How Strength Enhances Your Sports Performance
Strength training continues to establish itself as an effective method for athletes engaged in a variety of sports. Through ongoing research, the sports science community and athletes alike agree that strength can be an essential tool for improving one’s performance. This article will aim to highlight how strength can improve your sports performance in four different ways. While the last paragraph will provide some extra insight into strength and sports performance.
- How Strength Can Improve Force Time Characteristics
- How Strength Can Enhance General Sport Skills
- How Strength Helps Prevent Injuries
- Transfer of Strength to Sport
- Finding The Right Strength for You
How Strength Can Improve Force Time Characteristics
Rate of force development (RFD) is how fast one can develop force when performing a certain movement (Suchomel et al., 2016). You can also think of RFD as “explosive strength.” RFD has commonly become one of the primary factors in predicting sports performance. The idea behind it is that sport requires rapid movements such as jumping and sprinting. Being able to generate more explosive strength faster than the competition can enhance your performance. With increased strength, you will be able to perform quicker and more powerful movements. Research shows that increases in muscular strength from resistance training can undoubtedly influence one’s RFD. Suchomel et al., 2016 reviewed several studies that show that strength through resistance training positively influences RFD characteristics of an individual.
How Strength Can Enhance General Sport Skills
Improved muscular strength can enhance Common skills such as jumping, throwing, sprinting and throwing. The body learns the skill of the lift or movement you are with strength training. This happens with many other skills you learn in life, such as learning to play the drums. Your brain learns and puts together the motor programs to perform those movements more effectively in the future. This is beneficial as this helps transition your training movements to sport movements. The ability to control movements such as sprinting and jumping can ultimately alter the outcome of your event. Take jumping. This is a physical skill common in sports, such as basketball, volleyball, and even football. Your muscular strength can determine if you can jump higher on an offensive board or catch the ball above a defensive back. Stronger individuals may have improved other factors, such as RFD, reflexes and jumping mechanics because of their strength training. A study showed 10 weeks of strength training positively improved an individual’s jump squat performance. (Suchomel et al., 2016)
Having the proper base of strength for your specific sport can be essential. As it can translate to being able to more effectively perform general movements such as sprinting and jumping. Which can then translate into your sport specific movements where you may use a combination of movements. For example, two different studies showcased how stronger athletes performed better in a sport specific setting. Stronger cyclists had faster 25-m track times than weaker cyclists, and stronger handball athletes had better throw velocities for standing and 3-step throws.
How Strength Helps Prevent Injuries
The community of sports science cannot state the importance of injury prevention enough. Accumulating an excellent base of muscular strength depending on your sport can help prevent injuries. As your body accommodates to new strength gains, this translates into important physiological changes. This can include an increase in bone density. The structural strength of your muscles, connective-tissue sheaths, tendons and ligaments as athletes expose them to a wide variety of external forces during sport. For example, studies show that athletes that followed a strength training program could halve overuse injuries and reduce sport related injuries to less than one-third (Suchomel et al., 2016). This is important because this means you can perform at your best more consistently.
Therefore, much of the research and experts agree that injury prevention and sports performance go together. Injuries can limit you from performing at your best and improving your strength with the right program can help.
Transfer of Strength to Sport
To further exemplify the importance of strength and performance. The figure by (Suchomel et al., 2016) showcases the relationship between one’s back squat strength and performance. This article will focus on the blue line, back squat head on x-axis and the strength association phase on the x-axis. As an individual’s back squat strength increases, the ‘strength association’ phase increases. Strength association is the idea that through strength training. An individual will see two physiological changes, an increase in cross-sectional area for muscles and neuromuscular adaptations. For example, the two adaptations can lead to increased tendon stiffness, which may positively affect the delay and rate of stretch-shortening cycle tasks, such as jumping. This means that these two adaptations achieved through strength training can translate to improved performance as you may be able to perform more sport specific movements such as change of direction more effectively.
Finding The Right Strength For You
Overall, this article highlights how strength can enhance your performance a variety of ways. Whether it’s reducing injury risk to allow you to perform your best on a more consistent basis. Or how research showcases you your level of strength can help predict how efficiently you move for your sport. It’s equally important to understand the sport you are taking part in.
There will be a variety of strength programs, research, and trainers you can use to improve your strength. It is equally important to understand your sport to understand what kind of strength you need. This is where sports specificity comes into play. Not all exercises, rep-ranges, sets, intensity levels may be right for your specific needs. A high-level football player will require a much different strength training approach than a triathlete. It will be important to understand the sport you are training for. For example, understanding the type of movements commonly used. Does your sport require you to jump a lot like volleyball? Finding the balance of muscular strength with other characteristics, such as flexibility and muscular power, can be useful for finding the type of strength training you may need!
Physiotherapy, Kinesiology, and Strength and Conditioning can all help direct you on the right path. Physiotherapy can help you by providing education on common injuries and areas to strengthen if you’ve experienced a recent injury. Kinesiology can help you get a better understanding of how you move and test the way you move. Finally, strength and conditioning can help put all these ideas together to create the right strength program based on your specific needs and goals!
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Suchomel, T. J., Nimphius, S., & Stone, M. H. (2016). The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance. Sports Medicine, 46(10), 1419–1449. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0