Benefits of Strength Training

Benefits of Strength Training in Athletic Performance
Posted on 01/13/2021
Benefits of Strength Training in Athletic Performance

Ashleigh Hilligas, ATC
Mountain Vista High School


Strength training is an essential aspect of any well-rounded athletic development program. Strength and resistance training, especially when implemented at a young age can lay a solid foundation for an individual’s athletic career and can significantly reduce the risk of athletic injuries. “During the stages of long-term athlete development, resistance training is an important means for (i) stimulating athletic development, (ii) tolerating the demands of long-term training and competition, and (iii) inducing long-term health promoting effects that are robust over time and track into adulthood” (Granacher, et al, 2016). Strength training is an integral aspect of training education; teaching proper form, technique and discipline which will carry over into athletic performance. When training is conducted correctly, it tends to have a significantly positive effect on an athlete’s physical and mental health. An athlete who knows they have proper training and knows they can overcome physical challenges will have more confidence in their abilities. More confidence leads to increased athletic performance and a decrease in athletics-related injuries.

Certain groups are at a naturally higher risk of sport-related injury, including early specializers, physically inactive youth, and young girls. “Resistance training among these at-risk populations has been shown to reduce injury risk by up to 68% and improve sports performance and health measures” (Zwolski, Quatman-Yates, Paterno 2017). Resistance training programs, and programs that integrate free-play or non-sport specific exercises and activities develop a stronger foundation for an athlete to build their skills from. Early specialization, for example, can hinder an athlete’s long-term performance. Early specialization often requires an athlete to focus on a set number of skills or movements. While an athlete may excel at these skills, their overall strength and agility often are not as well developed. A well-rounded strength training program will focus on all aspects of strength, agility and flexibility, allowing for improved reaction and physical adjustment to all possible athletic situations.

Properly organized and executed strength training programs will address muscular imbalances within an athlete, significantly decreasing their likelihood of suffering an athletic injury. When an athlete does not participate in strength training, they will naturally get stronger through sport participation, but only in certain muscle groups, and only in a particular motion. Our muscles are made to function at different angles and directions of motion. For example, if a volleyball player only focuses on jumping straight up to block they are increasing their power going upwards, but they are not addressing lateral forces or the eccentric load that landing places on their muscles. During a game blockers will often still be moving laterally while they are in the air, causing increased stress to be placed on one side or the other when they land. If they do not have proper strength and stability in their lateral ankle and knee, that landing can cause undue stress and may lead to either chronic injury from repeated lateral landings or acute injury from a single, significant landing.

In the case of jumping, the quadriceps are used to straighten the knee and the hamstrings are used to straighten the hips; this is referred to as concentric motion. Eccentric stress is the stress placed on the muscles to slow down a motion. When landing, the quadriceps slowly allow the knee to bend and the hamstrings slowly allow the hips to flex; these are eccentric contractions. The majority of muscle strains in athletics occurs in the eccentric contraction of muscles. Through a well developed strength and resistance program, an athlete is able to increase muscle strength through the eccentric muscle contraction and therefore decrease the likelihood of experiencing muscle strains during athletic performance.

Strength training
With the significant interest in youth sports and growing life-long sport participation, athletes have exposure to active lifestyles starting at a very young age. By capitalizing on the opportunity to get them engaged in a well-organized strength and resistance program with a fitness professional, we can provide our youth a solid foundation for their future athletic career and the rest of their active lives. Fitness is not limited to those participating in sports, it is available to everyone for the entirety of their lives; let us give our youth the support they need to live active, healthy lives.


References:
  • Granacher, U., Lesinski, M., Büsch, D., Muehlbauer, T., Prieske, O., Puta, C., Gollhofer, A., & Behm, D. G. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training in Youth Athletes on Muscular Fitness and Athletic Performance: A Conceptual Model for Long-Term Athlete Development. Frontiers in physiology, 7, 164. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00164
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