When most people think of strength training, they think bodybuilding. However, bodybuilding and strength training to improve performance are two very different things.
Performance training differs from bodybuilding in many ways. Bodybuilding means training solely for larger muscles and aesthetics so you can look good on a stage. While the body may "look good", it is a very nonfunctional, time-consuming way to train. Bodybuilders perform many isolated movements that create muscular imbalances and do not mimic any "real-life" movements that can be applied to any physical task. However, the goal of performance training is to increase the ability to perform physical tasks. Physical tasks in sports include things like making a block or tackle, taking a shot, a golf swing, dunking a basketball, and serving a volleyball. Physical tasks also include taking out the garbage, carrying groceries, playing with your kids, and home renovations.
As you can see, performance training has an impact on everyday life, and makes those daily tasks easier. In my opinion, anyone that performs physical tasks can be considered an athlete. That means all of us are athletes, this is why this type training is so critical.
The primary goal of any performance training program is, well, to increase your performance, while decreasing the chance of injury. After all, if you are injured, you can not perform. However, training for performance will increase your lean body mass, and reduce fat. It will make you stronger, more powerful, and more capable.
Now that you somehow understand what a performance-based program is and is not, let's talk quickly about how to implement a performance-based strength program.
Typically, a performance-based program will follow a deliberate progress, and the program is broken into various phases, each with it's own purpose. After an initial introductory phase to let the body become accredited to training again (or maybe for the first time), the program will move into more focused phases. Every sport has it's unique physical requirements, and not all programs are the same. A shot putter would certainly not follow the same program as a marathon runner. But most sports will use a model similar to the following. After what I call the adaptation phase, athletes will then move into hypertrophy phase. Following the hypertrophy phase will be a strength phase, then finally a power phase, before the season starts.
Next, I will elaborate slowly on the purposes of the hypertrophy, strength and power phases.
Hypertrophy – Lean Mass The definition of hypertrophy is increased lean muscle mass. Hypertrophy is important to athletes because increased muscle mass helps protect joints and bones from injury, and in many sports having a higher body weight without fat is beneficial. Secondly, larger muscles are capable of producing more force. By training to increase muscle mass before moving into a strength phase will help you develop more strength as your training progresses. Lastly, more muscle mass leads to an increase in resting metabolic rate, resulting in the ability to burn more fat.
Strength and Power Strength can be defined as the ability to exert force. You perform work when you apply force over a distance. Power is how quickly force, or more correctly, work can be applied.
Strength = Force – strength is equal to the absolute force produced
Work = Force x Distance – you perform work when you apply force over a distance
Power = Work / Time – power is a result of how quickly you can perform work
Power = Force x Distance / Time – power is how quickly you can apply force over a distance
So, the ability to move a given mass over a further distance during a shorter period of time means greater power. That mass may be yourself during a sprint or a jump, it may be an opposing player during a pick, a block or a tackle, or even the golf club you're swinging or the ball you're throwing. Maybe it's that grocery bag we were talking about earlier, or hiring a nail with a hammer. Obviously, the quicker you can perform these activities, the better your performance will be.
In most performance tasks, power is a more valuable asset than pure strength. However, as the equations tell us, an athlete must have good strength in order to be more powerful. In a performance-based strength program, we increase your lean muscle mass, then we make you strong, and finally, we make you powerful.
You will find you are able to perform everyday tasks more easily following a performance-based program. Imagine being able to keep up with your kids, not having to struggle carrying your groceries, or huffing and puffing just climbing a flight of stairs.
The simplicity of it is what makes performance training so efficient and effective. Many average athletes have become great by training with these principals in mind. What will you be capable of?