Developing a strength and conditioning program – Part 2

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Developing a Strength & Conditioning training program (Part 2)

After the  macro, meso, and micro cycles are understood you can actually begin to qualitatively build out the strength and conditioning program. This has many different basic variables that can all go into great detail. For this article we will stick with the basics to get an overall understanding. Lets break down the design variables 1 by 1:

  1. Needs Analysis
  2. Exercise Selection
  3. Training frequency
  4. Exercise order
  5. Training load and repetitions
  6. Volume
  7. Rest Periods

Needs Analysis is simply evaluating the sport and assessing the ability of the athlete. The sport evaluation should determine the movement patterns that take place within that sport(movement analysis), the physiological analysis (Strength, power, hypertrophy, muscular endurance priorities), and common injuries that occur within that sport (injury analysis). The assessment of the athlete entails a lot more in depth findings. Prior training status of the athlete is critical in terms of where to begin. Almost all modern research indicates that resistance exercise is suitable for young children it is still important to know the difference in chronological age and biological age just, which can go hand in hand with “training age”. We can determine this through a training background questionnaire or simply just find out who trained the athlete prior and what kind of training was performed.  Testing and evaluation must also occur to get proper athlete placement. There are hundreds of tests that can be administered pre training to determine any aspect of the athletes. Last, but certainly not least a goal must be set. Preferably the goal should go hand in hand with improvement in a sport or sports.

We will limit this article to the core principles of exercise selection. There are 3 large groups I like to break exercises down into. These can obviously be taken down into smaller and smaller more specific groups. Core exercises are those that target one or more large muscle groups (chest, shoulder, back, or thigh), involve two or more primary joints, and receive priority when selecting exercises.  Assistance exercises usually deal with smaller muscles at a single joint level (biceps, legs, calfs).  Structural exercises are those that load the spine  (back squat and power clean). Power exercises are explosive exercises that incorporated by sport as needed. The more similar the training activity is to the actual sport movement, the greater the likelihood that there will be a positive transfer to that sport. (The specificity concept).  While developing the program the strength coach must also incorporate muscle balance. The agonist (hamstring during a leg curl) must maintain a certain size ratio limitation with the antagonist  (quad during a leg curl). The equipment available and the available time per training session almost must be considered when choosing the right exercises.

Training frequency is primarily determined by the sport season, the training load and exercise type, and lastly by the preference of the athlete of strength and conditioning coach. A beginner should start with 2-3 sessions per week and an advanced athlete may work all the way up to 7 sessions per week. I personally, coming from an NFL background, prefer a 4-day split. A base example us this would be Lower Body workout Monday and Thursday with an upper body workout Tuesday and Friday. Many variations would be taken into place with the specific days and weeks.  Sports seasons make it very hard to design one program for athletes in different sports. Generally an athlete will work out the most in the offseason (4-6) per week and the least in the post season (0-3) per week. When the training load is maximal or near maximal more time is needed to recover and that is why every week should not include the same number of training days.  Recent research indicates that upper body muscles recover quicker than lower body muscles and that can be taken into consideration.

The core belief with exercise order is that it should be: Power, other core, and then assistance exercises.  Mixed in over the macro cycle you can incorporate the reverse of that to fatigue the major muscles before the power and core work in what is called preexhaustion. Optimally we like to follow the  Power, other core, and then assistance exercises if time permits. For faster recovery and limited time per session you may alternate upper and lower body exercises so that the muscles can recover during exercises. This can also be done with a “push” and “pull” method.

In the assistance exercise you can add supersets, which is two subsequently performed exercises that target opposing muscles and compound sets, which are subsequently performed and involve opposite muscles.

Training load and repetitions is where the Strength and Conditioning coach will spend the most time planning and it can become very complex and very scientific based. To simplify this for learning purposes its important to understand what different sets, reps, and loads will produce. We have 4 goals; Strength, power, hypertrophy (muscle size), and muscular endurance. Strength is gained by doing 6 or fewer repetitions at 85% or more of your 1 rep max. Power is gained by performing 2-5 repetitions at 75%-85% of your 1 rep max. Hypertrophy is gained with 6-12 reps at 67%-85% of your 1RM. Muscular endurance is gained with more than 12 reps and less than 67% of your 1RM. There are a number of ways and graphs to find out your 1 rep max without actually having  “max out”.

Volume relates to the total amount of volume lifted in a training session. This has a vide array of research and theories, but it usually closely mimics the load and reputation numbers stated earlier.  Strength and power general require a smaller volume, whereas hypertrophy is associated with much higher training volumes.

The time dedicated to recovery between sets and exercises is the rest period. This time is highly dependent on the goal of training, the relative load lifted, and the athlete’s training status. The heavier the load, the longer the rest period should be. Strength and power work should generally require 2-5 minutes of rest in between sets. Hypertrophy work should have  a 30 second to 1.5 minute rest period. Muscular endurance should have rest period less than 30 seconds.

Next week, we will discuss how to incorporate plyometric training and speed and agility work into the program.

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