An Athlete’s Workout Program Checklist
An Athlete’s Workout Program Checklist
Not all of us have the luxury of having access to D1 strength coaches. For those that don’t, here’s your outline.
Strength & conditioning is becoming ever more important in athletic performance and longevity leaving many athletes to train without a coach’s supervision and guidance. The result is programs that are both poorly advised and lacking in multiple areas. Of course, it’s unreasonable, perhaps impossible, to expect all athletes to get an S&C coach. What is plausible though is to provide a checklist identifying essential programming criteria that athletes can follow when constructing their workout programs.
Checkpoint 1 – Soft Tissue Work and Mobility
Adequate mobility is needed for athletes to get into required positions to then develop the required stability and strength in such positions. Not all joints need mobility though. Using the joint by joint approach pioneered by Gray Cook & Michael Boyle, the most important areas of mobility are the:
- Shoulder joint
- Thoracic spine
When any of these movable joints become immobile, the stable joints next in line (usually above) are forced to move as compensation, thus becoming less stable. This is where pain manifests itself. Note pain occurs at a location separate from the actual cause of the pain: Poor ankle mobility equals knee pain. Poor hip mobility equals low back pain. Poor thoracic spine mobility equals cervical (neck) pain.
Foam rolling and full body mobility drills integrated into dynamic warm ups will help solve these mobility problems and prevent future pain and injuries. These benefits make this type of pre-hab a must in any good training program.
Checkpoint 2 – Anti Extension & Anti Rotation Exercises
Core stability allows your body to move its limbs without any movement in the spine or pelvis. Core stability thus facilitates the complete transfer of forces from the ground across the body for action at another limb. Inadequately developed cores lead to energy leaks, ultimately leading to decreased performance and even injury. In developing a solid core you’ll be able to resist the external forces you’re subjected to, preventing energy leaks and improving athletic performance (not to mention your beach body).
Sample Anti Extension Exercises:
- Stability ball & ab wheel rollouts
- TRX fallouts
Sample Anti Rotational Exercises:
- Kneeling/lunge stance/squat stance/standing Palloff presses
- Full Contact Twists
- Single arm TRX inverted rows
- Unilateral pulls and presses
- Ready stance arm over arm sled pulls/rows
Checkpoint 3 – Unilateral Training
Running is essentially a series of horizontal bounds performed unilaterally. It’s essential then to train lower body movements in the unilateral context that they occur in sports.
Single leg training is the key to developing the muscles that are involved in every athletic movement. Not only does this type of unilateral training improve performance but it will also serve to reduce the incident of ACL strains/tears (as loading the body asymmetrically will push you to resist rotational forces, thus stabilizing the pelvis, leg and knee).
Much of the same reasoning for lower body unilateral training applies to the upper body as well. The body must be able to produce powerful movement in the arms and shoulders, independent from each other. As an added bonus, this work also requires, and involves, the core to efficiently transfer force across the body.
- Single leg squats
- Rear foot elevated split squats
- Stationary lunges
- Single leg Romanian deadlift
- Walking lunges
- Dumbbell presses OH and horizontal
- Kneeling/split stance/standing unilateral cable presses
- Angle presses
- Single arm TRX inverted rows
- Dumbbell rows
- Unilateral cable rows
Checkpoint 4 – Acceleration and Deceleration Training
Acceleration training speaks for itself. Most sports involve maximal burst of speed over a short distance, and so it’s emphasized in training programs. Plyometrics, sprints, sled drags, barbell, and bodyweight exercises that involve active hip and knee extension for strength and power all develop the components of acceleration.
However, few athletes work on deceleration training. Agility is the ability to slow down very quickly and then speed up very quickly, often in another direction. If your muscles are not strong enough to control your momentum, how can you stop and turn on a dime?
Deceleration training can be done a few ways. The most obvious is to practice coming to a stop as soon as possible after reaching high speeds. That said, short burst shuttle runs, box drills and running down hills all help in this department.
Additionally, an athlete can apply tension principles for a selection of leg exercises. 3 second negatives with explosive jumps (think jump lunges, box jumps, and prisoner squats) work well here and train your body to accelerate and decelerate in a controlled manner.
Checkpoint 5 - Change of Direction Conditioning
Metabolic conditioning is traditionally running in a straight line at varying intensities to develop conditioning. The catch is, the metabolic demands of interval runs that involve changes of direction, AND mode of locomotion, are much more intense than those performed in a constant mode and in a single direction.
What we find when looking at the majority of sports is that athletes perform multiple sprints in different directions, frequently stopping and changing direction. So, in order to be specifically conditioned, an athlete’s conditioning work must mimic their sport. A basketball player needs to perform multiple sprints one after the other ALL in different directions. Metabolic conditioning work should replicate this.
The five points, outside of your traditional strength training work, should provide the framework for a complete program. Incorporating all five will reap huge dividends in the pursuit of improved athletic performance. Practice them, perfect them, and be ready to go when it's game time.ShareThis
About the Author
Ben is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist under the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Ben is CEO and Director of Strength & Conditioning at Elite Kinetics Strength Training Systems and holds a degree in Sports & Exercise Science from Loughborough University in the UK. Ben has worked with international, national and amateur level athletes from a variety of sports and serves as a resource base for many more both in person and through his various websites and projects. To find out more information visit www.ben-coker.com & www.elite-kinetics.com
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