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How does strength training relate to sports performance?

Strength training relates to sports performance by incorporating and activating specific muscles in addition to relevant movement required by a sport. A plan that is put into place to increase the demand placed on muscles through strength training will then in turn increase lean muscle and performance.

Strength training does help sports performance, but it is important to remember it is only one component of an integrated program. Every sport demands a certain level of strength, power, endurance, speed, and more from athletes. Relative strength is defined as the maximum amount of strength needed for a specific sport or task. Additional strength can in fact lead to injury by decreasing flexibility and mobility.

Determining what relative strength and from what starting positions are needed is the first step in building out your program. An example is if the sport of choice is football, the supine bench press might not be the best position to develop a strength training program. Football is an upright sport, and if your are down on the ground you have lost. This simple example would devalue the bench press for football. An alternative is a standing press with cables or tubes pressing from waist to shoulder height. 

Once the athlete and coach understand the specific tasks of the sport they can plan out a strategy to incorporate strength training in the program at just the right amount and type needed.

Strength training can often mimic movements that are completed in sports.  For example, if you are a basketball player and need to gain inches on your vertical leap then completing exercise such as box jumps may help you to achieve this goal.  Each sport has specific movements and exercise, especially strength training can assist in helping you make gains in your specific sport.  One very important thing to remember will be to keep your body balanced.  Do not focus solely on movements for that sport or do not just focus on strength training.  Be sure to keep your body balanced and add in flexibility training and some cross-training to keep yourself prepared for all obstacles.

Strength training is important for enhancing sports performance and making the athlete as strong as possible.  However, you also want to develop your flexibility, coordination, agility and speed.  When strength training, you want to perform total body exercises that mimic the way your body is required to move during the activity.  You would not want to isolate muscle groups the way a body builder would.  Make sure you incorporate SAQ drills (speed, agility, quickness), and power training in your conditioning program.  An example of a power exercise would be performing low repetition chest presses with heavy weight followed by 10 repetitions of light weight medicine ball chest passes at a fast but controlled pace.

Paul Winsper
Sports Medicine

Strength is defined as your muscle's ability to generate force to overcome an external resistance. Since all sports require your muscles to produce force to varying degrees, strength training is necessary to promote success and safety. Based on an individual's genetic attributes, it is true that absolute strength is a fixed commodity. However, through training, changes in physiology and skill acquisition of specific movements can optimize an athlete's raw attributes. Through an appropriately designed sports performance training program and sports skills practice, strength gains made in training can transfer to athletic excellence.

Training to develop strength is important for maximizing performance in most sports, especially for contact sports.  Being strong gives the athlete a foundation to improve explosive power. However, strength training is often overemphasized at the expense of developing flexibility, coordination, agility & speed.  Strength training exercises need to be performed for the total body so muscular balance is developed.  And training for strength is just part of the athletes overall performance training program.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.