By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist
I’ll have to admit, I am a big fan of Twitter. I like seeing people share interesting things and link their posts to more information that I can learn from.
It is impressive to me when someone can get a point across in 144 characters or less, which leads me to this post by Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance:
After reading this post, I thought about the last 20+ years I’ve been in the Strength and Conditioning field and conclude this post is bang on.
Here are some common questions from athletes, coaches and parents that have come my way over the years:
- I’ve heard that when kids are still growing, they should not strength train because it can cause injury. Is that true?
- Will strength training make me too big and slow to become better at my sport?
- I don’t have time during my sport season for strength training. Is training in the off-season good enough for me to continually improve my strength, speed and power?
- When is the best age to start strength training?
So, let’s take a quick look at these questions and try and set the record straight.
I’ve heard that when kids are still growing, they should not strength train because it can cause injury. Is that true?
Let’s be clear, kids can injure themselves doing anything if they are reckless or if they haven’t been taught how to do things properly. If an athlete is taught how to do things correctly and in a proper loading progression, there is little to no chance of them getting injured while strength training.
Will strength training make me too big and slow to become better at my sport?
This is an interesting question, because people often think that strength training for sport performance and body building are one in the same. Search up a picture of a body builder and compare it to a picture of a sprinter, for example. The body builder will look big and bulky, and if you were to ask them to run or jump, they would likely look very awkward and not very efficient just based on sheer muscle mass.
The sprinter, on the other hand, will look athletic, strong and fit, and if you were to watch them run or jump, they would make those movements look effortless while being very fast and explosive. Although they may do some very similar exercises, like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, etc., the set, reps, tempo and volume of training would be very different and the aerobic, anaerobic training and movement training would also be very different.
In the end, the sprinter is athletic, strong and explosive without being overly big and bulky. It is all in the finer details of the overall training program that makes the difference between big and slow versus strong and fast.
I don’t have time during my sport season for strength training. Is training in the off-season good enough for me to continually improve my strength, speed and power?
To me, this is a cop out. I have had this conversation with hundreds of athletes. I will often ask the following questions when I get asked this question:
Can you carve out 20-30 minutes a day, 2-4 days a week during your sports season?
The answer is always YES. We all spend time watching TV or playing video games, or a multitude of other things that could be used to do some strength training.
When is the most important part of the season to be at your strongest, fastest and most explosive?
The answer is almost always playoffs or Nationals or Worlds, depending on the sport.
Final question, is it possible to be at your strongest, fastest and most explosive at that time of your season if you are not strength training?
The obvious answer is NO. You could certainly be at your most skilled and conditioned at that time with proper practice progressions, but you will never be at your strongest without strength training or your fastest without speed training, etc. Being able to develop strength, speed and power during the season really comes down to scheduling and developing a training program that works within that schedule, and finally being committed to becoming the best athlete you can become. Athletes don’t become champions by training in the off-season only. It is a year-round commitment.
When is the best age to start strength training?
This is interesting, because if you really think about it, we are always doing some form of strength training. As children, we run, jump, climb and crawl, and that ultimately requires strength. As we do those things more and more, they become easier. The real question is, when do we introduce external load (barbells, dumbells, etc.) to the body? Again, the answer is simple: if the athlete has solid exercise technique with body weight and is mature enough to understand that adding external load can increase the risk of injury if they don’t concentrate and focus, they are ready for it. If the program they follow starts with lighter loads and progressively increases over time, they will get stronger.
As we look back at the Eric Cressey post, strength is a game changer. The stronger you become, the greater your potential for improving speed, agility, quickness and power.
Don’t fall behind. If you are not strength training as an athlete, there is no better time than the present to get started.
Contact our Sport Manitoba Performance team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.