Strength and Conditioning

Joseph Pilates once said that, ‘physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase’. Little did he know that almost 50 years after he passed away his method of physical fitness would become one of the most popular in the world.

Just as pilates has grown in popularity in recent years, so has the need for strength and condition training in athletic performance. Just look at modern footballers, there’s quite a difference between the physical appearance of Cristiano Ronaldo and someone like Neil Ruddock for example.

This isn’t exclusive to footballers of course, across professional sport there is an increased expectation that the sportsmen and women are finely tuned athletes as well. With strength and conditioning there is a huge emphasis on the mechanics in sport. Coaches ensure that athletes are not only doing the right exercise, but doing them correctly. This ties into another key aspect of strength and conditioning – injury prevention.

With strength and conditioning being essential for injury prevention, it is often a key part of physiotherapy work – there’s no point recovering from an injury if you aren’t able to prevent it occurring again in the future. Physiotherapy can be broken into examination, evaluation, diagnosis and physical intervention. Strength and conditioning forms an essential part of the physical intervention aspect.

Traditionally strength and conditioning is applied to sport teams, rather than individuals. However with the increased focus on injury prevention, more modern techniques are implementing individual training more and more. Rather than just training all areas of athletic performance, strength and conditioning looks at something called ‘exercise prescription’. This means that specific exercising is used to improve athletic performance.

We tend to think of strength and conditioning as running on a treadmill while you’re hooked up to a whole host of machines, surrounded by men in white coats. To a certain extent this monitoring is important because it allows specific diagnosis of key areas for athletic improvement. Huge advancements in technology has allowed all of this to be possible, and it could be argued that these technological advancements are the main reason for the recent increase in popularity of strength and conditioning.

So is everyone just getting caught up in the technology, or has strength and condition training really improved athletic performance?

Well the traditionalists out there will say that we’ve had high performing athletes for as long as we can remember, and plenty of them weren’t hooked up to computers while they trained. Then there is the other argument – that strength and conditioning has added to already impressive foundations, and allowed athletes to reach performance levels that were otherwise unavailable.

What you need to remember is that this isn’t just about technology. Huge quantities of research has gone in to help us understand the best ways to train. Strength and conditioning has helped to develop the importance of a number of things, these include:

  • Exercise Type
  • Session Volume
  • Frequency
  • Rest periods
  • Intensity

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’ll probably have noticed all the things above have been previously discussed.

No one is arguing that we haven’t had well trained athletes through history. Whether it’s going back to Jesse Owens in the 30s or stretching 70 years forward to Usain Bolt, athletes have always used training to improve athletic performance. But it’s no coincidence that the world record for the 100m has dropped regularly in that time.

We don’t know if Jesse Owens would have beaten Usain Bolt if he had the same training, we won’t ever really know. What we do know is that over time athletic performance has improved. It’s safe to assume that humans aren’t just becoming naturally superior athletes, so what is it that is causing this change?

You can probably tell where I’m going with this – it’s the training that has changed. The way we train has constantly changed over time, and has helped to bring better results.

Across the globe both teams and individuals are putting greater emphasis on strength and conditioning, and it would seem, at least for now, the results are proving that this effort is being rewarded.

Ollie Lawrence
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