Whether an active participant in sport or working as a strength coach it should be your goal to be the best or to create the best. In the field of strength and conditioning this means building the most efficient athlete possible, there are a number of areas that must be addressed in this process such structural balance and injury prevention; however, these are areas to be discussed at a future date. What we are interested in here are the components that must be put together to build this athlete, what do all elite level athletes have in common which we can work towards better our performance.
The ability to exert maximum force to overcome an external resistance “for myself this one physical component lays the foundation for much of what is to come. also allows other physical components to increase exponentially. I believe it important to define levels of which you would like your athlete achieve and these can be based on three main lifts of squat, deadlift and bench press in relation to their current body weight.
Power may be defined as the amount of work done per unit of time. By this it is mean that if I can lift a given load in a faster time know than a month ago I have increased my power. This becomes even more important when we consider the relative strength factor, how strong we are in comparison to bodyweight, for example if we can become stronger and then more powerful at a given weight then we get faster.
Speed may further be defined as the ability to cover a distance in a certain time. Within this definition we are initially examining straight line or linear speed, however, it should be noted that without a track athlete it is rare for this activity to happen on its own. Different sports have different definitions of what they term “fast” and often different positions within the same sport will vary. What can be stated is that if we improve strength and power our speed will improve. Other factors that may affect speed are coordination and mobility and again these can be worked on in a separate way.
Agility is the ability to change direction under control. It is this activity that I see leading to more and more injuries as strength levels are not high enough to sustain the massive forces that arise. It is however this activity which often is the difference between a good player and a great player as the ability to evade capture is increased.
Within the sports and fitness industry endurance training has recently got itself a bad reputation; however, let's face it if you have not got an aerobic base you have no foundation of fitness. You will not reach your potential in any of the other components and you will not perform at your best. There are two main areas of endurance which I am referring to. Firstly there is aerobic endurance which is the ability to sustain a steady effort. The second is anaerobic endurance and this can be basically defined as the ability to recover from numerous sub maximal / maximal efforts. Both are of importance and lead to bettering each other and as such both need separate attention.
Flexibility / Mobility
The two above terms are often used interchanged, however this is wrong. Both are separate entities and should be treated that way. Looking at flexibility this is primarily concerned with muscle and fascia and is in general looked at in a single plane of movement whereas mobility is concerned with range of motion around a particular joint. From an athletic point of view it is important to find the ideal balance between both areas as many people have great flexibility but poor mobility and vice versa.
The ability to cope with the stresses of competitive sport and gain an edge over any opponent that stands in your way. This component is often overlooked and frequently underrained. It has great baring on each and every physical component listed as mental toughness is not just about beating other competitors but also being able to better yourself, push yourself harder in the gym, be committed to your diet, stay off alcohol or whatever else needs to be done to be your best.
Above we have defined seven key components of athletic ability and examined briefly why they are of importance to competitive sport. The next step is to train to increase your ability in each component so be ready for my next installation where I start to describe training methodologies.