Practicing preventive or corrective musculation in preperation of power-based sports.
Summer is almost here, and for some of us, the sun and warm weather mean BBQs with friends, patios, festivals, and even vacations. However, for many of us, the summer represents the return of our favourite sports and activities! Whether you prefer biking, rollerblading, or running, there’s no need to completely replace your gym sessions for your sports.
”But it’s so nice out and I prefer just playing my sport outside, especially since I no longer need to prepare for my season!”
An avid amateur athlete whose sport is more endurance-based, must inevitably view his training and muscle development in a different light than someone whose sport is more power-based. That is to say, a long-distance runner must have a different training approach than a football player. The latter uses his training to directly improve his performance on the field; it’s more specific and deliberate. For example, he might be looking to gain speed and strength in order to better absorb the impact of an opponent. Whereas the endurance athlete must improve his performance in a much more indirect manner. He must implement a more corrective style of training, one where the athlete must learn to control his body in all sorts of ways relevant to his sport. This will ensure the most efficient biomechanic possible so as to avoid overuse and consequent injury. If, for example, the athlete does not properly warm up his glutes, he will not maintain optimal alignment at the knee and will therefore likely develop shin splints when the time comes to perform. The proof is in the numbers; a study conducted by the Bristish Journal of Sports Medecine concluded that 56% of triathletes had overuse injuries (the prevalence of these injuries differ from area to area: 25% are knee injuries, 23% are lower leg, and 23% are lower back).
It’s obvious then why weight training is an imperative prevention and correction tool in the maintenance of musculo-skeletal balance, functional stability, and injury prevention. Performance thrives in the absence of injury. And if the athlete is not consistently tuning and correcting his movements through gym training, his muscles can become overworked and his risk of injury can increase.
Okay, so then what type of training program should I implement?
Any extra fat we carry will inevitably slow us down when it comes time to perform. Not only this, but an increase in muscle tissue necessitates an increase in oxygen to adequately fuel the body. It is therefore evident that our training program must differ substantially from that of a fitness enthusiast. A well-structured program fit for an endurance athlete would focus first and foremost on strength and power but would limit muscle mass gain (2 to 6 sets at 80% of your max weight is ideal).
Make no mistake, before implementing such a regimen, you must have a solid understanding of general fitness (strong core, effective body control, muscular endurance, etc.) Be sure to do basic movements like deadlifts and squats (which are generally safer exercises), and ensure that your movements and technique are correct and can be performed pain-free. These types of movements help activate and develop the posterior chain (the back of the thigh), which is very often underdeveloped compared to its front counterpart. They also enhance hip and core stability and therefore prevent poor posture which can cause fatigue during sports. It is also essential to do other leg-specific exercises, especially for runners and cyclists. Lunges, step-ups, single-leg Romanian deadlifts are just a few of the classics.
After mastering these basic exercises, start to hone in on specific areas and isolate key muscles!
Mastering the most demanding exercises will help in your most arduous performances. It is therefore imperative not to neglect certain small muscles that may have great importance (ie. muscles in your glutes or abs). Often noted for their asthetic appeal, the buttocks have an enormous postural function. First, they allow the hips to extend (running) and abduct. Second, they stabilize the hips, the knees, and, as an extension, the feet. So it only makes sense to work them according to their purpose!
Body-weight hip thrusters are a good exercise to activate these sleeping giants as they are often disactivated by a sedentary lifestyle. he other most important muscle is the transverse abdominal muscle which is incidentally the most neglected. Without going into too much detail, this hollow muscle links the top, bottom, front, and back of the body. If properly exercised, it can help immensely in preventing lower back pain, and other discomforts. Fairly important, don’t you agree?!
Learning how to activate this muscle is a good place to start. Try the following abdominal drawing-in maneover exercise (ADIM) to do so.
- Begin on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor
- Inhale as much air as possible while inflating the abdomen (this maximizes the contraction of your transverse abdomen)
- Suck your belly button in as close as you can to your spine. The closer it gets, the more power you’ll have in your contraction
- Hold this position for 15 seconds and gradually increase to 45 seconds
- Repeat 2-4 more sets
So, those were a few helpful guidelines to keep you performing and healthy on the roads, bike paths or pools this upcoming season! Don’t over-exert, and stay disciplined, but above all, enjoy the process and the health that comes with it!
Julien Couvrette – Personnal Trainer