Most athletes at the high school level understand the importance of a proper strength and conditioning program. A properly-designed program enhances athleticism, which is a key to strong sports performance. So why do so many young athletes fail in their efforts to enhance their performance?
In general, high school athletes do not focus enough on developing adequate levels of strength. This is a huge mistake, because strength is a foundational attribute for improving athletic performance. Too often, high school athletes focus instead on developing speed, power and explosiveness. These are all critical to sports performance, but they can be developed only marginally if an athlete lacks adequate strength. Speed, agility, flexibility, mobility, power and explosiveness are all aspects of athleticism that can be significantly improved by increases in strength.
High school athletes need to work first on increasing relative body strength. This includes mastering Push-Ups, Pull-Ups, Hand Walking and Rope Climbing, to name a few exercises. Athletes who can control their own bodyweight will see dramatic improvements in strength, speed, power, explosiveness, mobility and other physical attributes.
Once bodyweight exercises are mastered, high school athletes should focus on developing strength in functional, multi-jointed compound lifts like Squats, Deadlifts and Weighted Chin-Ups. Compound lifts are especially important, because athletes who are able to produce forceful contractions will be more successful than those who rely solely on skill. The combination of strength and skill will help athletes reach their maximum potential. Once athletes build a solid base of strength, they can begin to incorporate speed, power and agility training into their workouts.
Playing sports can cause muscular imbalances, leaving athletes prone to injury. By addressing these imbalances through strength training, athletes can improve their odds of avoiding injury. To overcome muscular imbalances, athletes should perform unilateral exercises—like Lunges, Split Squats, One-Arm Rows and One-Arm Presses—and work their antagonistic muscles—those opposite the primary muscle in a movement, like the triceps in a Bicep Curl.
Whether you play football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, hockey, lacrosse, volleyball or any other sport, the benefits of strength training cannot be ignored. Strength is built through consistency—from mastering bodyweight exercises to compound lifting. The combination of what you do in the weight room and what you do on the field ultimately helps you become a better athlete.
Check out the video below to see how my athletes improve their athletic performance through strength and conditioning training.
Joe Meglio is a strength and conditioning coach at the Underground Strength Gym in Edison, N.J. Mentored by one of the brightest minds in the strength and conditioning industry, Zach Even-Esh, Meglio has worked with athletes at the high school, college and professional level. He specializes in training baseball players. Besides being a strength coach, Meglio competed in his first powerlifting meet in 2010, setting the New Jersey state record for Squat, Deadlift and total in his weight class and division. He will graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2011, following his final season as captain of the baseball team. For more information, please go to MeglioFitness.com.
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