When it comes to athletic performance, strength training trumps all.
You have probably seen the videos with people doing all kinds of cool looking exercises. Single leg 180* turn, hop step into a box jump. Sure, these look great on social media, and if the athlete is up to it, are great ways to improve many facets of athletic performance, if you have the time for it.
Why is Strength Training for Athletic Performance Important?
Here is where the issue lies. When training athletes, strength and conditioning is so often pushed to the bottom of the pack. Everything else seems to be more important in the eyes of the parents, the coaches and even the young athletes themselves. Hopefully by now you’re aware, this shouldn’t be the case.
Athletes start strength and conditioning because they want to run faster, turn quicker, jump higher and get stronger. Hopefully, some are aware of the benefits from an injury prevention point of view also.
Why Do Strength and Conditioning Programs Often Get Put Aside?
In a perfect world, we would set up an athlete with strength sessions, conditioning sessions, plyometric sessions, speed, and agility sessions as well as running technique sessions. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and all too often we only get to see an athlete once or twice a week. So, the question is, out of these options, what should the focus be on? All too often we see coaches choose running technique or plyometric sessions. Is it because it looks cool on Instagram? Maybe. Or maybe they think that by spending their time improving and athletes running gait, they will make them as fast as possible. Whilst this will see some improvement in their sprint times no doubt and they will look better when they run. Is it the best use of limited time?
People get obsessed with how someone looks when they run and see this as their problem to fix. Again, this is going to help, however if there is only a limited amount of time you are spending with an athlete, for most people there is a better way to spend your time. Strength training.
Benefits of Strength Training for Athletic Performance
For starters, getting an athlete stronger is going to improve their gait (Paavolainen et al, 1999). Time alone is also going to improve their gate. As they get older and get used to their longer limbs and young athletes’ kids figure out how to move better on their own.
Not only will strength training improve their gait, it will also make them faster (Delecluse, 1997), jump higher (Ramirez-Campillo et al, 2020) and of course, improve their overall strength (Magine et al, 2015). The other benefit to strength training is that it will also help them not only avoid injuries (Niederbracht et al 2008) but manage them better if they do happen and allow them to return to sport sooner and with more confidence and less chance of re injury (Schmitt et all, 2021).
In summary, if you want to make your athletes look better while they run, spend time on running technique.
If you are looking to make your athletes move better, run faster, jump higher, stronger, and avoid/better manage injuries, get them into the gym doing strength training.
Whatever your goals may be, whatever your experience may be, strength training can help you out in so many ways that it makes sense to include it, at least once, in your weekly routine. We promise you won’t regret it!
Delecluse, C. Influence of Strength Training on Sprint Running Performance. Sports Med 24, 147–156 (1997). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199724030-00001
Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Gonzalez, A. M., Townsend, J. R., Wells, A. J., Jajtner, A. R., Beyer, K. S., Boone, C. H., Miramonti, A. A., Wang, R., LaMonica, M. B., Fukuda, D. H., Ratamess, N. A., & Stout, J. R. (2015). The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological reports, 3(8), e12472. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.12472
Niederbracht, Y., Shim, A. L., Sloniger, M. A., Paternostro-Bayles, M., Short, T. H.. (2008) Effects of a Shoulder Injury Prevention Strength Training Program on Eccentric External Rotator Muscle Strength and Glenohumeral Joint Imbalance in Female Overhead Activity Athletes, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: – 22(1) – p 140-145 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31815f5634
Paavolainen, L., Häkkinen, K., Hämäläinen, I., Nummela, A., &Rusko, H. (1999) Explosive- strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.19184.108.40.2067
Ramirez-Campillo, R., Sanchez-Sanchez, J., Romero-Moraleda, B., Yanci, J., García-Hermoso, A., Clemente, F. M., (2020) Effects of plyometric jump training in female soccer player’s vertical jump height: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences 38:13, pages 1475-1487.
Schmitt, L.C., Paterno, M.V., Hewett, T.E. (2012) The Impact of Quadriceps Femoris Strength Asymmetry on Functional Performance at Return to Sport Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 42(9), https://www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2012.4194