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What We Can Learn From Strength Sports

A lot of coaches continually stress that athletes aren't lifters! It is true, most definitely, we aren't trying to turn footy players into Powerlifters. But atheltes still lift don't they?

Here's a few things I think we can take from the "Strength Sports" (I use that term loosely for bodybuilding)

Powerlifting – I may be biased but I believe Powerlifting has the most relevance for athletes when looking to increase athletic performance. The Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift should be staple exercises in nearly all athletic programs. Powerlifting is all about creating force in relatively easy to execute movement patterns. All athletes will benefit from being able to create more force, it’s the most trainable factor for increasing power output and will improve acceleration, jump height, sprint times, strength in contact and change of direction ability. No doubt things can get very technical at the top level however other athletes will benefit greatly from aspects of powerlifting that will help them train optimally for their physical development. Things such as trunk stability/rigidity, breathing mechanics, spine neutrality, foot/grip placement, bar path etc should all be addressed in order for athletes to perform Squats, Bench Presses and Deadlifts in a safe and optimal manner.

Weightlifting (Olympic Weightlifting) – Weightlifting cops a lot of flak from certain coaches about its application for other athletes. To totally disregard the benefits of Cleans and Snatches (and the million variations) is short sighted. Yes, they are the most technical lifts, yes, they take a while to master, but the benefits are just too great to dismiss oly lifting completely. It seems a lot of coaches disregard the oly lifts due to the fact they haven’t learnt them adequately themselves, and fair play, I wouldn’t want to teach something I wasn’t proficient in, but I digress. The biggest relevance the Olympic lifts have for athletes is explosive hip extension, a highly sort after athletic quality, in my eyes the holy grail of all movements.

Strongman – the application of strongman training for athletes is relevant due to the awkwardness of the implements used in strongman. This is especially the case for contact sports. It is true during sport that you’re very rarely in an optimal position and quite often still need to exert force and display power. Strongman trains athletes to find a way to develop force in awkward, somewhat compromised and constantly changing positions. Another aspect of strongman is that the athlete is generally always moving, running to stones, pushing a car, walking whilst carrying something. As a Rugby player, this appeals to me a lot as a great cross training method.

Crossfit – that’s right I said it. All the gripes aside athletes can take a huge amount from Crossfit, after all, at the top level these really are the best physical specimens on the planet. What I like about Crossfit is the variation of conditioning based workouts. Most athletes normal team training will have a conditioning effect, however using Crossfit style workouts (which encompasses pretty much anything) is a great variation from typical conditioning sessions. Whether Crossfit invented these exercises is another arguement, but their popularity has definitely escalated with the Crossfit era. Burpees, Box Jumps, Wall Balls, Double Unders, Thrusters etc can be used to great effect for conditioning purposes and break up the sometimes monotonous rotation of running, rower and bike that dominates most conditioning programs.

Bodybuilding - Sport? Pageant? Modelling Contest? Who cares, bigger muscles have the potential to create more force, and more force – more power – more power – better performance. During certain training blocks a hypertrophy focus may be very beneficial for athletes, particularly those who lack size, or even within a rehab setting.

Here's my favourites from each:

Powerlifting - All of it, these exercises lay the foundation

Olympic Lifting - Power Cleans, Snatch Pulls

Strongman - Sled pushes & Farmers Walks

Crossfit - Wall Balls & Burpees for conditioning

Bodybuilding - Big biceps, big Quads and filling out my Rugby jumper.

til next time,

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