What is Your Weight Training System?

Strength coaches take different approaches toward an athlete's weight training system. Most agree that athletes need more than just exercises that build strength in specific muscles.

Ideally, the program should boost athletic performance over time, work in sync with other training activities, and build to peak performance during the most important competitions.

Developing a weight training system is not a "one size fits all" proposition. It involves finding a method that works for each athlete in the local setting.

Coaches are challenged to find the best plan for the sport, capabilities of the athletes, time constraints, facilities, equipment, and all of the factors that play into the program. Good planning well in advance of the start of the conditioning program is essential for getting the best return on training time and energy, and doing so safely.

Clean Starting Position

Are you simply lifting weights to build strength in different muscles that are important in your sport, or do you have a systematic plan to maximize results? Here are a few tips for designing an effective weight training system based on Sports Training Principles.

Tips for Your Weight Training System

1. Exercises should simulate large muscle sport movements, not just build muscles. Whole body free weight exercises involving the coordination of multiple joint actions (e.g., power clean, squat) more closely match the gross motor skills (jumping, running) used in sports. While single-joint exercises strengthen links in athletic chain of movement, performing a variety of isolation exercises does not teach coordination of muscles used in sport movements.

2. Workouts should adequately balance muscles to promote smooth movement through the full range of motion, as well as prevent injuries. For example, bench pressing and related pushing movements simulate many sport movements, but neglect pulling actions that oppose these movements (e.g., bent rowing) can result in inflexibility and strains.

3. The system should include planned variations in sets, reps, exercises, and other training variables over time. Variation is the principle behind periodization. Variability of practice is well supported for accelerating skill development.

4. In most sports, specificity involves variation of skilled movements--shooting from different points on the court from various distances, for example. Variation is less important when athletes are in the early stage of learning.

5. Volume should be high and intensity low in the first training period. Over time toward the competitive season, volume is reduced as intensity increases. Progressively increasing the training load can planned and controlled by testing maximums on selected lifts, whether by testing one maximum repetition or estimations based on 5 or 10 repetitions maximum.

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