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Strength and Conditioning Philosophy
Courtesy: Dartmouth
          Release: 09/19/2006
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1.0 Strength and Conditioning Philosophy:

The main objectives of a solid strength and conditioning program are 1) to improve on field performance, and 2) to decrease the risk of injury. It is my responsibility to create a training atmosphere that will enable each athlete to perform to his best ability.

The design of strength and conditioning programs will follow researched backed and scientifically proven principles. These principles are:

A. Ground Based Movements

B. Three Dimensional Movements

C. Multiple Joint Movements

D. Explosive Movements

E. Overload Principle

F. Periodization

G. Specificity of Conditioning

The success of the strength and conditioning program will take a mutual commitment between the strength and conditioning coach and the athletes. There are no shortcuts when it comes to building a championship football program. It will take a lot of hard work, effort, and discipline from every individual involved in the program.

1.1 Ground Based Movements:

These include movements performed with the athlete's feet on the ground. These movements are more beneficial than performing movements in which the athlete is lying or sitting on a machine. Most athletic tasks are executed with the athlete's feet on the ground, which requires him to apply force against the ground in order to move. The more force an athlete can create the faster he will run and the higher he will jump. Training with your feet on the ground requires the athlete to stabilize various body parts at the same time. Forcing the body to stabilize various structures at one time will help improve proprioception around joints and strengthen the integrity of the joints, which will reduce the risk of injury.

1.2 Three Dimensional Movements:

Athletic skills involve movement in three planes: 1) side to side, 2) forward and backward, and 3) up and down. In order for an athlete to be successful he has to be functionally strong in all three planes. The use of free weights is the only way to accomplish this objective. Free weights not only develop primary muscles but also the stabilization muscles that help the athlete maintain solid joint integrity. Squatting with free weights will strengthen the stabilization muscles of the ankles, knees, hips, and torso while machines stabilize the weight for you and require no proprioceptive benefit at all. Strengthening the stabilization muscles of the body will prevent injuries and improve on field performance by gaining better body control.

1.3 Multiple Joint Movements:

These are exercises that work more than one joint at a time. Athletes will gain the most benefit from these movements because they are required to move more than one joint at a time in their athletic skills. Research shows that more growth hormone and testosterone is released following multiple joint exercises which in turn promotes more lean body mass gain. The more lean body mass an athlete can gain the more force he will produce, and the more effective he is going to be on the field as a result.

1.4 Explosive Movements:

Movements in most sports, especially football, require the athlete to move quickly and explosively. There are different methods that will be incorporated into the strength and conditioning program. The use of Olympic movements, medicine balls, and plyometrics for explosive training will develop the fast twitch muscle fibers in the body. Fast twitch muscle fiber development will enable the athlete to create power. Power is important in athletics because it takes the time factor into account. An athlete may be strong but not pocess any power because he has been training using slow controlled movements. When an athlete has power he is able to create a lot of force in a very short period of time. It is power, not strength that is going to win football games.

The Olympic movements (clean, snatch, and jerk) are the best for developing strength and power at the same time. These movements teach the athlete how to activate a maximum number of muscle units very quickly in motor patterns that resemble movements during athletic events. By performing Olympic lifts the athlete learns to apply force in the proper sequence, from the center of the body to its extremities.

The athlete's body also becomes conditioned to accept force from another moving body. This is critical to a football player's success. In football an athlete is required to move an opponent of equal size and strength against his will, and the only way to do this is by being able to apply force rapidly and accelerate his body through the opponent.

1.5 Overload Principle:

To bring about positive changes in an athlete's body and performance an exercise overload must be applied. Training adaptation takes place only if the magnitude of the training load is above what is normally applied. The overload must be applied in a progressive fashion in order to obtain the desired result and to reduce the risk of injury.

1.6 Periodization:

Periodization refers to the variation of training that takes place throughout the year. The training year is typically broken down into four phases; pre-season, in-season, post-season, and off-season. Variation needs to take place in order for the body to continue to improve. When the same training routine is applied over the entire year improvement will occur early on, but then it will begin to level off and subsequently cease to take place. Periodization allows the athlete to continue to make gains through his entire career.

1.7 Specificity of Conditioning:

The type of conditioning an athlete will perform is dictated by the demands of the sport. To say that an offensive lineman will do the same conditioning as a hockey player is a great mistake. A successful conditioning program must take into account the type of energy being used by the athlete. The body has three energy systems; 1) ATP, 2) Lactic Acid, and 3) Oxygen. The ATP system lasts up to around 8 seconds and is used for short explosive bouts of work. The Lactic Acid system takes care of work lasting from 8 seconds up to 1.5 minutes. The Oxygen system is used for long duration activities of low intensity. Whatever sport the athlete is performing he needs to become efficient in the particular energy system used in his sport.

A method that works well during conditioning is interval training. Interval training is a period of work followed by a prescribed period of rest. The rest part of the equation can be active rest or inactive rest. The work to rest ratio is different for every sport. For example football is a 1: 6, hockey is a 1: 3, and basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey are a 1: 1.

The above principles will be used when prescribing training programs for all sports.

 

2.0 Elements of a Training Program:

2.1 Flexibility:

Flexibility is of vital importance to the success of an athlete's performance. There are three methods that will be used in our training.

1. Dynamic Movement

- athletic movement through a full range of motion

2. Static

3. Partner Assisted

The static and partner assisted stretching will be used at the end of a workout when the muscles are warm. Dynamic movement will be used as a part of the warm-up process.

2.2 Torso Training:

The torso is most often neglected by some strength coaches and is a critical area for an athlete's success. By developing a strong torso you greatly decrease the risk of injury. In addition the athlete will improve his body control and be more efficient in performing lifting exercises, which will allow him to perform better on the field. The one area of the torso that is often neglected is the transverse abdominal. Athletes often don't know how to set their transverse abdominal before executing a movement. It is critical to contract the transverse abdominal first before performing a movement. By contracting the transverse abdominal it allows for the unloading of the intervertebral discs of the spine, thus reducing injury. Our torso training incorporates transverse abdominal work on each training day.

Our torso training will be performed as a part of the daily warm-up in the weight room. There are five areas of the torso that will be addressed over the course of the training week:

- Flexion

- Extension

- Lateral Flexion

- Rotation

- Stabilization

The warm-up will also consist of foot quickness drills, dynamic flexibility, neck (only for certain sports), and plyometrics.

2.3 Acceleration:

Acceleration is the ability to reach maximum speed in the shortest amount of time. Acceleration in football is more important than top speed. For example, when a running back breaks a 70-yard run, he will have to make several changes of direction. By changing direction he will have to reaccelerate several times and probably never reach top speed. We will improve our acceleration by strengthening the lower body, developing explosive power (using Olympic Lifting techniques and plyometrics), and by training at the proper work to rest ratio.

2.4 Agility:

Agility is the ability to change direction without slowing down. In order to accomplish this the athlete must have tremendous eccentric strength, which is the ability to control your body weight while changing directions. Eccentric strength is crucial in athletics from an injury prevention standpoint since most injuries occur during deceleration.

We will use two types of agility training:

1. Programmed Agility

- using cone drills where the athlete knows in what direction he will be going

2. Reactive Agility

-These drills will require the athlete to respond to a visual stimulus in order to change direction

2.5 Speed:

There are two ways to improve speed 1) stride length, and 2) stride frequency. Stride length is the distance covered between each step, and stride frequency is the number of steps per second. As the athlete's lower body strength increases he will become faster by generating more force, which will enable him to cover more ground with each step. Working on running mechanics will improve the stride frequency of the athlete. Running mechanics will consist of using the PAL system. PAL stands for:

-Posture

-Arm Action

-Leg Action

Other methods that will be used are assistive, resistive, and free sprinting.

2.6 Posterior Chain Development:

The posterior chain consists of the hamstrings, glute area, and spinal erectors. This area is of vital importance for athletic performance, speed development, and injury prevention. During athletic events the posterior chain, especially the hamstring, play a critical role in sprinting. The hamstring is a muscle that crosses two joints. It acts to extend the hip and flex the knee. When an athlete sprints the primary function of the hamstring is to extend the hip, while flexing the knee is a secondary function. This muscle needs to be trained in the same way it performs during athletic events. Our program will consist of a minimum of four posterior chain movements per week with an emphasis on hip extension.

2.7 Single Leg Strength:

Athletes very seldom have both feet in contact with the ground at one time, so single leg strength becomes a key element for success. During a competition an athlete must be able to move in either direction with equal efficiency. When a training program does not add single leg strength exercises into the mix it is a disservice to the athletes. Our program will incorporate a minimum of one single leg exercise on each lower body training days.

2.8 Compensatory Acceleration:

This is a form of speed training where the athlete applies maximum force against the bar through a full range of motion. The exercises that we will use this type of training on are squat and bench so that we can increase explosive power. We will add heavy chains to the bar to give variable resistance and use low reps for multiple sets with short rest periods to simulate the game of football.

2.9 Position Specific Conditioning:

Football is a game in which the positions on the team have different needs. In order to expect our players to be successful on the field we need to condition them according to how they play. Position specific conditioning will take place during the off-season and pre-season programs. For example, defensive backs will be backpedaling, quarterbacks will do resistive and assistive drops, and offensive lineman will run block with resistance. There needs to be open lines of communication between the football coaches and the strength coach in order to get the athletes in the best playing shape.

2.10 In-Season Training:

Football is a very physically demanding sport and players need to be as strong at the end of the season as they are at the beginning. When players maintain or even get stronger during the season they will have a better chance of preventing injury and recover from the physical demands of the season. We will win games because of our physical advantage.

We will have two training programs during the season. One program will be for the two deep players and the other will be for a developmental group. The developmental group will be on a more rigorous program, which will allow our younger players to develop faster.

2.11 Injured Athletes:

Athletes must understand that when they have an injury it is an injured body part and not an injured body. With constant communication from the Sports Medicine Staff I will know exactly what an athlete can and cannot do in his training. This will allow me to design an alternative exercise program, with the approval of the Sports Medicine Staff, to train around the injury so that the athlete will be ready to play once he is cleared.

2.12 Nutrition and Supplementation:

Athletes need proper nutrition in order to recover from workouts and make beneficial gains. Our players need to be educated on making good nutritious choices. If an athlete is having difficulty with deciding what a good choice is, then a dietary analysis will be used. Athletes who are training hard need to get 4-6 meals a day in order to get the proper amount of calories, but for college athletes this is unrealistic. One way to ensure our athletes are getting enough calories is to provide them with supplementation. Through supplementation we can help the athletes get good nutrition which will help with the recovery process, and as a result improve performance.

3.0 Testing:

Testing allows us to evaluate each individual athlete and find out where the strength and weaknesses are for the athlete. Testing must be done before an individualized training program can be developed. The best performance indicators according to the research are the 10-yard dash, pro agility, and vertical jump. When these performance indicators improve, then on field performance will improve. Also when the athlete gains lean body mass the performance indicators will improve. Lean body mass is like putting a bigger engine in a car. If you take a 6-cylinder engine out of the Chevy and replace it with an 8-cylinder engine, the car will go faster because it is more efficient. The more lean body mass you have the more efficient you will perform on the field.

Performance Tests:

10 Yard Dash

Vertical Jump

Pro Agility

Strength Tests:

Hang Clean

Squat

Bench Press

Additional Testing:

Flexibility - Overhead Squat

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