Components Of A Sport-Specific Exercise Program
Every sport places different demands on the body. Let’s take for example basketball and soccer.
Both sports are anaerobic and require a great deal of speed, agility and conditioning.
But basketball utilises more hip flexion and upper body involvement because of the rebounding and shooting aspects of the game.
Soccer uses more hip extension because of the biomechanics of the kick. So how should you design an exercise program for your sport?
There are four principles that should be incorporated when designing an exercise program for your sport.
Physical Demands Of The Sport
There are eight categories that you need to evaluate when determining the physical demands of the sport:
• Aerobic Endurance
Generally, all sports have these components but the degree of prioritisation will vary.
In our previous example, both basketball and soccer involve explosive movements but the aerobic endurance for soccer should be greater.
Soccer players cover an average of eleven kilometres by the end of every game with only an average rest period of three seconds every two minutes of play.
On the other hand, basketball players only average three kilometres per game.
This is why soccer players include long distance road work in their exercise program.
Basketball is a sport that uses strategic positioning especially for low post players.
You need to have a strong base to put your body in its best position to jump and shoot against a defender.
There is a lot of contact as the defender will attempt to keep you out of your strong position.
Thus, an exercise program in basketball emphasises more compound movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, power clean and core activation drills compared to an exercise program for soccer.
An exercise program also needs to consider your physical health and overall wellness before designing a program for your sport.
Important information that must be evaluated are as follows:
• Medical History
• Current Medications
• Body Type
• Position Played in the Sport
• Pre- Existing Conditions
• Current Level of Muscular Strength
• Current Level of Cardiovascular Fitness
• Psychological and Emotional Condition
For an exercise program to be effective it must be customised according to your individual capacity, current goals and objectives and most importantly, it should be mindful of your state of overall health.
An exercise program for a 25 year old soccer player may be too intense for a 50 year old soccer player.
If the exercise program does not take these factors into consideration, pre- existing health conditions may be compromised.
This is why it should be a prerequisite to be physically examined and medically cleared by a doctor or a license health professional before starting an exercise program.
Predominant Muscle Groups Involved
Every sport has its own set of bio-mechanics to support the function of a specific movement or position.
The selection of exercises, drills and the specifics on work volume, rest period, frequency, periodic levels of resistance and modality should support the execution of the movement and its function.
Sprinting is a short but extremely explosive activity. While it greatly uses the thick, powerful fibres of the thighs, hamstrings and hips a great deal of upper body movement is also required.
At the start position, the sprinter needs to have a strong upper body and stable core muscles to distribute body weight evenly while the lower legs, front knee and rear knee are kept at the correct angles.
After the gun has sounded, the sprinter explodes off the blocks at an angle of 45 degrees.
A sprinter’s legs are so powerful that if the upper body lags behind in strength, he or she will not be able to maintain the angle and instead begin to lean backward.
This is why sprinters are very muscular. Not only does sprinting utilise the thick and powerful red “fast twitch” fibres but the upper body, lower body and core have to be very strong.
The exercise program of a sprinter combines heavy compound movements such as the squat, bench press and deadlift with explosive, athletic, functional movements like the snatch, clean and jerk and mobility, stability drills that target the core.
Distance runners on the other hand train to be efficient with their aerobic capacity.
Their type of training is intended to support the white or slow twitch fibres which are important for sustained aerobic activity.
Large, powerful muscles require more oxygen and will be inefficient for distance runners. This is why most distance runners have thin builds.
Rest And Recovery
This is the only principle which is more or less universal in application to each and every sport.
You cannot expect to improve in performance if you do not give your muscles time to heal and recover.
This means getting the proper nutrition and ideal rest periods between exercise sessions.
The standard protocols for a rest and recovery program are as follows:
• Warm Down Period – After intense training a warm down period should be included in order to flush out excess toxins and lactic acid. A warm down could simply be a 10 to 15 minute walk on the treadmill, the track oval or the park.
• Stretching – Stretching not only improves flexibility and blood circulation but also helps flush out toxins.
• Post-Exercise Nutrition – This is the best time of the day to indulge in some simple sugary carbohydrates. You need to take in carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercise to replenish lost glycogen stores.
Make sure to add a fast acting protein such as whey or egg whites. The amino acids in protein will enhance muscle repair and recovery.
• Sleep – You should get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to get the full benefits of your exercise program.
With these principles in mind, you should be able to design an exercise program for your sport.
Any sport conditioning program is founded on specificity; the selection of exercises must be relevant to the demands of your sport.
The exercise program for basketball would not carry over to success on the field for soccer and vice versa.
But would a soccer player find some benefit? Yes in the sense that he or she would stimulate lesser used muscles and the change of routine slows down adaptation.
Cross-training in another sport is a good way to reset or restart the neural fibres frequently used in your sport.
While there are various resources to access exercise programs specific to your sport, the best option would be to bring your latest medical records and hire the services of a certified Personal Trainer.
He or she would have the experience, training and background to design an exercise program that is specific to your sport.