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Sport Fitness

In the past decade, theories about sport-fitness methodologies have changed significantly. Today’s cutting-edge coaches no longer focus primarily on brute strength. Instead, movement patterns that are similar to the specific sport have become the foundation of most conditioning programs. This is based on a concept called the “pattern recognition theory of motor learning,” which states that the brain does a better job at memorizing movement patterns than it does simple muscle isolations.

Because of this, “one size fits all” sport fitness programs are a thing of the past. In fact, the best sport fitness experts in the industry take a number of factors into consideration when designing a sport training program. Let’s take a look at them.

The Sport

What are the primary characteristics of the sport? Does it require speed and power, or agility and coordination? What energy system is used? Sports that require explosive bouts of energy use the anaerobic system, while endurance sports make use of the aerobic energy system. Additionally, for team sports, you need to look at what position the athlete plays. For example, a quarterback’s has different fitness needs than an offensive lineman, even though they are players in the same game.

One of the biggest mistakes that sport-fitness training make is not considering how much strength the sport actually requires. This frequently happens in golf fitness, where a trainer has the athlete perform golf-specific movements with a weight that is much heavier than the actual club. As a result, the golfer memorizes the pattern of swinging with a heavier weight, which can slow down performance.

The Athlete

What are the unique physical qualities of the specific athlete? Consider their strengths, weaknesses and injury history. A good sport fitness program teaches the athlete how to use her strength to her greatest advantage while strengthening her weak links. If she is injury prone, a preventative maintenance program should be developed.

The Program

As previously mentioned, the ideal sport fitness program uses movement patterns that emulate the specific motions of the sport. However, since athletics involve quick reaction times, an element of spontaneity should be included in any sport-fitness program in order to enhance agility. Sport-fitness programs should also incorporate balance and proprioception exercise. This is where sport-conditioning programs differ from machine-based training, where the movements are highly predictable, and seat belts as well as other extrinsic stabilizing devices eliminate the need for core muscle activation. Additionally, about 80% of the muscles used in sport are rotary, whereas the machine exercise movement pattern are predominately linear. Therefore, for the most part, machine training for sport is not really functional.

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