What is Strength and Conditioning ?
By Benchmark Webmaster | on Nov 22, 2017
Strength and conditioning: some truth-bombs
As a trainer, I feel that I have an incredibly important responsibility to not only look after our members’ bodies, but also to educate them on what makes for healthy, sustainable training that will achieve their goals. Strength and conditioning training is an under-appreciated and under-educated area – one that we focus on at Benchmark Canterbury.
What is strength and conditioning? Strength and conditioning training is the pursuit to increase athletic performance whilst minimising and preventing the chance of injury. This training method has been born from sports science and is used with athletes of all levels to prepare them for their chosen sport and to develop strength, speed, agility, balance, mobility, flexibility and power.
Foundations Firstly, there needs to be quality movement with body weight exercises in push, pull, squat, hinge, lunge, and locomotion patterns. We can then see if the individual is ready for resistance training. If there is a fault with strength or mobility then that is the focus prior to moving to resistance training. There needs to be a strong baseline before you go on and load up the barbell. This is also the time to work on pre-existing injuries, asymmetries and muscular imbalances – the time when we build a robust and durable athlete.
Once there is an established movement pattern, general physical preparedness (GPP) is introduced. GPP is the foundation for all athletes even though each athlete’s sport has its specificity. You need to build a strong base with the basic movements before layering complexity.
Building an athlete After an athlete has a solid base of GPP (strength, speed, agility, balance, mobility, flexibility and power) we can then focus on their Sport-Specific Physical Preparedness (SPP). This is when we introduce movements that will have a stronger transfer to the individual’s sport and position in that sport.
At Benchmark Canterbury we base our SPP protocol on Yuri Verkhoshansky’s Rules of Dynamic Correspondence:
That the exercise duplicates the same neuromuscular pathway as seen in execution of the competitive skill.
That the exercise develops strength over the same range of motion as is displayed in execution of the competitive skill.
That the exercise duplicates the same type of muscular contraction as seen in execution of the competitive skill.
We incorporate this training philosophy into all Benchmark sessions.
So is strength and conditioning training only for athletes?
The approach that strength and conditioning training takes with an individual is to work on their weaknesses, movement quality, imbalances and asymmetries. We then tailor the training to your current fitness level. This comprehensive approach can only lead to more effective results whilst minimising the chance of injuries – for all types of people.
It’s important to note that smart strength and conditioning training ensures that the individual is only using training methods that their body is ready for at that time. Complexity and intensity increases as the body adapts and is ready for more highly demanding training. This approach is far more beneficial and holistic in comparison to the current trends in the fitness industry, such as:
1) HIIT Classes: High intensity classes smash you as hard as they can for 45 minutes. Training should be working smarter not harder - we have enough stress taxing our body on an average day – hence the phrase “any idiot can make another idiot tired". These classes also ignore individual needs e.g. training history, postural imbalances, movement deficiencies and previous injuries. Consideration for long term progression, improvement to fitness or injury prevention over time are largely ignored too. These training formats are solely focused on energy expenditure – a very small piece of the puzzle.
2) Bodybuilding: Bodybuilding is an extremely common and popular training style with the simple goal to put on lean muscle mass. There is no time spent on working toward speed, agility, mobility, strength or power development which are all such important aspects of fitness as a whole. Bodybuilding commonly works with a split training system, meaning chest on one day, arms on the other etc. This is a highly dysfunctional way to train. In real life do we work muscular isolation? The body is made to work in compound movements and training one body part / muscle group at a time, is more likely to result in imbalances and functional problems not only in training, but in daily life and movement. Are you ready to sacrifice this - for a glorified adult beauty pageant?!
3) Crossfit: A recently popularised form of training comprising of powerlifting, Olympic lifting and gymnastic movement, in a high intensity format. Crossfit can be a beneficial training style for moderate to advanced athletes – for the sole purpose of working out and pushing your limits. Common Crossfit movements can be highly technical and would normally require years of coaching for an individual to achieve quality movement. Many would argue that the reason Crossfit is commonly connected with a high percentage of injury rates is the fact that it uses highly complex movements on beginner-to-intermediate level athletes in a high intensity environment. This can often lead to dysfunction and injuries.
Rather than pushing a program on an individual, the philosophy behind strength and conditioning is to form a program around you and your needs. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to move, feel and look like an athlete? Treat your body like it’s on a $10 million contract, minimise the chance of injury and maximise movement and strength performance.
You only get one body and you live in it 24/7 - treat it like an athlete on a multi million dollar contract would.