Strength and Conditioning is huge right now and it’s something that athletes of all levels should be doing. However something that doesn’t sit well with me in the way S&C is pushed is that it seems to be focused entirely around lifting weights. The big question that’s constantly being asked is how can we best use a barbell to improve performance, rather than how do we best improve performance. Despite what most would have you believe the barbell isn’t actually needed for a good strength and conditioning program. I can only think of 3 sports, 4 at a push where barbells are used. Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting, Crossfit, and to an extent Strongman competition and that’s about it. Yet S&C coaches everywhere obsess about how to best use a barbell rather than how best to train the athlete.
(Check out the Instagram video for a recent example)
Lets take running as a common example as lots of people run and they are often told they need to get stronger. When designing a S&C program for a runner, the movements and patterns I am looking to strengthen and train will look a lot like running. I will narrow in on the aspects that enhance running technique and load the body in an appropriate way that will match what a runner needs when out on the pavements, trails or track. I personally would avoid squatting or lunging for runners as the movement of hip flexion in the loading phase (when the foot hits the ground) is considered poor technique by every good running coach I’ve ever spoken to. If the hip collapses in then that’s generally considered bad technique, so why would I train a motion that encourages this? Instead I look to hopping drills as they are much more appropriate and effective. Then to layer on the conditioning aspect I try to match the energy system demands of what the runner will experience in their own discipline. Obviously a sprinter will train with a different intensity to a marathon runner but the movements are pretty similar. Right foot, left foot until the finish line.
The concept applies equally across all disciplines, whether you’re a golfer, or footballer, or an olympic lifter? If you have a specific goal then general strengthening goes out the window or it becomes random exercises. Just a quick note here I have no problems with golfers lifting weights or footballers doing a little olympic lifting because we are all humans and capable of doing a variety of different things and I do think there are benefits from being competent at a variety of stuff. But believing that practicing Olympic Lifting to improve the power in a golf swing is the same as believing that an Olympic Lifter should hit the driving range to work on the technical aspects of their lifts. It is good to move in a variety of ways but I just wish strength coaches would stop trying to justify their training method by claiming it makes you better at something that it probably doesn’t.
I had a sprinter come in to see me with a few persistent injuries and pain on her right leg she mentioned that a physio told her that she needed to strengthen her right glute if she wanted to fix the problem. Through the course of the 1st session we ended up at this exercise where it turns out she was easily capable of it. How could weakness possibly be an issue when you can perform this exercise. We need a better explanation for pain than weak muscles, that isn’t an answer that makes sense.