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Strength Training For Athletes

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Strength Training For Athletes

Strength training for athletes is not primarily used for improved strength and power, however for injury prevention. What they don’t realise is that you can not build strength and power without a body that is balanced left to right and trying to add heavy loads to an already faulty structure can lead to injuries. If an athlete is injured they can not train in the gym and even more importantly they can not train at their particular sport. If an athlete is not assessed after each season, their chances of injury get higher each season.

Cam Bolton’s - Germany World Cup Win - February 2019.

Cam Bolton’s - Germany World Cup Win - February 2019.

One thing that needs to be understood from the start, is that all sports have certain patterns that cause imbalances. Take basketball for instance, most basketballers will tend to jump from one leg and land on the other leg. This means that their jumping leg is always working very powerfully and their opposing leg is absorbing the landing, causing it to take a huge load and stress. Over the corse of even one season, this is always going to result in an imbalance between the jumping leg and landing leg. If we multiply that by many seasons, the imbalance becomes even more pronounced.

Firstly, the role of a strength coach is to ensure the athlete can perform training and games in an injury free state. If they get injured at any point of the pre season or season this is time away from their sport training, which will decrease their ability. It is very hard to be a value if you have to miss training each week, just in order to play each week. If an athlete is in a balanced state their likelihood for injury is much less. You only have to use professional sports as an easy example, the teams with the least amount of injuries are usually the ones in the finals and take out the ultimate prize. Any athlete that has played injured will understand that they can not perform to their full ability when they are injured.

Matt Targett & Hayden Stoeckel - 2012 Olympic Medalists

Matt Targett & Hayden Stoeckel - 2012 Olympic Medalists

At Energie4 we train athletes from junior levels all the way to the Olympic podium. All of these athletes do at least one if not two phases of structural balance work in a competition year. This is why we have had so much success at all levels of competitive sport. Energie4 athletes are educated and understand the importance of having are balanced body and notice it’s value to their strength, power and performance throughout the season of their sport.

To move into more detail about strength training for athletes, we first have to look at having a solid base/foundation from where we can build on. Athletes at Energie4 always start with unilateral work, meaning using single leg/arm exercises, like a split squat and dumbbells like a dumbbell bench press before they are progressed to barbell work like a barbell squat or barbell bench press. Any time you create balance between the legs or the arms and go back to a squat or bench press, the athlete has not got weaker, in fact they get stronger, even without doing the exercise the coach was concerned that they would lose strength.

The second major point when you consider the balance between left and right, is that power can’t be developed without first having strength. For example, any athlete who has had an ankle injury that has not been rehabilitated properly, they will have trouble pushing off the ground, effecting running, changing direction and jumping. As the body is extremely clever, it will look to other muscles to try and generate the strength and power it needs in order to perform at the level the athlete is use to. The result however, is that this compensation, causes the exact imbalances that we have been discussing, which can directly relate to an injury in another part of the body. This only frustrates the athlete, as they only want to train and play their sport. Athletes are generally very impatient, as is their competitive nature, so they need to be educated on the value of what you are trying to achieve, in addition to encouraging their patience, so they can be a bigger, stronger, faster athlete.

Thus, strength training for athletes is ALL about injury prevention. If the body is balanced, there is less chance of an injury to the athlete. If they strength train and build a solid, balanced base, they are able to train in the gym and also fully train for their sport. This already gives them a huge advantage over their team mates and competition. Finally, the more base and foundation they have the less time they have to work on structural balance and the more time they can use strength training to increase strength and power.


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Knees Over Your Toes, Please!

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Knees Over Your Toes, Please!

Should your knees go over your toes when you do any leg exercises like a squat or lunge? YES

Have you ever tried to walk up or down stairs keeping your shin vertical?

What about Olympic lifting competitors, who put their knees well over their toes, with maximum amount of weight on the barbell.

Knees all the way over the toes, very hard to be an effective lifter with straight shins.

Knees all the way over the toes, very hard to be an effective lifter with straight shins.

The knee is designed to go over your toes, full stop! The forces on the knee are actually less when it is flexed because of the co contraction of the hamstrings and quadriceps. This co contraction actually helps to counteract the force on the knee cap (patella). Studies have shown that Olympic lifters actually have the lowest rate of knee injuries.

This year alone we have had several clients come in and say, oh you want my knee over my toes? One client who had knee pain, was told by another allied health professional, who I should add doesn’t have any qualifications to design exercise programs. For some reason everyone has this perception they know better then someone who has spent their life learning about exercise and the correct techniques.

There are plenty of sporting situations apart from Olympic lifting, where the knees are over the toes, such as start for track sprints, swimmers, cyclist have their knees over their toes, one last example is a sport such as fencing, where they spend the entire event lunging forward at their opponent.

Tom & Laura showing two different versions of the split squat, both with their knees over their toes.

Tom & Laura showing two different versions of the split squat, both with their knees over their toes.

If you have knee pain, then you have to have it diagnosed by the correct healthcare practitioner. If you do have pain under or around the knee cap, there generally will be some sort of imbalance that needs to be corrected. The most common imbalance is the Vastus Medalis Oblique (VMO) is weak in comparison to the Vastus Lateralis. To strengthen the VMO there are certain exercises, the VMO is activated the most at the top 15% of knee flexion and bottom 15% of knee flexion.

Therefore, if you want to strength the VMO we often give clients exercises that use the top range, like a Poliquin Step Up or a more challenging one is the split squat with a quarter rep at the bottom, in addition to a full repetition.

So please when you squat, split squat, lunge, step up have your knees over your toes, this will not only help with your knee pain, but will strength the VMO and hamstrings at the same time. You will be surprised with the benefits of doing proper training of your legs.

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