Improve Your Sports Performance With Functional Strength Training
By Tiffany Gust BS, CPT, USAT, SNC
Strength and size are not synonymous. The goal for athletes when it comes to strength development is to become stronger without adding muscle bulk. Many believe strength training will slow them down. Research done on Olympic athletes at the 1970 Olympics in Mexico proved that Olympic weightlifters were faster than 100m sprinters in a 30-meter sprint. Others claim that strength training will lead to decrease flexibility. These same Olympic weightlifters are the second most flexible athletes.
Research has revealed that beginning about the early thirties, athletes will lose approximately .5 pounds of lean muscle per year if they do not engage in intense strength training. This loss will result regardless of the amount of aerobic activity one engages in. To maintain fast twitch muscle fiber strength, which is needed for sprinting and climbing, 75% of 1 rep. Max, (which is the most weight you can lift one time) must be used in strength sessions. This equates to the amount you can lift 10-12 times while keeping proper form.
Functional Strength Training (FST) does not require a large time commitment. Maximal gains in strength and power can be achieved with a small time requirement (2 session of 30-50 min per week). Often times, these sessions can be conducted outside the gym.
A year-round strength program is recommended. Many athletes only engage in off-season strength programs. This can lead to less than optimal strength when it counts the most. In six weeks, an athlete can lose 40% of strength gains if in-season strength training is not continued. In ten weeks the loss increases to 70%. In season strength training should consist of 1-2 sessions per week.
Functional Strength Training
FST is a method of training that is very specific to the demands of the athletic activity. This training can include free weights, cable machines, elastic bands or tubing, stability balls, medicine balls and balance boards. Functional exercises should posses the following:
1. Progressive – Start with simple exercises, and progress in intensity and difficulty.
2. Multi-planar – movement not restricted to a single direction of movement.
3. Velocity specific – the exercise duplicates the speed of movement required by the individual sport.
4. Specificity – the movement pattern of the exercise duplicates that of swimming, cycling, basketball, running, baseball, etc.
5. Balance dominated – increases in stabilization will aid in increasing efficiency and reducing injuries.
6. ENJOY IT – if you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t get the most out of it.
Taking ACTION!! Where Should You Begin??
This all sounds great, but where do I begin? First, make a list of the functional tools you have available to you. Next, look at you current strength program (if you have one), and evaluate it for it functionality. The third step is to use the methods outlined here to create a more specific routine. Often times these changes will result in a lowering of the weight or resistance needed to successfully complete the exercise. Begin by introducing FST into your warm up exercises. Then integrate them into your lower intensity sets, before making them the primary exercises. If you are still uncertain on how to integrate FST into your training, hire a sports coach or personal trainer who specializes in your specific sport to help you make the gains needed to achieve your fitness goals and peak performance.