General Physical Preparation/Anatomical Adaptation: The Foundation

In a previous post I have described concepts related to the planning of training.  One of those concepts relates to the idea of building a foundation prior to more intense or specific training.  The error that takes place in many training or fitness programs is to not realize that long-term planning is necessary for results.  Individuals take on forms of exercise without understanding that a some time should have been spent in a more basic program.  This is largely due to the culture of “high-intensity” exercise has spread through social media and the internet, and that if you are somehow not constantly creating excessive levels of fatigue through endless burpees and squat jumps that you are not training optimally.

A well-planned general physical preparation phase of training (or what is sometimes referred to as anatomical adaptation) can build a solid foundation for more intense exercise/training to follow.  This type of training also allows individuals to address orthopedic injury prevention to maintain structural health during training and competition.  The following is an example of a two day a week training program that may be implemented for this purpose.

Day 1

Extensive Dynamic Warm-Up

Strength Training Pre-hab (Injury prevention exercises based on sport)

Strength Training

1A.  DB Reverse Lunge 3X15
1B. DB Flat Bench 3X12
1C. Rolling Side Plank 3X10

*30 seconds between exercises/2 minutes between sets

2A.  Cable Row 3X15
2b.  Stability Ball Hip Lift/Hamstring Curl 3X12
2C.  Birddog 3X5 sec, 4 sec, 3 sec, 2 sec, 1 sec holds

*Rest periods same as above

3A.  DB Lateral Raises 3X15
3B.  Tricep Pressdowns 3X12
3C. DB Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3X12
3D.  McGill Crunch 3X12 each side

*Rest periods same as above

Day Two

Extensive Warm-Up

Strength Training Pre-hab

Exercises 1A-1C from Day 1 session weeks for 4 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps respectively with same weight used on Day 1.

Exercises 2A-2C from Day 1 session for 12 and 10 reps.  Birddog can be 4 sets of 3 with descending holds

Exercises 3A-3D from Day 1 session for 4 sets of 12, 10, 10, 10.

These sessions can be performed on non-consecutive days during the week.  Typically with a program such as this I would prescribe a three-day program, but this two-day program can certainly get someone off to a good start.  For the most part this type of program can be performed by anyone who is a beginner, or is at the start of a training period before increasing the intensity of training.  It was mentioned previously that some injury prevention work can be included in a program such as this.  Some examples are:

Rotator cuff work

Basic hip strengthening

Ankle strengthening

The inclusion of work such as this during training would be as specific as you would get given the nature of this type of training.  It would be recommended that other types of training be conducted simultaneously with a program such as this (i.e. low-intensity jumps and aerobic work) to address other necessary components of one’s physical preparation.

References

See previous post.

Progam Design Concepts

Training programs for both athletes and more casual fitness enthusiasts need to be directed towards specific targets in order for an individual to reach their goals.  This requires that programs address specific physical attributes, along with an appropriate progression to ensure that continued progress is achieved.  It is seen far too many times the individual that wants to take on the next high-intensity battle rope, kettlebell, prowler circuit (of which the author has no problems with any of these implements, just with their misuse which is all too often seen) without understanding what they are looking to achieve.  While undertaking these “programs” there can be some initial benefit (i.e. weight loss), the long-term progression is lost due to misapplication of basic programming concepts.

The following describes some basic concepts that should be included in just about any program.  So whether one is a competitive athlete or an adult interested in physical fitness, consider looking at these in determining the type of activity one is involved in.

1.  Foundation

While the author believes terms such as “base fitness” are overused, there is something to be said about giving oneself a good starting point to beginning a training program.  Individuals in the general fitness populations are many times guilty of just jumping into high-intensity exercise programs without having performed more basic general physical preparation.  As stated previously this can result in some short term improvements, however,  it also results in early stagnation and likely injuries (which will be discussed later).

Morris and Myslinski (n.d.) have given an outline of a general physical preparation program for football, while Francis (n.d.) has created a video on what can be done for track and field athletes (and adapted for other team sports).  The overall theme in works such as these is that one must begin any progression with basic physical preparation.

2.  Injury Prevention

The concept of injury prevention in training programs harkens back to the point of building a foundation, but also deserves its own explanation.  If one gets injured during training, it can create a frustrating setback to progress.  This is another issue related to the more trendy fitness concepts being marketed today and pushed out in videos on the internet.  It is important that people address any muscle imbalances or orthopedic issues they may have before increasing the difficulty of their exercise.

No matter what your training status is, there should be an emphasis on preventing both acute and overuse injuries during training.  Basic movement skills (i.e. learning basic hip hinge movement) should be something that everyone should consider as a component of their training.

3.  Variety

To avoid accommodation to training, it is important to include variations in all aspects of training for continued progress.  One needs to be cautious as to how often things are changed in a program.  Beginners and intermediate trainees don’t need to have as much variety as more advanced individuals.  The author typically works in three to four week training blocks where most exercises remain the same during that timeframe.  Many people tend to think they are more advanced then they are and change things more often; this typically results in injury and stagnation in training.  For most individuals, it would be recommended to vary things like volume and intensity within a three to four week period, as opposed to changing exercises.

The concepts listed here is just a short list of items to consider when planning out a training program.  A good point of emphasis throughout these ideas is to think of one’s training as more long-term.  While the point of any training program is to create adaptation to a physically stressful stimulus (which is really what any form of exercise is), it is important to realize that you don’t have to just create excessive amounts of daily fatigue to accomplish this.

References

Morris, B., Myslinski, T.  (n.d.) Coach X.  London, OH: http://www.elitefts.com.

Francis, C.  (n.d).  GPP Essentials.  http://www.charliefrancis.com.

Practical Strength Applications for Athletes

Athletes in any sport require development of various physical attributes to have success in competition.  Strength development is necessary in athletic preparation, yet is commonly not addressed in a manner necessary to provide optimal results for the athlete.  There are aspects of strength development that need to be considered based upon the demands of the sport and the experience of the athlete.  While strength development for athletes is important, the level of strength and priority of it will be based on the resistance that gets encountered in the sport (Baker, 2014).

Many individuals will take the previous statement and limit exposure to strength training with external resistance claiming it is unnecessary for athletes.  These same individuals will cite individuals who compete at certain levels while only undertaking certain strength modalities (i.e. bodyweight only, kettlebells, etc) and claim that is all they need to make them strong.  Limiting the strength prescription to this can possibly neglect base strength development, particularly for more novice athletes (anyone not competing at an elite level- professional or Olympic).   This post will focus on some basic considerations when looking to design a strength program for an athlete who does not compete in powerlifting or Olympic lifting.

1.  Develop strength in basic movements first

The benefits of incorporating the power lifts (bench press, squats, and deadlifts) will be discussed; however, it is important to understand basic movements prior to doing more advanced exercises.  While bodyweight exercises can accomplish this, they should not be seen as the only way to address this issue.  Resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells can be utilized early in developing appropriate movement patterns and base levels of strength.  Many individuals will require a certain amount of work be completed in certain bodyweight exercises prior to utilizing external resistance.  This can possible cause certain movements and muscle groups to be neglected.  Take pulling as an example; chin-ups and pull-ups are typically more difficult for younger and less experienced individuals who undertake a strength program (as opposed to push-ups).  While there are certainly progression with chin-ups and pull-ups, strength in the pulling muscles may also be developed via pulling motions with external resistance (i.e. dumbbell rows, lat pulldowns, etc).  Witholding those exercises until vertical bodyweight pulling can be completed at a certain level (i.e. everyone must perform 20 chin-ups before utilizing external resistance), overall strength in these muscle groups may get delayed.

2.  The benefits of barbell exercises (power lifts)

Francis (2014) discusses that strength work will always be a means and not an “end.”  Athletes don’t need to have numbers of elite powerlifters in the power lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift), however there is a great benefit to utilizing these exercises for physical development.  Beyond what are considered the obvious adaptations to exercise, the recruitment of motors units with exercises such as these had a great benefit to an athlete.  Any of these lifts performed at greater than 80% intensity are considered a high intensity stimulus (Francis, 2014).  This type of motor unit recruitment can assist with power development by affecting force-velocity relationships in sport activity.  This requires responsible loading of strength activities, coupled with utilizing complimentary training activities, which includes jumping activities (explosive strength) and high quality speed work.  Max strength as a quality should be developed to an level to the point where it does not interfere with other athletic qualities

3.  Injury prevention.

Neuromuscular coordination and soft tissue resiliency can be addressed through proper strength training.  Athletes should be addressing regions of the body that are susceptible to injury based on their sport.  Gender can certainly influence the impact of certain injuries and should be something to take into consideration when designing the program.  Early in training, high-repetition exercises can be utilized to allow for soft tissue adaptation (Scott & Saylor, 2010).

Strength training in athletic preparation is sometimes poorly planned, or in some instances, not utilized at all.  The prevailing attitude of some sports is that strength training is either unnecessary or should be kept to a minimum to prevent a decline in performance.  Much of this thought is due to not having an understanding of how strength training fits into the preparation of certain types of athletes.  While training for maximum strength in the weight room is not the goal of many team and individual sports, neglecting achieving an optimal level of strength will limit one’s development in other areas of sports performance.

Recommended Readings

Baker, D. (2014).  Using Strength Platforms for Explosive Performance.  In Joyce, D., & Lewindon D.  (Eds.)  High-Performance Training for Sports.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.  Kindle Edition

Francis, C. (2014).  Training for Power and Strength in Speed.  http://www.charliefrancis.com.  Kindle Edition.

Scoot, S., & Saylor, J.  (2010).  Conditioning for Combat Sports.  Santa Fe, NM:  Turtle Press.  Kindle Edition.

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