Strength Fitness Training for Sports

Strength fitness training builds the type and level of strength necessary for optimum performance in each sport. It is developed in combination with other fitness components to match each sport's physical demands.

A key question for coaches to ask is: In which specific ways will increased strength help athletes improve in their sport? The answer to this question should guide the development of the fitness training program.

The second question is: Which methods of training will develop the specific strength requirements of the sport? The chosen training methods must be coordinated with all other training to produce optimal competitive performance.

Examples of Strength Demands for Different Sports

For a powerlifter, strength must be developed to lift a maximum weight isotonically in each of the competitive lifts.

The upper body of a wrist wrestler must be strong enough isometrically and isotonically to overcome the resistance of an opponent in a single, maximum sustained effort.

Phil Savage

A gymnast must develop explosive isotonic as well as isometric strength in order to execute skills unique to gymnastics.

A rower must be strong enough to sustain rhythmic, submaximal yet forceful muscular efforts throughout the duration of the course.

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A cross country runner must possess enough strength to maintain running technique and to stabilize joints for the demands imposed by downhill running. These examples demonstrate the different strength demands of sports, each of which must be specifically developed in combination with other fitness components. In addition, position requirements and individual differences further define the goals of the strength training program.

Coaching Tips for Strength Fitness Development

Snatch pull with free weights

Coaches must decide which training methods produce the best results in the most efficient ways to develop strength fitness. The following are common methods of strength development.

1. Free weights, generally speaking, have many advantages for sports. Whole body, weight bearing exercises match many sport demands. Olympic lifting develops strength, as well as other fitness components, and also teaches mental concepts, such as the use of the lower body before the arms.

2. Machines typically emphasize the development of specific muscle groups. Muscle groups can be isolated, muscle imbalances can be corrected, and weak areas can be strengthened. Machines are sometimes more suited to strengthen muscles that are more difficult to target with free weights, such as the lats and hip ab/adductors. Limitations lie in the coordination of muscle groups for sports.

3. Resistance bands are versatile and offer resistance in specific ranges of motion. However, they teach deceleration rather than acceleration as they extend.

4. Medicine balls also offer versatility. They permit acceleration and are excellent for core training. They also supplement the development of coordination for some sport skills.

5. Plyometric training uses the weight of the body and momentum as resistance. It develops some level of strength combined with other important sport fitness components.

6. Body weight exercises without additional resistances can improve strength and other fitness components. The primary limitation is the inability to progressively overload over a period of time.

For more information on sports fitness training, see:

Agility Fitness

Endurance Fitness

Fitness Components

Fitness Definitions

Power Fitness

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