Unlock ELITE Athletic Potential with Effect Performance Training

Your athleticism is the foundation of your sport specific skill. Without some level of athleticism, athletes are not able to effectively execute the skills that their sport demands. As competition increases, this becomes even more apparent. Look at the difference between a D1 basketball player and a D2 or D3 basketball player. Although there may be slight differences in skills, the biggest difference between the level of play is the athleticism and genetics of a D1 player compared to a D2 or D3 player. D1 players are typically taller, longer, and more athletic.

So, if we know athletes with superior genetics have the competitive advantage, how do we level the playing field? In full transparency there are multiple factors that contribute to athleticism. Genes are a huge factor in the way that your body stores and produces elastic energy which is responsible for your explosive power and strength. Other factors that contribute to your athleticism include movement efficiency, mobility, strength, and your central nervous system. Without getting too technical, there are factors that you can control that contribute to your overall athleticism, and there are factors that you cannot control, like genetics. The good news is, with proper training, you can maximize your personal capabilities with a sound comprehensive program.

Comprehensive and Progressive Programing

I see a lot of performance programs that are based on random high volume routines that make athletes tired and leave them feeling depleted each workout. Although this type of training may get an athlete in shape short term, eventually this approach will cause training plateaus, burnout, or even injury.

An effective sports performance program that is designed to maximize athleticism should be comprehensive and progressive with effective periodization. A comprehensive program is one that is detailed and touches on all aspects of athletic ability (mobility, stability, coordination, agility, speed, strength, power, cognitive ability, and restoration to prevent injury). Touching on all of these athletic qualities daily and or weekly will allow athletes to fill each bucket, which will then enhance overall athleticism that will transfer to sport activity.

The other important aspect of an effective performance training program is progression. It is easy to get caught up in short term gains but unless an athlete plans to retire or quit in the next 3 months, it is extremely important to think about the big picture. You have to know and understand what is the long term goal and work backwards from there. If a 15 year old athlete aspires to play college sports but just started taking training seriously and doesn’t have much training experience, he or she has to focus on building a foundation of core strength, coordination, and mobility. The adage  “you can’t build a house on toothpicks,” couldn’t be more true in this situation. Learning proper technique and improving movement efficiency early on, will go a long way and will increase the ceiling of an athletes athletic potential if they lay the foundation properly and early on in the training stage.

Once a foundation has been set, progressive overload is the key to long term sustained results. That means every 2-4 weeks there has to be an adjustment to the plan because our bodies are designed to adapt to stimulus. Once an adaptation occurs from completing a program consistently for 2- 4 weeks, the next phase of the program should increase volume (sets and reps), load (weight), or intensity (exercise selection or rest period). This same method should be followed with each new training phase in order to continue to progress toward maximizing athletic potential.

Best approach to training

  • Improve coordination and movement efficiency (“can’t build a house on toothpicks”)
  • Develop work capacity and endurance
  • General strength
  • Max strength
  • Sport specific speed and power development
  • Progressive overload

Which is Better: Multi-Sport or Sport Specific Athletic Training?

With more and more club teams and “elite” youth programs popping up in sports, there is a lot of pressure for athletes and parents to “specialize” in one sport year-round instead of participating in multiple sports throughout the year. Is one option better to become an elite athlete or do both have an equal chance of helping athletes stay healthy and optimize their opportunity to maximize their potential.?

It is not uncommon for coaches, parents, and athletes to believe that specializing in a sport at an early age is the secret ingredient to becoming a world-class athlete,  especially when you consider the success of athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, who excelled in their sports at an early age. However, research exploring elite athlete development suggests that athletes that specialize early and succeed at the highest level, are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

There is also a myth that participating in many different sports is not advantageous in advancing an athletes’ ability. Athletes are able to develop a variety of skills by playing multiple sports that will eventually transfer over to their primary sport. In fact, researchers have found elite athletes spent less time training in their primary sport before the age of 15 compared to their less successful peers.

A sports scientist by the name of Istvan Balyi created  the Long Term Athletic Development model (LTAD). This model is a framework for an optimal training, competition, and recovery schedule for each stage of athletic development. Coaches who engage in the model and its practices are more likely to produce athletes who reach their full athletic potential. The principles of this research have been adopted by youth athletic associations globally as the framework for proper management of youth and adolescent growth and development processes. It also identified the critical periods of accelerated adaptation to training.

When considering which is better multi-sport vs sport specific it’s important to evaluate the long term effects of each scenario. Specializing in a single sport early can lead to problematic injuries, overtraining, and burnout. Although there are short term benefits to specialization, such as getting more repetition; doing this early on is more detrimental than a competitive advantage long term. Participating in multiple sports allows an athlete to acquire a variety of skills and experience different environments that will transfer as the athlete further develops and chooses his or her primary sport. Single sport specialization is advantageous as an athlete develops fundamental skills and adapts to optimal windows of trainability. The best time to specialize in a single sport is around 15 years old. At this time an athlete is physically and mentally prepared for higher training volume. At this age the athlete is more than able to make up for time NOT spent in early specialization.

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