Proper Training Methods Make a Difference

From the Dec. 12, 2007 edition of The Lancaster News

Key conditioning strategies lessen the chance of injuries while improving power, speed and endurance Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or an accomplished collegiate/pro athlete, you need all the competitive edge you can get.

That’s what it takes for you to excel every time you set foot on the field or court.

You can get that edge if you’re willing to work hard and know how to effectively and efficiently train. Did you know that between 40 and 60 percent of sport-related injuries happen in a transverse plane when your body is only supported by one leg?

If your sport is a contact sport such as football or basketball, there is a chance that someone on the opposing team could be looking for a reason to blast the one remaining leg out from under you. And usually when you least expect it, is when most on-field injuries occur.

This is where key strength conditioning strategies that improve power, speed and endurance come in. An important component to lessen the chance of injuries is conditioning. Any phase of training will take time to develop, which allows for proper adjustment of nerves, muscle ligaments, etc. The woman who wants to be in a bikini bathing suit in July should start trimming down and tone muscle now.

The same concept applies to athletes during the off season.

As a highly competitive athlete in natural bodybuilding, I can relate to the importance of an off season regimen. Some of my best shows and wins are due to my off season training and nutrition regimen. That’s when I’m squatting 435 pounds, benching, and dead lifting at my optimal best. That enables me to gain quality muscle and improve my conditioning and physique. Everything else is just a product of what a good training and nutrition regimen can produce. Today’s example client will be a football player.

Cardio conditioning for a football player

Improving your speed in the 40-yard dash can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. The average play lasts somewhere between 5 and10 seconds, so during the off season you want to train the right energy system.

However, a word of caution is warranted here – if you get exhausted to the point where you are vomiting, your body’s natural defense mechanism has kicked in and is telling you that you are training the wrong system.

Many young athletes assume that when this happens that it’s a sign of a good workout.

Wrong; you may have gotten a workout but not from the right energy system.

Last month I spoke about the Adenosine Triphosphate and Phosphocreatine( ATP/PC) system. This is the system that you want to train. This system will allow you to perform at a 100 percent intensity level for at least 10 seconds and it is a no-oxygen or anaerobic system. This is the main system that is used during an actual football game.

How to properly train your ATP/PC system

Start by warming-up with a light, 5-minute jog. Once warmed-up and stretched, you need to start your mark and run full speed up to the point of 10 seconds. Once at 10 seconds, start to slow down and jog or walk for a 2-minute recovery period, just as you see many Olympic sprinters do. The average conditioned athlete should be recovered within this time period. However, recovery time does vary, based on the person’s size and level of conditioning.

To optimize this training method, you should repeat it for 10 minutes for at least 3-4 days a week. As time and duration levels progress, add more time and one more day to total 5 days of speed training. As your conditioning improves, so will your recovery time. Imagine if the game play lasted for 10 seconds and your recovery time is now down to 5 seconds, you are at an advantage from a conditioning stand point. This will certainly give you an edge over your competitor. I still encourage integrating some aerobic activity during off season training as well.

Now that you understand how to get in running shape, let me share with you some secrets on improving your off season weight training program.

  • Stabilization – Start with a foundational core conditioning program. In this phase of training, we assess and develop the strength, endurance and application of abdominal and lower back muscles in “neutral” (low risk) environments. You must have a strong core in order to build optimal power with other muscle extremities. Think of it this way; a house cannot stand without a solid foundation. That same mind-set must be applied to the human body. Strong lower back and abdominal muscles are a must.
  • Integrated neuromuscular stabilization – This is developing your body to move in multiple planes to improve balance. When most people train, it is predominately done in the saggital plane (front-to-back movements). This is a great training regimen if you’re a bowler, but most sports involve multi-plane movements that are instantaneously executed, such as twisting and rotating. Remember, 40 to 60 percent of sports-related injuries occur in the transverse plane! The best way to avoid these transverse plane injuries is by training in the transverse plane.
  • Integrated reactive neuromuscular training – This is where the focus is on power and agility to get you to a peak performance level. Researchers have proven that any execution of movement of the extremities, such as the arms or legs, is preceded by a contraction of the core musculatures by 50-110 milliseconds. Integrated reactive neuromuscular trainings builds on the foundational training from the above steps to generate tremendous power, explosive acceleration and the ability to instantly change direction.

Master the techniques

As a defensive or offensive lineman, you need maximal strength, so I encourage you to train for power. Your goal should be to produce the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time.

If your opponent is exploding off the line of scrimmage, the one who gets his hands on the other one first and in proper position will win the battle. Now, of course this comes with proper form and technique. The key here is speed, power, speed, power, and more speed and power.

If you are a receiver, defensive back or running back, you need to build on all three levels to cover from sideline to sideline. Your goal should be to master all three phases of this training style.

I strongly encourage quarterbacks to focus much of their training on hand and eye coordination. When receiving the snap from the center, a quarterback actually never see the ball, but only feels it. Sometimes it can be slippery from weather conditions or sweat. In the case of a bad snap from the center, a quarterback has less than a second to adjust to any given situation.

During the running of a pass route, a quarterback has less than a second to make a decision whether to throw the ball or to tuck and run. Given that and that on many pass plays, a quarterback has two or three different receivers to throw to, he needs eagle-like vision to make accurate, precise throws. Look for specific drills to improve your hand/eye coordination, as well drills to improve foot movement and speed.

Sometime, as athletes, we become comfortable with our raw natural talent.

Some of us have no idea of the optimal potential and untapped talent that lies behind proper nutrition and a very specific, personally tailored training program implemented in phases.

Nutrition and caloric intake must be adequate to maintain strength and muscle recovery.

– Fitness expert and bodybuilder Kennett Washington is president of Healing Strength Personal Training.