Comparsion Between Football Players Transfer Now And In The Past Weight Training For Sport

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Weight Training For Sport

There is now no doubt that effective, targeted resistance training is not only beneficial but critical to improving athletic performance. Sports like rugby, American football and rowing have used some form of weightlifting technique for what seems like forever. However, these are sports where in the past the size of the athlete was seen as ‘bigger is better’ thus encouraging weight lifting.

Fortunately now, sports coaches who have traditionally shunned weight training for fear of ‘bulking up’ are realizing that weight training can be programmed in a way that can lead to dramatic improvements in performance without massive increases in muscle mass.

I do not intend to provide a plethora of studies confirming the importance of weight training in sports as many detailed books already exist.

Whether you’re passionate about a particular sport or you want to find the most effective, time-efficient ways to achieve specific fitness goals, you’re more interested in the practical knowledge needed to train hard and effectively.

In recent times we have seen the emergence of Rafael Nadal as the tennis world number 1 after 4 years of dominance by Roger Federer. There is no doubt in my mind that, aside from his raw talent, Nadal’s intense training in the gym has played a major role in his success. Whenever his matches are shown on TV, the conversation inevitably turns to his impressive physique and boundless energy supply on the court!

Speaking of tennis I am reliably informed that Laura Robson, the recent winner of Junior Wimbledon in 2008, has been training kettlebells for the past year.

Closer to home, and perhaps at a level more relevant to you, my personal training clients at Bodycloak in Nottingham have experienced fantastic results on the sporting field. Some of these people play sports as a serious (or not so serious) hobby.

For example, I currently coach a kid whose primary concern is fat loss. A combination of proper nutrition and kettlebell training has resulted in a fat loss of around 3 stone.

However, one noticeable side effect of the powerful swings was that my client was pleased to see a dramatic increase in the length of his golf drives off the tee. At this point I don’t want to do any direct rotational power drills with him but we’ve worked extensively on kettlebell windmills and improving hip mobility, hamstring flexibility and core stabilization – all key factors on the golf course.

Another client at BodyClocq who trains with my business partner recently started a structured weight training routine for the first time. As a 55-60 kg cyclist he cannot afford to add unnecessary weight to his frame.

A combination of kettlebell swings and snatches in his training has dramatically increased his strength and power on the bike and has placed 2nd at the British National Pursuit Championships and 3rd at the European Championships. Power out of corners is particularly noticeable according to our clients.

So what’s going on here and why is weight training so important?

Again I don’t mean to overload you with science but if you understand the main concepts behind weight training in sports it will help your learning.

Each sport has its individual needs but I will take a few popular British sports to use as examples of how weight training can improve sporting performance.

Football/Soccer (and most team sports)

Many team sports involve repetitions of speed over short distances with periods of low-intensity activity.

For example, soccer players (bar the goalkeeper) are required to move around the field at a relatively low intensity before being called into action for anything between 5-20 seconds at a time. Obviously different positions will have slightly different requirements.

However, at a basic level, every athlete needs the ability to be able to produce repeated fast sprints for 90 minutes. This is called power endurance – the ability to generate power throughout the duration of a match. An inability to maintain speed on sprints can be the difference between winning or conceding a late goal that changes the outcome in an instant.

Before you can develop strength endurance, your muscles must have strength. If you’ve been listening in physics class, you’ll know that…

Power = Force x Distance Time

In other words, to maximize power over a given distance you need to maximize the force generated by your muscles and minimize the time it takes to complete the movement.

Another equation you may remember is….

Force = Mass x Acceleration

Now you might be thinking (and rightly so) that the mass you need to get on the athletic field is (relatively) constant because it’s your body weight.

Much improvement can be made by training with body weight through the use of ‘plyometrics’ such as jumping, bounding and leaping to increase the acceleration part of the equation. However, these gains are limited, and at some point it is important to work against some form of excess weight if continued gains are to be made.

If you can move explosively against increasing amounts of resistance, the force the muscle can produce will greatly increase. This requires strength in your muscles which can only be significantly increased by working against external resistance (weight).

This is a good time to show that as an athlete you should not only think about lifting heavier and heavier weights. You need to lift heavy weights to improve strength and power but your focus should be on your ability to recruit your muscles quickly and explosively as required in the sport. For this reason, if you do squats, be sure to move the weight as quickly as possible. If it takes longer than one second to lift the weight through the full range of motion of the muscle, you should decrease the weight until you can perform the exercise quickly but under control.

Before things get too confusing, let’s go over what we’ve discussed so far.

Strength Endurance is the ultimate requirement of most sports, especially team sports

Strength must be developed before we can ‘tolerate’ it or repeat it for the required duration

Power takes power

Beyond some limited increases with body weight, weight training is essential for strength gains

Now you should understand why everything in sports comes down to strength. If a netball player doesn’t have the strength to accelerate their body enough to jump off the ground and catch the ball, there’s no wonder how to improve their performance in the final minutes of the game! Develop strength, convert it into strength, then develop the ability to do it again and again.

At a more basic level, if you want to do twenty push ups with your body weight you need to build up the strength to do one rep correctly before you can build up the strength to do twenty reps.

Golf

Golf differs from most team sports in that repetitions are an element of the game, with repetitions being more spread out in terms of time between them.

Returning to my golfing client, aside from the skills required for a good ‘short game’ around the greens, he needs the ability to drive the ball off the tee as close to the green as possible. It requires a one-off, powerful movement with significant rest time. Therefore, strength endurance is not required as in rugby.

If we can develop a powerful swing off the tee, my player will have a lot of recovery time before teeing off on the next hole. Although he has the shots to complete the current hole, they don’t require as much effort as the tee.

Tennis

As in a team sport, a tennis player must repeatedly generate force in a variety of forms throughout the course of the game. The difference is that, for example, soccer players have long periods of rest between bursts of activity, while tennis players have very little recovery time. This requires a strong anaerobic base of fitness to enable them to recover and generate power over and over again as they progress through each point.

If we dissect the actual point, we can see why power is so important to a tennis player. First of all, the power required on the serve is the difference between a good player and a great player with a powerful weapon in their arsenal! Contrary to first impressions, a powerful serve comes from the ability to transfer power from the legs through the hips and into the upper body. It doesn’t just take strong shoulders! However, a strong shoulder is important, and weight training with a more prehab based structure is also important.

Once the serve is completed, assuming the ball is returned, the tennis player must now perform repeated sprints of up to five meters, sometimes up to 30 seconds in long rallies. It is a great test of strength and endurance.

After completing the sprint to reach the ball, hip drive and rotational power are also required to play a powerful shot.

So you can see that every aspect of the game of tennis can ultimately be broken down into strength and power and the ability to generate power for anything from one hour to five hours in some of the epic men’s sets of five!

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