Take a proactive approach by paying attention to the little things. Carefully evaluate dynamic posture and injury history. Any significant postural defects must be addressed before moving deeper into a training program. Be sure to address individual differences. Do not hesitate to remediate. If the athlete cannot do an exercise find a simpler more remedial exercise to substitute. Recognize that the Gait Cycle is the basis of all movement. Select and design your exercises accordingly. This dictates that more work is done unilaterally and the leg work be done off one leg onto the other.
How much time is available for strength training? Can you integrate your strength training utilizing the “weight room without walls” concept? What facilities are available? What equipment is available? Do not make facilities or equipment a limiting factor in beginning a program. Simplicity yields complexity. A few exercises done consistently will yield terrific results. This is especially true when beginning a program.
Exercise selection criteria
- Multi-joint. Use as many joints as possible to produce force, conversely use as many joints as possible to reduce force.
- Close the chain to utilize gravity and ground reaction forces. Wherever possible exercises should be performed standing.
- Tri-plane motion. Movement occurs in all three planes, sagittal, frontal, and transverse. The key to performance is movement in the transverse plane, therefore it is important to include rotational movement wherever possible.
- Amplitude. Work over the greatest range of motion that is possible to control.
- Speed. Incorporate speed of movement that is safe and the athlete can control.
- Proprioceptive Demand. Challenge the joint and muscle receptors to provide feedback regarding joint and limb position and reposition accordingly. The proprioceptors assist the system to generate movement in a form that it is appropriate to the demands placed upon the system. This will ensure that the strength will transfer to performance.
Considering the above criteria machine training should play a minor role in a strength training program. There is the mistaken notion that it is best to begin a strength training program by using machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. The machines provide that stabilization. They give a false sense of security and stability that does not transfer to a free gravitationally enriched environment. Also for the younger smaller athlete the machines do not fit which increases the risk of injury. The machines that are acceptable are various rowing and pulley machines, but even those need only be a small part of the program.
Isolation exercises that put unusual stress on one joint should be avoided. They cause neural confusion because the muscle is asked to something different in strength training than it must do in movement. Consequently exercises like leg extension, leg curl, concentration curls and Pec deck flys have no place in a functional strength-training program.
A sound strength training program should include the following essential characteristics:
- The work must incorporate multiple joints in the exercises.
- The exercises must take place in a gravitationally enriched environment
- The exercises must prepare the athlete to optimize Ground Reaction Forces.
- Core strength and stability is the cornerstone of the program. All training is core training.