- "How should an athlete train for strength and power?"
- "What's a better warm-up?"
- "Ask the Experts!"
- "A little help for health"


Q: As an athlete, I often hear about exercises that sound so complex, such as squatting while standing on a wobble-board. Is this stuff really going to be any better than heavy squatting? It's starting to get very frustrating with a new training method being touted every week...So what's the best way for an athlete (a rugby player in my case) to get stronger and more explosive?

A: Sorry to hear that you are frustrated but you should understand that training isn't black or white. There are a lot of gray areas and therefore you will get a lot of opinions on the best way to train. So it's not unlike anything else in life...after all, you won't get the same opinion twice when it comes to buying a new car, right? However, your frustration is very understandable, considering there is no research on these new training methods.

Athletes need to be explosive and powerful, and every good coach should know that Power = Force x Velocity. Therefore, one should train an athlete to improve strength (Force) and speed (Velocity) if they seek to improve power. Fortunately, it's that simple. Exercises that have been shown in numerous research studies to produce increases in strength, speed, and power are the squat, bench press, jump training, and Olympic lifts (cleans, etc.).

In contrast, there are few, if any research papers documenting an increase in strength, power, or performance from a program of wobble board squats (or the like). So stick with basic exercises and brute force until it is otherwise proven that these novel exercises can live up to their claims. Hopefully someday, someone will be able to put a little substance behind these techniques, but until then...Put it this way, if an athlete that trained to deep-squat 400 lbs ran head on into an athlete that wobble-board squats 135 lbs, who would you put your money on?

Rugby players, and many team sport athletes, also need to be fast, agile, injury resistant, and powerful. Unfortunately, from that description it sounds like you'd need to be training 8 hours a day, 6 days per week. Fortunately that is not true, and the athlete may only need to be in the gym lifting 2-3 times per week in order to make great gains.

Some strength coaches recommend that athletes perform some type of Olympic lift at least 3 times per week. While this is not mandatory for success, it does fit in well with the goal of training in the weight room 3 days out of a 7-day training cycle in addition to helping meet the goal of increased explosiveness and power.

Another key area for most athletes is leg strength. Unfortunately, leg extensions and leg curls get more attention than the classic and more effective exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Even when the squat and deadlift are performed, the exercises are not manipulated to provide their full potential. Traditional squat and deadlift exercises strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes (see ISSUE #75). While these benefits are obviously very important to any athlete that wants to be faster and more powerful, there are still 2 key areas being neglected, namely the groin and the hip flexors.

The hip flexors are muscles that bring the knee to the chest during sprinting. It's also the muscle group that many guys feel pain in after a day of touch football or their first day in the outfield after a winter without sprint training. Why the pain? Hip flexors are a tough muscle group to work in the gym with regular resistance exercises. The traditional full sit-up will stress the hip flexors, along with many sprinting drills (i.e. "high knees", "skipping", and "Frankenstein walks"). Lunges may also stress the hip flexors slightly. Unless you do any of these exercises, expect to be sore and stiff in that area after any repetitive sprinting.

For groin-specific training, have a look at ISSUE#74. Many athlete training and preparation programs do not address the groin in strength training or speed-agility drills. Thus, lateral movement and groin strength development will suffer. One easy method to incorporate the groin in your strength training is to simply spread your stance beyond hip width while squatting or deadlifting.


Here are 2 workouts that fit the bill for "athlete development". You could perform both workouts in a week, or follow Workout A twice a week for 4 weeks before switching to Workout B. Note that each workout contains an Olympic lift, a squat or deadlift, a press, and an abdominal-hip flexor exercise. Now you can do all the squatting on a Swiss ball that you like, but it is unlikely to build the strength, explosiveness, or "Core strength" that the following workouts can.

Clean Power Clean
Close-grip Bench  Wide-stance Squat
Sumo Deadlift  Push Press
Barbell Rollout Hanging Leg Raise

As the season gets closer, an athlete could be lifting Monday and Thursday and performing speed-agility Tuesday, and Friday (or Saturday). If any additional Olympic lifting, conditioning or sport-specific training is required, it could be performed on the Wednesday or Saturday.


Q: Before I lift, I always ride the bike for 10 minutes and then do 1-2 warm-up sets. The thing is, I don't really feel like it is preparing me for my heavy lifts, especially when I bench press. However, my trainers and coaches have always said that I have to increase my core temperature before I lift. Is this the best way to warm-up?

A: It's not core temperature that you need to increase, it's muscle temperature, specifically the muscles you are going to use. An increase in your core temperature (as measured by a rectal thermometer) is not going to prepare you for heavy bench presses, or even heavy squats. The following resistance circuit has been prepared as a warm-up that will help specifically prepare you for the task at hand. So blow off that 5-10 stationary cycle and grab an empty 45 lbs bar for the following warm-up. Then add your specific warm-up sets for your muscle that will already be primed...


Warm-up: Each exercise is performed for 10 reps with the bar. Do 1-3 circuits.

* Wide-stance Squat

* Deadlift

* Push Press

* Good Morning

* 10 Push-ups

* Romanian Deadlift

* Row

* Clean Pull (Explosive wide-grip upright row)



Let's finish off with some quotes from various experts on miscellaneous topics:

Q: "I was reading about ART in ISSUE # 67 and I was wondering who would benefit from ART? Does it hurt?"

 Answer from Mike Zappetelli, ART practitioner:
You can use ART on pretty much anyone with a soft-tissue injury, acute or chronic. Of course, in either situation, you will not want to approach to close to the tissue limitations, especially in the acute situation. Tissue tolerance is another important aspect of treatment to be conscious of because some clients can tolerate more pain while others can not. Treatment can be very uncomfortable in situations, so discretion should be used on every procedure. An experienced provider will know the limitations better for individual treatments.

Q: "I am interested in training for a triathlon over the winter. How many miles do I need to run to prepare for a long-distance triathlon? 50?"

Answer from Sheldon Persad of Personal Best (www.personalbest.ca):
Even the elite marathoners and Ironman triathletes that I train don't run in excess of 50-60 miles/week and they usually average no more than around 30 miles.

Q: "I don't like to do the squat exercise. Besides, I'm already really strong in the leg press. How do the two exercises compare?"

Answer from Dr. Mel Siff, moderator of Supertraining (a Yahoo newsgroup):
A leg press with 700 lbs could conservatively be estimated to be equivalent to a squat of less than 250lbs.



Q: "Does weight training have any benefits aside from just helping me gain muscle?"

A: The American Heart Association has issued this statement endorsing resistance exercise:

"Mild to moderate resistance training can provide an effective method for improving muscular strength and endurance, preventing and managing a variety of chronic medical conditions, modifying coronary risk factors, and enhancing psychological well being."

Therefore, it is safe to say that weight training provides preventive health benefits, as well as everyday functional benefits and increases in muscle mass.


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