The purest form of training for any activity is the activity itself. To be effective, a training program must reproduce the movements and metabolic demands of the sport being trained for. Sport-specific training challenges athletes' to perform specific movements and movement patterns safely, efficiently and subconsciously; develops the appropriate energy systems; and promotes muscular adaptations that lead to superior sport performance.
No body part works in isolation during movement. Rather, the body works synergistically (muscles, joints and proprioceptors work together) to produce complex movements. Running, jumping, shooting and throwing all require multiple joint actions timed in synchronized neuromuscular recruitment patterns. Effective training, therefore, depends on integrated multi-joint movements (not individual muscles). Olympic lifting, plyometrics and movement-based resistance training is critical.
Movement in sport occurs in three planes- sagital (forward-backward), frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotational)- and combinations of these. Effective training must also incorporate exercises and movement patterns that develop strength in each plane. Movement training should emphasize force production, force reduction and force transfer since these areas have the greatest impact on sport performance.
Most sport skills are initiated by applying force in to the ground, on one leg or two. The more force an athlete can apply against the ground, the faster they will accelerate, the higher they will jump and the more effective they will be on the playing field. Exercises are chosen to enhance this ability to generate force. The Olympic movements (clean, snatch and jerk), squats (single and double-leg), and plyometrics are proven effective.
Power is defined as the ability to generate force at high rates of speed. This is a critical aspect of sport. Power output is the result of motor unit recruitment by the central nervous system. Training explosively, using ground-based, multi-joint movements trains the body to recruit motor units at high rates of speed, ultimately improving performance potential.
Performance gains will eventually plateau and even diminish if the same training prescription is continually followed. Periodization is a scientifically proven model that uses different combinations of volume, load, rest, and exercise specificity to progressively overload the body and bring about specific adaptations.
No training program can be successful without a commitment to nutrition, rest and a healthy lifestyle. Decrements in performance can often be traced to a poor diet, dehydration, poor sleep habits, and/or lack of recovery time. It is essential that athletes understand and strategically employ stretching, massage, cold therapy, performance nutrition, and other techniques that accelerate recovery.
Becoming the best possible athlete requires more than talent, consistent training and a commitment to nutrition. A foundation that includes discipline, courage, perseverance and selflessness is essential for true success. These attributes are emphasized, developed and rewarded during training.