Strength training, whilst commonly misunderstood, offers a vast array of benefits for all athletes, regardless of the sport. In this blog, Human Strength Hub explores these benefits in detail and expands on the different types of strength training available.
So, how does strength training help in sports? Strength training is beneficial because it helps athletes improve their coordination and agility by providing better support for targeted muscles. Strength training programs:
- Reduce risk of injury
- Increase strength
- Improve body composition
- Faster neuromuscular activation
- Improve long term health
This type of training is invaluable for an athlete’s power, speed and overall performance.
Read on to learn more about the many benefits of strength training and where to find any important information.
- Benefits of Strength Training for Sports Performance
- How Does Strength Training Work?
- Types of Strength Training
- Is Strength Training Important for Athletes?
- Factors to Consider When Planning a Strength Training Program
- What Does a Strength Coach Do?
- Sports Specific Strength Training With Human Strength Hub
Benefits of Strength Training For Sports Performance
Up until now, the common knowledge was that athletes simply had to focus on putting in the hours and practising their sports to improve skills and performance. Strength training was even believed to be more of a hindrance than a help because lifting weights could cause tightness and muscle soreness, impacting athletic performance.
However, nowadays, strength training has become increasingly popular as an additional method for athletes to improve their overall performance in sport. Due to the increasing competitiveness of sports, athletes and coaches have looked to strength training to give them an edge over competitors. Regardless of what sport an athlete specialises in, whether it’s golf or athletics, the modern sports science community agrees that all athletes can benefit from some degree of strength training.
Here is a list of the many benefits:
Reduces Risks of Injury
Research shows that by participating in a strength training program, you can significantly reduce the risk and the severity of the injuries you suffer during sports. Arguably one of the biggest benefits of strength training, it creates physiological changes in the muscle, connective tissues and bones. More specifically, the bones increase in mineral density and become stronger over time. This is hugely beneficial for athletes because as in many sports, there is always some degree of shear force acting on the bones when performing certain movements.
The training increases strength in tendons, ligaments and muscles resulting in improved resilience to impact and subsequently, injuries. A comprehensive strength training program is therefore essential for sporting activities and safe workouts.
If an athlete undertakes a focused strength training program along with sports specific drills, they can increase their power, their ability to exert force in the shortest amount of time. This is most commonly referred to as explosive strength because more power is generated in less time to create quicker and more efficient movements. The muscles learn to synchronise therefore utilising energy more efficiently and reducing waste.
Here are some examples of different sports and how they prioritise different types of strength:
- Sprinter – focuses on training explosivity
- Cyclist – focuses on endurance
- Wrestler – trains for maximum strength
Improves Body Composition
For athletes, it is crucial to have healthy levels of body fat whilst maintaining lean muscle mass, with specific ratio and percentage requirements varying according to the nature of their sport. This is because an appropriate amount of lean body mass contributes to increased agility, quickness and power while reduced nonessential body fat improves cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
By implementing strength training, athletes can attain the most efficient balance of lean to fat mass and body composition.
Faster Neuro-Muscular Activation
Often, one of the most overlooked benefits of strength training is neuromuscular activation. Put simply, this is the process by which the brain sends signals to the muscle to recruit muscle fibre and activation patterns to perform a certain movement. In return, the muscle reacts and sends feedback to the brain, creating a loop. This loop allows the body to learn to optimise and improve such movements.
In most sports, the amount of force and quickness of a movement of an athlete can make the difference between winning or losing. Strength training not only improves the speed of the signal that is sent from the brain to the muscles but also the quality of the signal, which can determine the optimal amount of force needed for a given movement.
Improves Long Term Health
On top of improving endurance and power, strength training also benefits an athlete’s overall long term health. These include:
- Increases bone density – reduces the risk of serious injury. Strength training can even make you less prone to diseases like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis as you age.
- Increases your resting metabolic rate – three pounds of new muscle can increase your metabolism by as much as 7%. This means you’ll be fitter, leaner and more athletic. It also lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other serious ailments in the future.
- Improves heart health – studies show that strength training can lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise your ‘good’ cholesterol levels, leading to overall marked improvements to your heart health.
Makes You a Well-Rounded Athlete
The best way to make progress in training for sports and body composition is by centering your training around gains in strength for reps. Remember, ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So fix the weakest link first.’ All this means is that the link with the most significant potential for gains is often the weakest link, locally and globally. From a global perspective, the weakest link in most trainees and pro athletes is that they need more strength. Let’s break this concept down in an example –
An Olympic finalist could biacromial bench press the empty bar for one rep and then EZ bar scott curl the empty bar for one rep. After a year of building their functional hypertrophy and relative strength, the Olympian goes on to win gold and silver at the European Championships.
By increasing strength via hypertrophy, functional hypertrophy and relative strength methods, the athlete was able to see a significant impact on their overall gains in size, strength and body fat improvement, all of which form the basis for improvements in athletic performance.
How Does Strength Training Work?
When it comes to strength training, there are two important factors to consider:
- Numbers – The 4 numbers that matter are RM load lifted, total burden lifted, lean mass and body fat percentage. RM load lift is the most important factor to ensure progress in the other 3, especially in the genetically average trainee.
Because all four numbers correlate with one another, you will need to improve all of them for maximal progress.
So, how do you do that? Luckily in training, there is more than one way to reach your goal. The most important factor to consider is whether your current program allows you to make progress.
How To Choose The Right Strength Training Program?
Known as the art and science of program design and coaching, choosing the right training is determined by many factors. These include training parameters, exercises and split, all of which are optimal for a given trainee at any time.
Designed by Roan Heming, our programs were initially built upon a few principles and good observation skills built by years of experience in the gym. The principles Roan now uses to structure training parameters, periodisation and specific exercises for a given trainee are carried out using the Online Strength Training Program, Consulting Program and Sports Performance Coaching Programs.
Types Of Strength Training
The basic principle of strength training is to use weight and force through a series of repetitive exercises, to cause changes in body strength, endurance and size by overloading a group of muscles. Here is a list of the four main types of specific strength training:
Strength Training For Muscle Power
This technique aims to improve the muscles’ explosive power, increasing your ability to perform a powerful movement in minimal time. For example jumping or launching into a fast sprint. It is often used to help people improve their athletic performance.
Strength Training For Muscle Strength
This type of training is designed to achieve maximum strength and size, e.g. your ability to lift or push heavy weights. While powerlifters train for muscle strength, bodybuilders train for muscle size. The bigger the muscle fibres, the more force they will be able to exert.
Strength Training For Muscle Hypertrophy
This technique is particularly useful for weight loss, helping to achieve a toned look and increasing the amount of lean muscle in the body. It can also help counteract the age-related muscle loss that can lead to frailty.
Strength Training For Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance training engages your ‘slow-twitch muscles fibres’, allowing you to keep performing a movement, such as rowing, for a prolonged period of time. Because your body recruits muscle fibres based on the force demands placed on it, this type of training will focus on lower force demands that build up your slow-twitch fibres.
Is Strength Training Important For Athletes?
To reiterate the same important message we want you to take away from this blog, strength training is hugely beneficial when it comes to improving an athlete’s coordination and agility. By strengthening an athlete’s muscles, they can better handle the demands placed on them during physical activity. As a result, the athlete is also less likely to suffer from cramps, strains and other injuries that occur when the muscles are not properly supported.
Benefits For Younger Athletes
Strength training can also help young athletes learn how to gauge pain, becoming more aware of their body and how it moves. As they get stronger throughout the training, they will be able to better control their movements, which can lead to improved performance in any sport they participate in.
However, while strength training is advantageous for young athletes, it is especially important to ensure that they do not overtrain. It is always best to work with a qualified coach or personal trainer who can tailor a program specifically for a young athlete.
Factors To Consider When Planning a Strength Training Program
The key is to choose programs that allow you to make strength gains. Whilst conditioning is essential and necessary at the correct times for maximal gains, you can only condition strength and muscle mass you already have. Instead, focus on areas you can progress in to maximise your progress. The potential for neurological adaptations, such as strength gains, is far greater than metabolic adaptations, such as conditioning.
Try and apply this knowledge to this example –
Assuming you can barbell flat bench (biacromial) pressing 120kg for four reps, let’s think about which approach will allow you to progress numbers faster and make your upper body grow in size and strength. Either, doing a giant set of 12 exercises, or using high sets and moderate low reps to increase your bench press to 150kg for four reps.
Here are some other factors to bear in mind:
Because every athlete has such different characteristics, every athlete responds differently to exercises. This is why understanding your specific needs is essential to building a training routine that delivers the best results for you.
Remember, strength training is safest when overseen by a certified personal trainer.
Each exercise in the program needs to be relevant for the sport which the individual is training to produce the desired outcome. Movements should be prioritised over single muscle training. For example, it would be more effective for a basketball player to perform squats than bicep curls.
Training plans should be planned and built systematically into different periods, each of which should have a specific goal. For example, it could be about attaining optimal fitness for the start of the season or facilitate recovery from tight and intense fixtures.
What Does a Strength Coach Do?
A strength coach’s role is to plan, deliver and review the physical and physiological preparation of athletes aligned to specific sports performance outcomes. To do this, strength coaches’ hold a deep understanding of the physical characteristics required to excel in sports performance. Plans are then specifically tailored to the individuals requirements so that they can reach their full potential.
Sports Specific Strength Training With Human Strength Hub
Here at Human Strength Hub, we strive to leave everyone we work with feeling stronger, happier and healthier. From strength training to supplements and nutrition, our strength coach can help you to improve your performance and reach your goals. Choose from a range of our personal coaching plans to suit your requirements.
Book a consultation today to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.