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Developing a sports training program

As a strength coach, sometimes it can be very easy to just group all your athletes together and train them using the same program.

Athletes have to train like athletes, right?

To a certain extent, I would say yes, athletes are going to be doing similar things. For example, most will need some sort of strength work, some sort of power work, and some sort of sport specific conditioning. However, the amount that each of those qualities needs to be developed may vary greatly from sport to sport.

Whenever I think about training for sports performance, there are a few things I look at with regard to the athlete and the sport in question. Hopefully, the list below can give you some things to think about with regard to program design for your athletes (or anyone really, provided you know what their goals are and what they are looking to accomplish).

1)Assessment: First, I always want to do an evaluation just to see what I am working with. This is a great opportunity for me to gather both subjective and objective information about the athlete and any potential problems and mechanical faults that they may have, which we would need to work on.

2)What is the Sport: The next thing I want to look at is what sport the athlete is training for. This is essential, because from that I can gather information about that sport and what is required to be a great athlete.

3)What are the typical injuries of the sport: Knowing what the typical injuries of the sport and the structures and joints involved in those injuries is helpful for your program design as it allows you to write in some pre-habilitation exercises.

4)What are the energy systems specific to the sport: Having an idea of what the main energy systems involved in the sport is helpful to programming so that we aren’t (a) wasting time training energy systems that aren’t of top priority, and (b) we aren’t training and eliciting adaptations that aren’t specific to the sport in question. This is a big difference between most sports and knowing when to adjust your conditioning for athletes. What is the work to rest ratio of the sport in question? Even more specific, how does that work to rest ratio change between position players in the same sport? How does this affect our program design?

5)What are the joint angles specific to the sport: What joint angles are of most important to the sport the athlete is playing? How can we make sure to develop optimal strength and power at those joint angles? Training through a full range of motion is important. At what phase of training do you chose to emphasize joint angle specific training (or what some call target range of motion)?

6)Where in the year is the athlete: Are they 16 weeks away from pre-season? Are they mid-season? Are they training for next year (offseason)? This can be helpful in your programming because it lets you know how much time you have available and, more importantly, how much time can be allotted to specific blocks or phases of training to help plan which training effect you are trying to target and at which times.

With a little bit of research, a lot of these questions about the sport we are training for can be answered. Once you have an idea of the sport and gather information about the specific athlete, it becomes a lot easier to plan your training program and help the athlete achieve their training goals.

Hope that gives you some ideas,