In my last 2 posts we covered the Fundamentals of Nutrition and the Fundamentals of Weight Training. Today I will be covering the Fundamentals of Training for Sports, I wanted to include this on my site because I feel it is a large part of fitness, especially for those who play sports and are looking to improve. A good part of training for sports does include weight training, however there are other avenues that need to be used in my opinion to maximize the effectiveness of your training. Let’s explore what these different avenues are:
- Power – needed to be explosive for a variety of situations
- Speed – needed to move fast to achieve different plays
- Agility – needed to move quickly in all directions to allow for adjustments during different situations
Power, speed and agility all have their place in sports, there is power in a hockey stride or jumping in basketball, there is speed required for running the bases in baseball and sprints on a track, there is agility for running routes in football or for controlling the ball while running/sprinting in soccer. As you can see these 3 athletic attributes are apparent through almost every sport, and no single one of them can be accomplished optimally without the other. Let’s look at these different athletic attributes more closely below and find out how they all relate to each other and how to train for them most affectively.
Power is where the base of all athleticism occurs in my opinion, you need it to move explosively off the start and throughout sprints for speed, be ready to shift in different directions for agility, and even your strength wouldn’t be used to it’s fullest without being able to use it explosively.
So we know the importance of power, but how exactly do we train for it to increase our power and explosiveness? There are a couple different approaches, though they are executed in similar ways. These include bodyweight training and using weights for training. These 2 different methods ultimately give variety when your training for power which will help to strengthen your power as a whole. The goal of training for power is to move whatever weight your using (bodyweight or added weight) at the fastest speed you can while maintaining proper form. This training will help your body to move as explosively as possible during game situations when you might not have a bunch of extra weight your trying to move or aren’t focusing specifically on moving your bodyweight as fast as possible. In addition, having a good stretch on the muscle at the bottom part of a movement helps with moving fast and explosively, this because it releases the tension like an elastic band when you are trying explode out. Here are a few techniques I like to use when I am training for power that encompass some of these important factors for this type of training:
- Plyometrics – These refer to moving at maximum speed and maintaining proper form while leaving or letting go of whatever weight your moving (e.g. feet leaving the ground in a box jump, or med-ball leaving your hands in a med-ball throw), this is a way to allow your body to apply more force and explosiveness because it knows it has to “launch” what your trying to move
- Weighted Descent & Bodyweight Ascent – This is when you use weight on the decent of a movement then release the weight at the bottom and you then explode up on the ascent part of the lift (e.g. using kettlebells when you load up for a box jump, drop them and then perform the box jump with just your bodyweight), I find these to be extremely helpful with generating power because your body is controlling a weight when all of a sudden it drops and you explode up with just your bodyweight, I also find these to be extremely good at working on quick explosiveness.
- Powerful Flow Movements – These are movements in which allow you to “absorb” a weight with several muscles working together in your body, I find these allow me to then push the weight back with great force and explosiveness because of the tension created when the weight is absorbed with several muscles that are working together at once
Speed is very important for a wide variety of sports, therefore incorporating this into your training is huge. Speed has carry over to all 3 athletic attributes in the sense of in order to train for power you need to train with speed, and to train for agility you need to be able to move with speed in all directions.
Now we need to talk about how we actually train for speed, well for one you need to be incorporating power training as that will allow you to explosively start whatever type of sprint you are doing whether its on a track or on the ice. Of course you need to be doing direct speed training as well. I like to use different training varieties for speed, this could be a straight up 50 metre sprint, 3 squat jumps then into a sprint, or get up off the ground and into a sprint. These all focus on different things (specially on the start, starting with power then going into the sprint, and having to get yourself into position before starting). I always train with variety, I find it to be the best because your are working on and strengthening different aspects of a specific exercise or movement. These will come together to strengthen a specific exercise or movement as a whole. Here is an example of a speed training session I have used, the ideas originally came from the_speed_doctor on Instagram who I was told about by my friend, here it is:
- 5×30 metre sprints
- 5×30 metre sprints with 3 squat jumps at the start
- 5×30 metre sprints with 3 jumping lunges at the start
- 5×20 metre sprints from seated position
- 5×30 metre sprints
As you can see I used shorter distances as I was training for hockey and I wouldn’t be going full out very often for more then 30 metres at a time without stopping, slowing down or turning. Now I am not saying I couldn’t have added longer sprint distances, that probably would’ve been a good idea to add some variety. There is always room for improvement. If you want to use something like this, you can tailer the distances and use different starting positions to gear it towards what you are training for as well as to add more relevancy and variety.
Agility is a very important and often over looked part of sports and training for sports, especially for ones that require heavy footwork and quick changing of direction, such as, hockey, football, soccer, etc. As I said before all 3 of these athletic attributes are tightly correlated, as for agility goes it can be great for coordination for power training (especially with plyometrics when your not always in contact with the ground or weight your moving). For speed, it can be great for quick starts and coordination as well as opening the door for different varieties of speed training such as changing direction with quick stops and starts. A great tool that I have used a ton for agility was an agility latter, it is extremely helpful for foot speed and coordination (the 2 main pillars of agility). Here is an example workout which has all the exercises being ones I’ve used myself!
Please refer to this video to see how to perform each of the movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICTuTZCJyM. I have included time stamps beside each of the numbers so you know where the exercises appear during this video. I would suggest performing 3-5 rounds of this (3 if starting out and progressing to 5 as you advance). I usually take 1-2 minutes of rest between rounds to ensure you are recovered so you can perform optimally during all rounds.
- (0:30) – Forward Sprint – Good warmup to prepare for the harder movements to come
- (3:35) – Slalom Jumps – Good for 2 foot coordination, as well as stability, also working on side to side movement
- (1:48) – Lateral Scissor Hops – Good for single leg coordination and quick movements
- (0:49) Icky Shuffle – Good for quick foot speed and control, as well as shifting directions with speed
- (0:37) – Lateral High Knees – Good for side to side movement, as well as quick individual foot coordination
- (1:15) – Lateral In & Out – Good for very quick foot movement and coordination, good way to finish of the group of exercises in a quick and coordinated way
I like to start of my agility workouts with an easy drill to get my legs going as well as get my foot speed and coordination warmed up, in this case it was the forward sprint. I then like to include a simultaneous 2 foot movement drill to work on stability and start getting into the side to side movements. I included the lateral scissor hops and icky shuffle for numbers 3 and 4 to start working on quick single foot coordination as well as foot speed. I included the lateral high knees for the same reasons as numbers 3 and 4 but to work on them in a different direction, lateral in this case. I used the lateral in and out for number 6 because I always like to finish the round of on a very quick foot speed and a high need for coordination movement, this also allowed for a third lateral movement. It is very important to be training in different directions. This because in an actual game you will almost never be moving in only one direction, I will be including more detail on this in my future articles.
Please ensure you learn how to perform all movements/exercises (in my article or not) safely, this will help to reduce the risk of injury.
I hope this article was able to give you a good fundamental understanding of how to train for sports! I wish you luck on applying this information to your own training and hope that it helps you improve! As always, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to post them below and I will be sure to respond!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.