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To be successful in life requires a set of guidelines that you can turn to. So it is with training. The following is a list that guides the training content that I provide. It can also be seen as foundations for your training, sporting and athletic success.
1. Injury Prevention = Performance Enhancement
Health is the most important thing a person can have. Without it, wealth, family, sport etc. means nothing because you can’t enjoy it. Even simple injuries can have an effect on your life even if it is for only a couple of days. Therefore, the number one goal of any program is injury prevention. This benefit is enhanced because it leads to performance enhancement. In fact, you can’t have performance enhancement without injury prevention. The best athlete in the world can only be a spectator if they are sitting in the stands. If you remain injury free the more training you can do and if you play sport, the more games you can play. Therefore, in every program you must ensure your weaknesses are prioritised whether it is a flexibility issue you may have in a certain muscle group or a strength imbalance.
2. Train Movements not Muscles
In sport and life, movement matters. It’s as simple as that. The goal is not to get bigger muscles but to become a better athlete. Sure, there are certain situations, sports and individuals where body building techniques are applicable for a defined period in the training plan. For example, a boxer moving up a weight division or a young rugby player trying to beef up to make it as a prop. However, you must always return to function. For example, a lot of sports require cyclic movement from one leg to another, therefore, unilateral movements like lunging and walking lunges are a great component in a training program. Furthermore, people only think of developing strength in the gym. Strength doesn’t have to be just weight room based. The weight room is great to overload movements but they are typically performed in a rectilinear fashion. Most sports however, occur in many planes. Therefore, things such as wrestling which involve force application in many directions are a good supplement to weight training in a lot of sports. It’s also important that you can manipulate your own bodyweight. A 220kg squat is great but not if you can’t even single leg squat your own bodyweight 10 times.
3. Holistic Approach
Most people think of training as going to the gym and lifting weights or going for a run. This is nice and it’s better than doing nothing but training should be divided among all qualities. Where is the flexibility, speed, power etc.? Training should include all these components with the amount depending on your individual characteristics (e.g. age, training age, strengths, weaknesses and goals), phase of the year and sport. For example, if you only had 4 x 60min periods allotted to your athletic performance training plan in a week you could split it as follows:
Day 1 & 3 Day 2 & 4
10min Speed Tech drills 10min Speed Tech Drills
10min Power 20min Strength
20min Strength 20min Conditioning
20min Flexibility 10min Flexibility
The above program is still dominated by strength which may be the primary goal of the phase but it doesn’t ignore the other training qualities and is better than just spending your 4 x 60min on weights only. Remember, dominate in 1 or 2 qualities in your training at a time but don’t ignore the others.
4. Quality Dictates Quantity
Anyone can do more of something but few can do it well. Your focus should be on doing something well first and then do more of it. If 2 sets of an exercise is good, it doesn’t make 4 sets better if you perform the last 2 sets poorly or if it you can’t recover from those extra sets in time for your next session. Sprint coach Charlie Francis who coached Ben Johnson is famous for saying “less is more”. You don’t need to do garbage training. Do what you do well and make every rep, set, exercise and session count.
5. Consistency = Success
We can all train well once or stick at a program for a month or two. However, those of you who make training a lifetime goal will reap the rewards. What’s the use of being a star athlete in your twenties if you can’t run around with your kids in your forties? Day in day out, year in year out, someone doing the worst program in the world will be better off than the person who does the greatest program for a week or two here or a month or two there. Don’t get caught napping or the tortoise, with his consistency, may just catch you.