I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes applying to the sports training process. It comes from Thomas Kurz and his book the Science of Sports Training.
“Training is efficient if the highest sports result is achieved with the least expense of time and energy.”
I think this is one of the most important concepts that any coach, strength and conditioning, or sports coach, can adhere to. How many times do we see a coach do something only because that’s how they did it when they played, or that’s how it’s always been done? I actually think this philosophy is one of the more ridiculous things going on in sport. If there is no purpose for something being included in a training session or practice, then why waste an adaptation athlete’s energy doing it.
Early in my career I was actually told by coaches to run athletes during practices to keep them busy. It was a “make up a run for them so we can buy some more time.” This type of attitude and misunderstanding of the sports training process is part of the problem in athletics today.
When programming an athlete’s training everything in the plan should have reason and a purpose with the end result being an increase in their sport. The sports training process isn’t about random exercises throughout a week with little thought as to the endpoint. Saving the body’s energy reserves by eliminating excess training becomes paramount for the adaptation process to occur. Athletes will adapt to the stimulus provided. Provide them with a bunch of randomly placed exercises and energy system work and you will get haphazard adaptation and large amounts of fatigue.
Charlie Francis, famed Canadian sprint coach, loved the olympic lifts due to the high amount of motor unit activation. Instead of spending an hour or more in the weight room after a sprint training session with exercise after exercise, Charlie felt they could hit the majority of the motor units within the body with a few olympic movements and get out quick. This way the majority of their time was devoted to adapting to their speed sessions, with the weight room serving as an accessory to the ultimate goal of being faster. He didn’t want to impede results by fatiguing athletes even more in the weight room. Often times, they might only perform one or two exercises depending on how their track session went. But in the end he believed in utilizing the least amount of volume that could produce the stimulus he was after.
Hypothetically, if an athlete can achieve the same goal necessary with a 50% reduced workload then it is a far more efficient route to take. Not doing so takes much more energy. We don’t want this when that energy could’ve been used for the adaptation process. Gone should be the days of running 10 repeat – 300 yard shuttles, or timed 2 miles, because that’s what “we did 15 years ago for conditioning,” and you haven’t thought of anything better.
Athletes actually repair and adapt to a training stimulus away from the arena. When too much stress is created without enough time for recovery the body cannot compensate and becomes further depressed. Over time an athlete becomes overtrained and proper adaptation cannot take place, as well as delays in future adaptation. Recovery and restoration can be just as important as the training means themselves. Too often athletes and coaches forget this important fact. The “more is better” attitude. More isn’t always better, and in fact in sports performance training I would generally say less is better. I would rather undertrain an athlete than overtrain one. Quality matters first and foremost. Lose quality and you begin to go down a dark road of possible injury, lackluster transfer, etc.
Many times coaches, and athletes inability to properly ration training means, sports training, rest, recovery, and nutrition is where breakdowns occur. Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing is paramount. I’ve been ridiculed before for my approach to training athletes. I don’t frequently use a high volume because I believe the weight room acts only as a supplement to their sport. The energy one spends in the weight room takes away from the actual sport itself. Obviously if you’re an olympic lifter, or powerlifter then you’re exempt here.
Account for everything when programming an athlete’s training. Make sure that it will lead you in the direction you want to go in the most efficient manner with the least amount of time, and energy expenditure. Know the why’s, what’s, and how’s to creating an athlete’s training and it will give you a great chance to succeed.