To celebrate a year to go until Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we are working with a number of English Institute of Sport coaches – covering everything from sports psychology and sports nutrition, to strength and conditioning. We spoke to Duncan French, Technical Lead of Strength and Conditioning Coaching at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) about how strength and conditioning could help you achieve your fitness goals.
Firstly, let’s clarify what exactly strength and conditioning is, and what it isn’t. It’s the practice of improving the quality of movement and physical output (strength, power, speed, endurance) via systemic training programs, to increase performance and decrease injury risk. It is not about packing on lots of muscle mass at the expense of moving properly! But what does that actually mean?
Put simply, it means that if you want to improve your performance i.e reach a goal or reduce your likelihood of getting injured, then chances are that you will need to improve your ability to move through ranges of movement whilst producing and dealing with various forces. For example, if you’re trying to run a half marathon then you’re probably going to take about 16,000 steps, each one between 1.5 - 3 times your body weight, depending on how fast you are running (Grabowski & Kram 2008) and that’s not including training! So improving your strength to weight ratio and that capacity of various muscles is probably going to be important in conserving energy and reducing your injury risk (Stkren et al, 2008).
Strength and conditioning can play an important role in achieving specific goals, by building training programs and coaching specific exercises that help improve your movement function under various loads. Those loads could be kilos on a barbell, but they could also be how fast you move when you complete them, or a challenging exercise that stresses your co-ordination (Verkhoshansky, 2011). A strength and conditioning professional will build you a program and select exercises that are based on the specific adaptations required for you to achieve your goal. The focus of these programs is known as progressive overload. That is, over time your program will evolve to ensure your body is challenged in specific ways, to help create the physiological change required to achieve your goals (Verkhoshansky & Siff, 2009).
Strength and conditioning has the potential to have a real positive impact on your training program, not just by improving your training practice but by assessing whether you are on track. An essential practice in strength and conditioning is testing and monitoring change. This occurs to make sure that your training program is having the impact you wanted it to, but also ensures that you know when you have achieved your goals and helps set new ones. This process of testing and monitoring is crucial in making sure that your training program is progressive, effective, and appropriate.
So if you are trying to achieve a physical goal then consider how the practice of systemic training might improve your movement, capacity, performance, and ultimately help you achieve your goals!
Grabowski, A. M., Kram, R., (2008) Effects of Velocity and Weight Support on Ground Reaction Forces and Metabolic Power During Running. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 24, 288-297
Stkren, K., Helgerud, J., Stka, E M., Hoff, J. (2008). Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. 40:6, 1089-1094
Verkhoshansky, Y., Siff, M., (2009). Supertraining. (6th ed). Verkhoshansky SSTM.
Verkhoshansky, Y., Verkhoshansky, N. (2011) Special Strength Training: Manual for Coaches. Verkhoshansky SSTM