to point A faster than his opponent and can repeat that over the course of a match… see where I’m going with this?
So then how should your conditioning sessions look? If running long distances is bad how should you train? Simple, sprint, short rest, repeat. Teach your body how to generate high velocity, deal with the metabolic waste buildup, and then do it again. Research is pretty clear that the faster team over the course of a match wins.
Be specific, train fast.