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.  Kindle Edition.

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

The Weekly Training Schedule II: Off-Season Field Hockey

In the article The Weekly Training Schedule: General Recommendations for Training Elements, an outline was presented as to how to manage training stressors over the course of a week.  This article provided some very general guidelines on how to include various types of exercise into one’s training plan.  This post will focus on providing an example for a week of off-season training for the sport of field hockey.  Demands in this sport need to take into consideration the different positions played (attack, midfield, defense, and goalie).  The schedule and training modes presented at the end of this article will be based on an individual who plays the attack position.

Konarski (2010) performed an in-depth analysis into the match play of athletes on the Polish National Team.  This study examined factors related to players’ heart rates, energy expenditure, speeds, and distances traveled.  The results of this analysis revealed that field hockey requires high levels of speed and speed endurance, along with proper development of the aerobic system (Konaraksi, 2010; Sharkey 1986; Konarski et al,. 2006).  Players playing the attack position achieved the highest velocities, along with traveling farther than the other positions (Konarski, 2010).  This information supports an emphasis on high-quality speed development for these athletes, along with properly dosed aerobic work to complement to low-intensity aspects of the sport.

For the weekly training plan ,an athlete in the off-season will be looking to spend time on the elements discussed along with strength development.  As stated previously, the example to be used below will be for an athlete who plays the attack position.  While similar applications can be made for the midfielders and defenders, one would want to consider slight modifications to running volumes and intensities with these athletes.  The weekly template, along with training modes are as follows:

Day One

Dynamic Warm-Up (20 minutes of heart rate elevation, bodyweight movements, power/speed drills)

Speed Work (High quality with complete rest periods)

*Sprints 10-40 m distance range.  200-400 m total work

Lower Body Weights

*(Rehabilitation-based movements prior to main lifts.  For female field hockey athletes this would include work for the hip muscles (particularly the hip extensors and abductors) and ankles.

Day Two

Upper Body Weights

*(Rehabilitation-based movements prior to main lifts.  This would include exercises that reinforce good upper body posture)

Low-intensity power speed drills

Tempo Runs- Run at 75% for a total volume of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 with repetitions in the 50-100 m range.

Day Three

Off or Active Rest

*Option to do agility drills with extensive tempo intensity (<75%)

Day Four

Dynamic Warm-Up (As described previously)

Speed Work (Reduced volumes from Day One)

Lower Body Weights

Day Five

Upper Body Rehabilitation Strength Exercises

Upper body Weights

Tempo Runs- Same as described on Day Two with reduced volumes

Days Six/Seven

*At least one day totally off.

The template offers an option for four days of training involving strength, which can be modified to a three-day program (which has been used successfully by the author with some athletes).   There are various means by which the strength portion can be applied and the reader is encouraged to view a past article on this topic. One mistake that currently presents itself in regards to running is the emphasis on long-distance running from both a training and testing perspective.  Many coaches place an emphasis on testing 1, 1.5, and 2 mile runs in an effort to evaluate the endurance of their athletes.  While aerobic training certainly plays a role in the development of a field hockey athlete, the application of these testing measures is faulty.  The reader is encouraged to read the references cited below to support this premise.   It is again emphasized that the schedule presented above is a general outline for a week of training for a field hockey athlete playing the attack position.  A future post will reflect specifics as it relates to guidelines for each of the individual modes of training.  For now, the reader at least has some concept as to how to structure weekly training for this particular athlete.  Please feel free to post questions in the comments section on the facebook page.

For program consulting or training, visit here or email at


1.  Konarski, J. J.  (2010).  Characteristics of chosen parameters of external and internal loads in Eastern European high level field hockey players.  Journal of Human Sport & Exercise, 5 (1), 43-58.

2.  Konarski, J. J., Matuszynski, M., & Strzelczyk, R.  (2006).  Different team defense tactics and heart rate during a field hockey match.  Studies in Physical Culture and Tourism, 3, 145-148.

3.  Sharkey, B.  (1986).  Coaches guide to sport physiology.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.




Development of the Alactic System Part III- Alactic Capacity

In a previous post, the development of alactic power was discussed.  In most athletic contests, athletes need to not only be explosive and powerful, but they also need to sustain that power over the course on an entire contest.   In order to develop this quality, appropriate programming to develop capacity of the alactic system will enable an athlete to compete with speed and power repeatedly for the duration of a contest; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky (2011) defines power and capacity in this manner:

Capacity- the total quantity of producing energy

Power- the quantity of energy produced in the time unit

Improving the capacity (or conditioning) of the alactic system requires that short duration efforts greater than 95% intensity (<8 seconds) are repeated in multiple bouts.  An important component of this type of training is to keep an individual below their anaerobic threshold; the athlete should not begin to utilize the lactic system due to the intensity zone utilized being too slow for speed development (Francis, 2008).  Keeping the athlete below anaerobic threshold with efforts greater than 95% with appropriate rest intervals means the speed and power of the effort will be maintained for the duration of the session.

This type of conditioning can be performed with both jumps and sprints.  The key is to have a high intensity effort as described previously, with a rest interval of 10-60 seconds (Morris & Williams, 2013; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky, 2011).  Many times coaches implement more lactic-based conditioning in an effort to help with maintaining an athlete’s speed for a contest.  The inherent problem with this is that the speed of the effort in this type of training begins to drop as efforts are repeated; an athlete actually ends up training to maintain a slower speed.  Sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, some combat disciplines, and lacrosse are sports that primarily utilize both the aerobic and alactic systems to fuel their efforts, and should not be incorporating large volumes of lactic-based conditioning into their off-season or in-season protocols.  In a future post some examples of alactic capacity training will be outlined.

References & Recommended Readings

Verkhoshansky, Y., Verkhoshansky, N.  2011.  Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.  Verkhoshansky SSTM.  Rome, Italy.

Francis, C.  2008.  The Structure of Training for Speed.

Morris, B, Williams, R.  2013.  American Football Physical Preparation:  How to Optimally Prepare for Your Best Season Ever.  Ebook available at

Development of the Alactic System II- Alactic Power

In the previous post, there was some background provided on the topic of training  the alactic system. It is recommended that you read that post, along with some of the other posts that are linked to that post if you are unfamiliar with the basics of this topic. This post will apply the information to how to develop power of the alactic system, which is important in any sport where the training speed and power elements is necessary in an athlete’s physical development.

Before getting into developing power of the alactic system, one needs to look at the difference between developing the capacity a systems versus power. Verkhoshansky (2011, pg 164) defined power and capacity as:

Power- the quantity of energy produced in a time unit
Capacity- total quantity of energy produced

So simply put, power looks at the rate in which one produces energy. This is an area of neglect by sport coaches by virtue of the “conditioning” that gets implemented both during the in-season and, by virtue of what the athletes get exposed to in-season, what the athletes either look to focus on with their off-season training (if not given any guidance, or by what the sport coach tells them to do).  Reproducing an effort time and time again means nothing if the individual efforts don’t achieve the necessary production (for example, producing enough force).  Therefore, it is necessary to address this area of preparation by producing maximal efforts with appropriate rest periods and volumes of work to achieve this goal.

This now comes back to speed and power development for athletes.  The following is an example of a sprinting protocol that could be utilized to improve speed/power in an athlete:

Set 1

3 X 10 yard sprints ( 1 minute rest between reps) Rest 3 minutes

Set 2

2 X 20 yard sprints (2 minute rest between reps)

This is a basic example that can be used to address speed for cyclic athletes, or can be used as a general means of improving force production for some athletes whose sport or activity does not involve linear running.  Over the course of a few weeks, sprints can be added to the overall volume (the key would be to make sure that speed does not drop off with later repetitions).  Addressing this type of preparation may also be performed through other means as well (i.e. jump training).  It is important that individuals in athletic endeavors appropriately address physical preparation though means most important for their sport.  Addressing this aspect of training is very important to sports where power development is necessary to enhance performance.

References & Recommended Readings

Verkshoshansky, Y.  Verkhoshansky, N.  (2011).  Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.  Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky SSTM.

Development of the Alactic System

Training for sport and recent general fitness trends has placed a great emphasis on high-intensity conditioning focusing on the glycolytic system.  This intermediate energy system training typically involves medium duration work bouts (20-60 seconds) with incomplete recoveries (work periods may be shorter based on recovery periods and still quality for this type of training).  Training in this manner accumulates a great deal of fatigue, and while it may have its place in training, it is not warranted in training all athletes, or in the training of individuals interested in general fitness.

In a past post I wrote briefly on the three energy systems, and gave examples of how a properly developed aerobic system (not trained through slow, long-duration efforts) can go a long way in many athletic endeavors (also see post for combat athletes here).  Athletes in many sports have an alactic system that is not developed due to overemphasis on long-duration aerobic training, and glycolytic training utilized by most sport coaches.  Many times athletes in sports such as football, basketball, field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, spend too much time and emphasis in training (particularly during in-season)  on running drills that emphasize activity carried out in this fashion.  Examples of lactic based conditioning sessions include the 300 yard shuttle in football, and 17’s and suicides in basketball.  This not only limits an athlete’s speed potential, but also causes a shift in how energy is used to display efforts during activity.

Sprinting for speed development should be the focus in the training of most team sport athletes (Smith, 2006).  Proper attention should be placed on both the development of acceleration and top speed acquisition.  It is important when doing this that both sprint mechanics are addressed, and that proper work:rest ratios are utilized in speed development.  Emphasis on speed development (alactic power) should focus on the quality and not the quantity of work; too many times training for speed ends up becoming a metabolic conditioning session (and typically becomes glycolytic).  Training in this manner is not only stressful, but ends up occurring at speeds too slow for true speed development (Francis, 1992).

Emphasizing alactic power development via sprints for non-track athletes can have a significant impact on their performance.  A follow-up post will give examples of how this concept can be applied in training.


Smith, James.  Speed Training Considerations for Non-Track Athletes: The Development of Speed Throughout the Annual Plan.  2006.

Francis, Charlie.  The Charlie Francis Training System.  Kindle Edition.  2012.

Summer Training Programs & On-Site Seminars

Check out the training program specials offered through July.  As a bonus, if you start any program and continue with it, you will remain with services at the same rate that you started with this summer.  Many Options are available based on your need (even if you don’t see something that fits for you, contact me and we can put together something that you are looking for).  GREAT PRICES ON THE ONLINE TRAINING!!


If you are hosting a sports camp or holding training sessions with a team in the Berks County (locations outside of berks will be considered but will factor into cost), contact me about on-site seminars for your group.  The seminars can be based on any type of performance/training subject you would like:

*Warm-Up/Injury Prevention

*Programming/Lifting Technique

*Speed Development

Contact me for pricing and what you would like to have discussed at the seminars.

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