When you’re sitting down to design a program for your next training phase, it’s important to make sure you’re addressing the four main aspects of fitness development. Each concept in isolation is quite simple, but it can be tough to choreograph the four parts in unison to form an effective session. In this blog post we will be looking at each component and trying to shed some light on how you can build these concepts into your own program.
This means training in a precise way to produce a particular result. It is broken down into three main sub-groups.
The first thing to do when putting together a training program is to look at what muscle groups are being used in the area that you want to develop yourself in. In sports, most muscles are used in one way or another, but certain groups are more essential to performance than others. These are the ones that need to be focused on in the program.
Next, we need to look at the way in which the muscles are being used in the activity that the person wants to improve in. This is mechanical specificity. If you’re a sprinter you may need to improve the function of the quadriceps muscles in your legs, but this doesn’t mean to say that you should be sitting on a leg extension machine every session. Look at the way you contract those muscles while sprinting and find a movement in the gym that is quite similar. A squat or a lunge, for example, is going to be far more beneficial.
Thirdly, we want to look at metabolic specificity. In this case, it’s how an athlete uses different energy systems and how this varies across sports. Putting together a long duration, low-intensity conditioning session that targets the aerobic energy system isn’t going to be much use for power-based 100m sprinter. We know you’re busy and don’t have all the time in the world, so not only do you need to be efficient with your training sessions but you also need to make sure that the session isn’t going to hinder your performance. Unfortunately, long distance runs for a sprinter will do just that. Instead, tailor your training to the system that you use in your activity. In a sprinter’s case they would need to ensure they take adequate rest periods between practicing sprints in order to reset their system and perform as optimally next time. If they had too little rest they would end up working more of the glycolic or aerobic systems instead of the CRP system they need to be using.
If you always do what you have always done, then you will always be what you always are. If you’re trying to get fitter but never run farther or faster, then you can’t expect to improve very much, if at all. It is the same with weight training. Your muscles need to be burdened to induce meaningful change. By progressively overloading your muscles, your body learns to recruit new muscle fibres and to do so more efficiently. This then helps you to lift the heavier weight, to become stronger, and therefore to become a more resilient athlete. To incorporate overloading you can:
- increase the weight lifted
- increase the amount of reps, sets or sessions completed
- reduce the rest period
Exercises, volume, intensity, rest and session duration are all parameters that can be varied from week to week to induce different adaptations for an athlete. From phase to phase during the season some, or all, of these factors should be manipulated in your training program.
During the general preparation phase when you’re furthest from your competition date (think preseason training) the volume you’re lifting should be high and therefore the load or intensity should be slightly lower. Throughout your in-season program you should increase the load lifted, and therefore reduce overall volume. As your competition date gets closer and you enter a more power-based phase where volume and intensity should be reduced, your rest increased, and your exercises need to be fast and explosive.
The type of session you’re doing as a novice lifter should vary greatly to what you might be doing when you’ve been lifting for a long time. Initially, body weight movements and simple drills are going to be enough to induce positive performance changes. But there will come a time where your exercises need to become more complex and your rep schemes more advanced. When you compare your first year in the gym with, say, your fifth, the stimulus you require to get stronger will be different. Beginner lifters can get their biggest strength increases with high volume and low load while a seasoned lifter needs considerably higher loads to recruit extra muscle fibres. Performing Olympic lifting movements have been shown to have a great sport-specific transfer of performance, but it doesn’t need to be part of any athletic program until you have a sufficient ability to master your own body weight.
So there you have it; four crucial components of any training program that allow you to progress and continue to see results. We hope you are less daunted by putting together your own plan.
If you’d like more assistance with sports performance development then please get in contact for more information. Our exercise physiologists and strength and conditioning coaches provide everyone who signs up to the centre with a tailored training package to get you to where you want to be. We look forward to discussing how we can help you!