Tudor Bompa, Michael Carrera 2015-11-16 04:04:58
This is an excerpt from Conditioning Young Athletes (Human Kinetics, 2015), written by world-renowned exercise scientist Tudor Bompa and certified exercise physiologist and personal trainer Michael Carrera. Despite the lack of good methodological knowledge, physical training for most sports is not a novelty. Although some coaches still have confusion about when and how much to train and what type of equipment to use, the ancient Olympians didn’t philosophize too much. They simply lifted heavy stones to improve the athletes’ strength and, as a result, better their athletic performance. The physical capabilities of team-sport athletes began to improve when coaches started to borrow exercises from track and field, such as drills for sprinting, jumping, and throwing. Exercises using medicine balls and dumbbells started to be used in the early 20th century. When athletes from Eastern Europe started to compete internationally in 1948, they used a large variety of fitness exercises to overcome the technical advantage of the Western countries. Exercises from Olympic weightlifting surfaced in the early 1950s. Rubber cords were first used in 1954 in Romania to train muscle endurance for rowing, kayaking, and canoeing. Sport equipment companies realized that they could garner business by promoting varied training equipment. In the 1980s the market was invaded with training gadgets and equipment that are often not so effective. Every company claims that using their equipment will greatly improve athletic performance. Some of these training devices can be purchased online and are found in most sport-training facilities in North America. It is one thing to attempt to improve an athlete’s speed and strength using new equipment, but using such equipment on kids? Do children really need to use parachutes to improve speed or dumbbell chest presses on a stability ball to increase core strength? How about they instead master the push-up or chin-up or develop the strength needed to control the body? That is how core strength is built—not by performing a dumbbell press on a ball! Although there is a time and a place for stability balls, especially during the anatomical adaptation phase of training, this type of equipment is more useful for fitness than for preparing an athlete for competition—or, more importantly, for strengthening the body of a young athlete. The proponents of these new exercise myths, such as parachutes to improve speed or the overuse of the stability ball to improve core strength, do not realize that the ideas they promote are often based on ignorance or a gross misunderstanding of sport science. Looking at these individuals, we cannot help but wonder whether their enthusiasm for different pieces of equipment is a result of dishonesty or of ignorance. Are these individuals seeking self-promotion and profit, or do they simply lack a fundamental knowledge of biomechanics and exercise physiology? We do not entirely blame the producers of these gadgets. After all, they are merely trying to survive in a very competitive market. But college-educated individuals, training instructors who have taken courses in biomechanics and exercise physiology, are expected to have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. This is why we are taking a professional stance and unveiling the fallacies of some of these training ideas while recognizing the merits of others. We trust that we are not alone in this struggle to help coaches and instructors realize what works and what does not. Certainly, we are not too concerned for experienced coaches who can use their knowledge as a shield against many of these fallacies. But we are rather concerned for the thousands of novice personal trainers, junior coaches, parents, and university graduates who are more vulnerable to the promotion of new yet ineffective training equipment. Kids need to move their bodies and slowly adapt their training to work the primary movers in their sport. This means following a periodized training philosophy in which the body becomes the primary form of equipment, such as body-weight exercises, and later as the athlete physically matures, the use of external loads such as medicine balls and free weights should be added to the program. When the body is forced to run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier in natural body movements, the core muscles are worked extensively. You don’t need fancy equipment—just exercises and methodologies that target the prime movers. This leads to two principles of understanding: Principle 1: Don’t do what is new but rather what is applicable to your sport. Principle 2: Select only those training implements that clearly target the prime movers in your sport. Exercise Versus Adaptation For many training instructors and coaches, seminars are the preferred medium for being exposed to new ideas. In many instances the speakers promote new exercises, making it sound like the exercise per se will miraculously lead to substantial improvement. Not very often, however, do speakers cite anatomical and neuromuscular adaptation as the fundamental elements that improve athletic performance. We should remember that improvement in athletic performance will always depend on training methodology and applying superior physiological principles, not necessarily on the latest captivating exercises. Those who still are fascinated by elementary exercises and new training gadgets should keep in mind these laws of exercise selection. The selected exercises must target the prime movers (i.e., the muscles performing the technical skills). The way you target the prime movers in training is essential; the gadgets you use are not. Select only exercises and gadgets that address the muscles involved in the selected sport. Select exercises according to the phase of training. Because each training phase may have different objectives, such as strength versus speed, exercises have to address the physical quality you train. Select exercises and training methodology according to the energy system dominant in your sport or training phase. A good selection of exercises is certainly very important. However, don’t forget that an exercise is essential only as it helps you target the prime movers! To continually discuss how to perform a bench press or whether one should use a simple bench or a stability ball is a great waste of time. For sport training the support you use for a bench press, as an example, is immaterial. The essential goal is to perform the exercise with a continuous acceleration through the range of motion. At the beginning of a bench press, fast-twitch (FT) muscle fibers are recruited to defeat inertia and the load of the barbell. As you continue to press the barbell upward, you should attempt to generate the highest acceleration possible. Under these conditions the discharge rate of the same FT muscle fibers is increased. Maximum acceleration, therefore, must be achieved toward the end of the action to coincide with the end of the bench press, or the moment of releasing a ball or other implement used in sport. Anatomical and especially physiological adaptation are the essential adjustments of the human body in an athlete’s quest to improve athletic or fitness capabilities. The training method you select, not the exercise, is the essential ingredient in achieving such adaptation. Do you want to improve your athletes’ potential? Learn more about training science, training methods, and methodology. Through 128 exercises and 17 programs, Conditioning Young Athletes gives parents, teachers, and coaches the tools to improve the athletic performance of athletes ages six to 18. It’s now available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at www.HumanKinetics.com.
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