Athletic performance training is all about speed, power, and strength, which in turn are based on the development of superb neuromuscular control. Great neuromuscular control (the training of your nervous system to perform a task) is what defines the world’s best athletes – not strength or muscle size. There are some similarities (as well as some huge differences) in the objectives of rehabilitative exercise and athletic or performance training. In both, the development of neuromuscular control remains critical.
Athletic or Performance training has greater risks than rehabilitation training. Athletic training often involves riding the fence between overloading the body (to increase strength and power) and reaching the point of tissue failure (injury). With Performance training, there is always a greater chance of injury.
Athletic or Performance training differs from rehabilitative training in its:
- Increased risk of injury.
- Need to work through muscle pain.
- Need to increase resistance to the point of overloading the muscles.
- Requiring speed training.
- Development of the anaerobic system.
Principle 1: Athletic Development is Not the Same as Body-Building!
Exercise programs that focus only on increasing muscle size serve to meet body-building objectives of increasing size and definition and have very little to do with improved athletic performance or improved body function.
Athletic Performance training typically focuses upon developing your speed, power, and strength. To achieve this goal, you must establish good muscle endurance, good motor control, and superb neuromuscular responses. This is very different from body-building which focuses primarily on increasing the size and bulk of your muscles.
Exercise programs that focus only on increasing muscle size by isolating specific muscles (weight training with machines) often result in muscular imbalances, soft tissue injuries, and an overall decrease in performance. This is one of the reasons we do not recommend the use of exercise machines (other than cable machines) in any of our routines.
Look for athletic training programs that integrate elements of strength, endurance, speed, and power. These are the ones that will be most helpful in increasing your performance.
Principle2:GoodTissueQuality = Good Performance
In sports performance, the quality of your soft tissue is a key element that cannot be ignored. When you improve the quality of your tissue (no restrictions, adhesions, or tightness) then you will reap the rewards of faster recovery, increased speed, improved range of motion, more strength, reduced injuries, and improved performance.
Your muscles are like rubber bands. When there are no knots (restrictions) in them you can easily store and release your energy. This directly translates into improved performance. This is why soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Techniques have helped take Olympic athletes to gold medal status. These types of techniques improve the overall quality of your soft tissues.
Bottom line: When you ignore the quality and state of your soft tissues, then you are taking the path of diminished performance! So, if you have restrictions and tight spots that are not resolved by exercising, then take the time to work these restrictions out by using our myofascial techniques (foam rollers, tennis balls, self-massage) or see a skilled soft tissue practitioner for help in restoring your soft tissue quality.
Principle3:Some Muscle Pain is Okay
With performance training, it is often necessary to work through your muscle pain.
I am often asked the question, “How do I know the difference between acceptable muscle pain and injury pain?”
Muscle pain from exercising will usually diminish with time, but pain from an injury will not. I tell my patients that they should never work an area if they feel constant pain even when they are not exercising.
Pain from an injury is usually quite distinctive with sharp, stabbing sensations – or much more intense than normal muscle pain. It is also common to have injury- related pain increase with physical activity.
If you are injured, you need to return to a rehabilitative approach in your exercise program (for the affected structure). Working through injury-related pain is a sure way of continuing the injury or creating even more severe problems. See our blog on rehabilitative training.
Principle 4: Develop Your Aerobic Zone Before Working on Your Anaerobic Zone
Anaerobic training (where your tissues are working with reduced oxygen levels) is an essential aspect of performance training. However, as we mentioned earlier, you must first establish a good aerobic base before you can even consider beginning your anaerobic training.
Athletes who fail to train their aerobic base to a sufficient level before embarking on anaerobic training (intervals) can find themselves dealing with soft tissue injuries, diminished energy, slow healing, and even decreased performance levels.
The anaerobic or lactate system is very different from your aerobic system since it only operates for 5 seconds to about 2 minutes. This anaerobic system is very efficient at producing power, but it also produces a considerable amount of waste by- products.Do not start anaerobic training until you have established and maintained your aerobic base for several months. Once you start anaerobic training, your Lactate Threshold is established as you move back and forth between your aerobic and anaerobic systems. Your goal is to increase your anaerobic capacity (Lactate Threshold) since this will allow you to train for longer periods of time (within your aerobic zone), at faster speeds, and with greater intensity. A higher Lactate Threshold will also allow you to recover faster.