Strength Performance Network

Conditioning is a term often used to describe the process of causing crushing fatigue by running your team. A lot. Running them until they’re tired, throwing up, sore and on the brink of quitting.  This is easy to program and implement for the coach, and hard work is obviously being carried out but are the athletes getting better?  Some of this type of conditioning is absolutely necessary for team building or for the development of “toughness”.  The S.A.I.D principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) tells us that athletes will get good at whatever we have them spend the most time practicing. You must decide what physical characteristics are desirable for your sport and then be very careful that the drills you choose in training, match up with these desirable characteristics. If you want a fast team, the majority of your training needs to be at high speeds. Lots of volume and inadequate rest does not allow for fast running. Almost all coaches will tell you that they want fast, powerful athletes, yet when it is time to condition they choose drills (mile run, gasseers, etc) that develop neither speed nor power. Traditional conditioning sessions often turn coordinated, fast runners into plodders running at far less then maximal velocity and with poor technique. Look at your athlete when you are conditioning and see if that is what you want them to look like during competition.  We must decide if we want to train our athletes like quarter horses or mules. I would much rather have my athletes mimicking the movements required by their sport (sprinting, backpedaling, cutting) with high energy then watch them jog around the field for hours. The concept of conditioning should be expanded to include all the training we do, not just the work capacity running. Everything we do is, or at least should be, done with the goal of conditioning our athletes to deal with the specific stress load of their sport.  The strength requirements, the stress placed on connective tissue during cutting and changing direction, the coordination required by and the rhythm of their game should be considered in addition to work capacity. I design all running workouts as multidirectional skill improvement sessions. Each session has specific focuses (acceleration, top end speed, deceleration, curvilinear runs, multiple cut drills, etc.) and goals (work capacity or speed development). If the session is designed for speed development, the volume of total yardage will be kept low and sufficient recovery will be given between reps to allow the next rep to be performed at the same high level. The same workout could easily be turned into a work capacity session by doubling or tripling the volume of work done and reducing rest periods. The same sport relevant skills are performed in each session, allowing the volume and rest dictate the training effect, not the type or quality of movement.  

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Comment by Shawn Myszka on March 27, 2012 at 7:49pm

Coach Jackson,

Another valuable blog post which coaches at every level can surely learn from. I feel as though this offseason the videos where coaches run their athletes into the ground have been posted repeatedly on various websites. In nearly all of these types of videos we bear witness to a complete disregard for proper movement mechanics or quality operating rate at the expense of running an athlete till he/she has most certainly pushed beyond the point of their prior physical and mental limits. Like you said, some of this is needed/required to compete at the highest levels. But it also begs to question: is that really how we want our athletes playing and performing on gamedays? Laying down exhausted and beaten at the end of their task? Ultimately, as you made mention to in your blog here, every coach's goal must revolve around stressing the athlete in ways that can help to enhance improvement on the field, court, or track. If not, we are simply doing an athlete a huge disservice. Again, great words. Thanks for sharing and keep the thoughts coming for us all to learn from.   

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