January 24th, 2014

// Must Read Guest Post: Why Elite Athletes require Strength & Conditioning Coaches? – Tony Risling

Why Elite Athletes require Strength & Conditioning Coaches?

Alicia Bell

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics just a couple of weeks away let’s take a look at one aspect of getting to the highest level in a sport, Strength training. While yes a vast majority of sport specific coaches have a decent understanding of strength training the truth is their expertise is the specific skill and tactical development of the sport which is why athletes need an additional component to their support staff, Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

Using track and field as an example, the main staples that 90% of track coaches program for their athletes are:

  • Power Cleans
  • Partial Range Back Squats
  • Barbell Flat Bench Press
  • [insert random abdominal exercise here]

As a strength coach I have to look not only at what will improve performance by making the athlete faster (stronger to improve stride length) but also what will prevent injury and the biggest injury in the sport is a hamstring injury, but yet not one of the above exercises addresses the issue of ensuring the hamstring is sufficiently strong to prevent being overpowered by the quadriceps and glutes and then leading to a strained/pulled hamstring. This can then be extended to every sport and the specific strength qualities related to them whether its acceleration/power, speed, strength, endurance, strength endurance.

Strength Coaches study and are better equipped than sport specific coaches to find various imbalances and then using the tools in our toolbox, scientifically formulate a program to reduce the discovered imbalance to reduce injury risk and improve athletic performance whether that’s running speed, jump height, racquet speed or punching power. This requires another approach to periodization training and even mini periodization within a specific training cycle/block to maximize the effect of training to translate onto the field of play. Just in a program this includes:

  • Exercise selection
  • Variation of exercise selection (Range of motion, implement, grip, angles)
  • Specificity to sport skills, tasks and movements
  • Taking into account physical and emotional demands of practice
  • Taking into account physical (metabolical, hormonal, neurological) and emotional demands of training session (repititions, sets, intensity/load, tempo and speed of movement, rest intervals, range of motion)
  • Nutritional demands and status of athlete

Elite athletes need to have a strength coach in their support staff to help to ensure they are physically ready to perform at their highest level, to be their strongest/fittest for competition. Take a look at every NCAA collegiate program, they have a department dedicated to strength and conditioning for this very reason.

To perform at the highest levels, elite athletes require their training to be catered and specific towards them. This gives the added NEED to have an additional coach who specializes in strength and conditioning training to ensure the athlete is at their best when in competition and able to handle the rigors and demands of day to day practices and come out of it healthy.

- Tony Risling


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