Ten Commandments of Conditioning
by Jonathan Conneely
I. Thou Shall Always Warm-Up:
Yes that 7 yr old girl at the playground performing jumping jacks and high knees prior to hitting the monkey bars is my daughter. Do you think Martin Rooney’s daughter doesn’t warm up prior to knocking out a set of pull-up’s? Sure she does! Every great workout begins with a great warm-up!
When training athletes, it is important to prepare them prior to the training session. It seems as if so many know the benefits of warming up but so many over look it as an important piece of their program. There are many great benefits to warming up, with the most important being to increase muscle elasticity so that the chance of injury is reduced. If an athlete is injured, they can’t perform and if nothing else this should be why you warm up. A few other reasons that we warm-up is to raise the core body temp, to excite the CNS, to increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nervous system, and to increase the rate of cellular metabolism. Warming up will also help prepare the athlete mentally for the training session.
First, we like to get the muscles warm by using a general exercise like jumping jacks, a light jog, etc.. Then we like to increase range of motion by using a stretch which usually is a dynamic flexibility along with some mobility work. We then prepare them for the session by using movement prep/coordination drills and sport specific movements.
There are many great ways to get the body ready for a conditioning session. How you do it is not as important as making sure that you do it!
II. Thou Shall Know Who You’re Training:
Have you ever seen a basketball team using a 3 mile run for conditioning, or a soccer coach jogging 5 miles with the team as conditioning twice a week, or a football player on the elliptical? What the hell are we doing!! What a waste of time… and the athlete thinks they are getting better. There are always exceptions and there is a time and a place for everything and I realize that. But let’s make sure that our priority is getting the athlete ready for their sport.
Training the proper energy system is vital when conditioning an athlete. This will not be an Exercise Phys lesson because that is not what this article is about. If that’s what your looking for post a question to “The Thinker” because he is the man when it comes to the science behind it, or pick up super training here at Elite.
Back to the point: Always remember the intensity and duration at which you train should closely match that of the sport. The adaptations that occur with training are specific to the training performed. This is why initially we conduct a needs analysis of the sport. We look at what are the attributes of the movements that make up the sport (e.g. strength, power, speed, endurance, etc) and what are the muscles involved in these movements. For example, if the sport involves multiple short duration sprints, then to benefit performance we must train lower body power and perform short duration sprints as well. Depending on where you are in your training cycle (e.g. in-season, off-season, etc), you should condition specific to your sport. For example, our basketball players will condition mostly through a variety of running and jumping drills with lateral and multi-directional movements involved. Once again there are always exceptions but for the most part, you will want to train close to the conditions of your sport. Perform a needs analysis of your sport, and run with it!
III. Thou Shall Monitor Volume and Intensity:
This goes hand in hand with Commandment II. Ask yourself, what are my goals of the conditioning session? What am I looking to accomplish? What season are we in? The answers to these questions will determine the intensity and volume that you will use for that conditioning session.
Your goal is to not just get your athletes fit, but to have them in the best condition possible for their sport. Everyone has heard of the principle of overload which states that we must vary the training, specificity, frequency, duration, intensity, and load to progressively overload and see gains. We do this through carefully periodizing the training to accomplish our goals while ensuring not to over train the athlete.
Pay attention to your volume and intensity to maximize your conditioning sessions!
IV. Thou Must Set Goals:
Goal setting is vital! Give the athlete a mental visual of where they need to be and what the time frame is to get there, and then work towards it. Make sure your goals are realistic ones. If it’s the first week of preseason don’t set times to be accomplished that are for week 6 of preseason. Know where your athletes are currently and where they need to be. In each conditioning session take steps to get closer to the ultimate goal. We always strive to be the best in all we do. So I like to find out what the times are that the best teams in the nation are doing the drills in. That will be the standard, our ultimate goal. It may take us all of preseason to accomplish those times but that’s our goal and everyone knows it. Remember short term goals will lead you to your long term goal. You must know where you’re going to be able to get there!
V. Thou Must Realize That More Is Not Always Better:
How many times have you seen a coach just drill his players into the ground by just pushing them to the limit every practice. Now don’t get me wrong sometimes things just need to be done! This Commandment goes hand in hand with Commandment III. More Is Not Always Better! Know why you do what you do.
Recovery in sports has a purpose. We utilize the sports work to rest ratio which I feel is extremely important in conditioning if you want to get the most out of your athletes. Like I previously mentioned, the proper metabolic system must be targeted to improve athletic performance by identify which energy system is mostly used in your sport. Then you must consider what range of intensity best suits your activity. Let’s not forget to decide the length of the activity and the recovery periods. If you apply these basic principles you are on the way to producing a sound conditioning program.
Always ask yourself, how much is needed to get the job done? Just Practicing won’t make perfect…. Practicing the right way makes perfect. Perfect your conditioning sessions by realizing that More Is Not Always Better!
VI. Thou Shall Increase Work Capacity:
Everyone loves to watch that team that just out works their opponent. That guy that gets to every loose ball first, hits the glass hard for every rebound, or that lineman that gets after that QB every possession. Like I mentioned earlier through a systematic use of progressive overload, an athlete can build upon their work capacity, and conditioning level. You must constantly be progressively placing greater-than-normal demands on the athlete to increase their work capacity. This is a must for true gains to take place. Without this overload, there is no adaptation by the body which will limit the increasing of work capacity. Give that athlete an edge; make them work so they can perform to the best of their ability by out working the opposition!
VII. Thou Must Develop Mental Toughness:
I have NO tolerance for the mentally weak! Make sure that in your conditioning sessions you are pushing the athlete physically to make them stronger mentally. If it is established now then it won’t be an issue in the fourth quarter or up at the plate with a 3-2 count! An athlete that has all the talent in the world but is held back because they are soft mentally is a wasted talent. An athlete is not born mentally tough. Mental toughness is taught and developed!
VIII. Thou Shall Present a Challenge:
Athletics are about competing. It is our job to create that competitive environment. If they do not compete in a training session how will they compete during competition? Conditioning sessions should always be challenging! You are developing athletes and their job is to compete! This does not mean it can’t be fun. If you have athletes that want to be great, every time a challenge is presented it should get even more fun. Everything we do inside and outside of the weight room is competitive. Some athletes come to you already competitive and some need to be taught it. Gain that edge by producing competitors!
IX. Thou Must Think Outside the Box:
You think conditioning… you automatically think running. You don’t always have to run to condition.
Be creative! Make it fun, think outside the box. Use all the different modalities available to you. Strongman events can be a great tool for conditioning. There are an endless number of drills that can be used for conditioning. Start to think outside the box and get your guys conditioned!
X. Thou Shall Use the High/Low Approach:
Don’t fry there CNS!