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Last Updated: October 19, 2017

Sports Training Considerations

If you’re an athlete in hard training, there are a few modifications you’ll need to make to your workout routine in order to reap all the benefits you’re hoping for. Athletes have special needs that other people may not necessarily consider (or need to consider) in their workout approach. Athletes primarily need to focus on speed development, power abilities, and agility. Let’s examine each of these areas and then explore how to incorporate them into your overall training plan.

Speed Development

If you participate in a stop-and-go sport that requires fast reaction times, you’ll want to work on developing your speed.

To foster greater speed development, try adding plyometric training into the workout program. Plyometric training includes activities such as box jumps, squat jumps, lunge jumps, clap push-ups, or medicine ball tosses. Each of these movements involves an accelerated contraction by the muscle tissues right at the start of the movement pattern, improving how fast they’re able to generate force. Some people also work on speed development by performing interval training through traditional cardio means (such as wind sprints or spin bike cycling sprints).

Power Generation

To boost your power generation ability, on the other hand, you’ll want to focus on the tempo of each exercise. This refers to how quickly you lift and lower a weight as you complete each rep. For power development, you’ll want to focus on contracting extremely rapidly as you lift the weight, aiming to lift it at a one count. Then, lower the weight back down more slowly, at a two or three count.

Maintain a longer second phase of the exercise to ensure that you keep a good amount of total tension on the muscle tissue. This will allow you to make the strength progress you’re looking for. The faster tempo at the start helps your muscles learn how to fire quickly, which increases their speed. Since power is defined by how much weight you can move over a short period of time, lifting weights in this fashion will help generate more power.

Agility Training

Having good agility refers to your ability to maintain body control despite the fact that you aren’t entirely balanced, meaning you’ll be less likely to be knocked over by an oncoming opponent or force. Athletes perform better when they have excellent agility because they can remain focused even if factors in their environment try to throw them off guard. If the exercise they’re performing requires integrated movement patterns, their enhanced agility level will also increase performance.

One of the best ways to work on your agility fitness level is to include an exercise ball into your workout routine. Perform some of your traditional strength movements such as the bench press, the shoulder press, the bicep curl, the lateral raise, and others, by using the exercise ball. This will improve your ability to withstand an unstable surface and therefore increase agility.

Another good method to boost agility is to perform movements on one leg. Single leg squats, single leg deadlifts, single leg split squats, or even a lateral raise while standing on one leg, will all help increase your ability in this area. Keep in mind that the weight may be altered in each of these exercises from what you normally use, so expect to make some adjustments.

Now that we’ve covered the main types of training for athletes, let’s go over how to add these elements to your sports training schedule.

Factor in Volume

If you want to add speed development, power generation, or agility training to your workout, you first need to assess the total amount of volume that you’re using. Since you are likely already training a few hours each week for your chosen sport, you can’t go overboard with your gym workouts or you’ll wind up overtrained before you know it.

Ideally, you should keep your gym workouts short but intense. All you need is thirty minutes twice per week if you’re using a full body approach. This will leave you with plenty of time to get in any required sports training, along with a bit of cardio if necessary.

Since training for any of these elements - speed, power, or agility - is slightly more taxing on the body than a straightforward strength training workout session, two to three sets per exercise is often enough to bring about the results that you want.

Once you have a workout plan setup, make sure you keep tabs on how you feel. If at any point you find that you’re dragging between sessions, this indicates you’re doing too much and should rest.

Keep the Workouts Sport-Specific

When doing additional training for your chosen sport, make sure that you always keep specificity in mind. You always want the exercises that you’re performing to improve some element of your sports performance. For instance, if a hockey player wants to perform incredibly strong slap shots, he’ll need power in his chest and back. Therefore, he might spend a good amount of time working on his chest and back power and strength. Likewise, if a basketball player wants to improve her slam dunk shots, performing plenty of power exercises for the legs is imperative to success. This will also help improve her rebounding capability, which will assist in making more shots.

Keep these sport-specific training guidelines in mind. You still need to follow the other training specifications that we’ve already explored, but these instructions can help athletes maximize their progress. In addition to improving your fitness levels, you may also want to exercise to lose fat and build muscle.

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Shannon Clark, CPT

Shannon Clark is a certified personal trainer with over a decade of experience in the industry. Her passion for fitness began with figure skating as a child, leading to the Western Canadian Championships as a teenager. After retiring from skating, Shannon earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and began her career as a fitness trainer and writer. Her professional advice has been published in numerous magazines and websites.