In the past, strength training was something that was mostly used by football players as a development tool. Today, parents and coaches in every sport recognize its benefit in developing more successful athletes.
The workout programs themselves come from a combination of different specialties - bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting and functional athletic training are the four most common. Depending on who is designing the workout program, the strength training you do comes from one or more of these areas.
With the understanding that no one workout program is perfect, there are many ways to properly develop an athlete's useful strength for their sport.
And, of course, there are ways that don't work very well either.
For coaches running their own strength programs, or parents working out with their kids, here are three of the biggest strength training mistakes you'll want to steer clear of.
Creating Imbalances With Muscle Groups
When we create a stronger side, or a more mobile side, we are one step closer to a major injury.
Athletes who play at a high level must be very careful to not strength train their way right into a muscle imbalance over time.
This means squatting without depth to build strong quads without also building the hamstrings and glutes.
Or putting far more effort into chest day without equal effort devoted to pulling exercises. Your shoulders will soon punish you for this mistake.
And on and on it goes. Build one muscle group without its counterbalance on the other side of a joint, and you've created a problem that didn't exist before.
All areas of the body must be trained equally for sports, with equal effort. Develop the entire machine.
The leg press was born 100% out of the bodybuilding world. And it has no place in an athlete's workout program.
This ties in to the previous tip, but it deserves its own category because it actually creates TWO major imbalances at once.
First, it overworks the quads at the expense of the muscles on the back side, increasing your risk for knee problems.
Second, it emphasizes extending your knees but not your hips, screwing up the complex interaction of extending both joints at once when running & jumping. So it is likely to make you play slower over time.
The expression 'looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane' should be posted on every leg press machine in every gym in the world where athletes work out.
One exercise that makes you slower and increases your risk for knee problems? Not an outcome I'd want for my kids.
Focusing On "Feeling The Burn"
Another misconception born out of the bodybuilding culture is the idea that you must feel where the exercise is working inside of you for it to be beneficial.
While it is true that there are lots of times in strength training you'll be able to tell exactly which muscles are putting in work by how it feels, there are many other hugely beneficial athletic exercises you won't likely be able to tell where its working.
For example, jumping and Olympic lifting exercises primarily are about strengthening the hip muscles. Yet it is unlikely you'll notice that while executing a lift.
Single leg strength exercises are crucial for athletes as they strengthen an endless number of stabilizer muscles, yet you won't feel that either.
Athletes train movements, not muscles. With that approach in mind, whether you feel an exercise working a certain area is far less important than how well the movement is executed.
The overall theme of these could probably be stated like this:
'Athletic development training should focus more on powerlifting, explosive lifting, and functional athletic movements and less on bodybuilding'