Many times we will train for a sport by trying to grab as many exercises that mimic the movements of the sport we are competing in, making the training “sport-specific”. The problem becomes that we train so hard on one end of the spectrum, leaving a drop-off in fundamentals that would support our efforts. You do so many drills in practice and games that are ACTUALLY preparing you for the sport. It can’t get any more specific than doing the activity itself. Building a resilient and well-rounded body is much like building a house where many pieces of criteria and inspections must pass before allowing us to progress to the next step.
We can continue with this analogy of building a house to give us an insight on how a well-planned training program will yield a better potential outcome.
The first thing in a house is the foundation. By having a solid foundation, we can build heavily on top of it without having fear of the house coming down. Before building the foundation, you need to know your end goal. That way you know how well this thing needs to be built to prevent any structural deficiencies.
In the fitness realm, our foundational qualities will be aerobic fitness, strength, movement competency, and tissue tolerance. These qualities should be focused on heavily for the first 3 months of a training program with a slight favoring of one quality at a time to ensure proper development.
This house is looking pretty solid to me.
Overlooking these things can create a greater risk of injury once layering on more complex tasks as the athlete will not have the basic physical qualities to repeat efforts, sustain repetitive loads well, and recover efficiently. This is where most training programs fall short as they will jump right into the “sport-specific” activities, thinking they are addressing all of these other needs, but they simply cannot. As an athlete becomes more trained, you can only really develop 1 to 1.5 qualities at a time, and there should be a direct focus on these things while the other developed qualities stay in maintenance.
After the foundation is inspected and framing begins, all the basic needs of electrical, heat, plumbing, roofing, windows, etc are put into place. This is where we advance our training to build upon our foundation and push our body to some uncomfortable limits. Remember, we are still at the barebones of the house, but we can start to feel a more solid structure.
Qualities in this realm would entail more explosive based trainings like plyometric and sprinting/acceleration drills, while keeping the foundational skills on a maintenance level. (In this case aerobic training may have a heavier focus 1x/week and the same for strength at 1-2x/week).
With more advanced structures and qualities, the number of exposures during the week needs to be monitored to ensure we do not have breakdown and regressions, much like passing inspections at this phase of the house to advance to the finish work.
After 2-3 months of the previous phase, the house can be finished. The nice appliances, wood flooring, furniture, and lighting are ready to go in. This is where you can shift towards a “sports-specific” approach and drill things prior to the start of a season, allowing an athlete to peak at their potential.
The end result looks pretty nice
Everyone sees the finish house when it’s passed to be livable, but no one sees all the work that it took to get it there and keep it standing solidly. That’s where all the foundational skills still stay on maintenance and should not be forgotten. If you leave them behind, the foundation begins to crack and the house will shift. If the sustained stress is long enough, everything will come down (hence the greater potential for injuries and a failure to reach the desired outcome).
This is where a well-planned program provides insight to advance appropriately, taking into account the results of the prior weeks to make the adjustments as needed if certain qualities are not passing inspection. It may only need to be small tweaks, but having the checks and balances in place to know that certain criteria will pass gives you a better chance for success.
On the flip side an elite athlete will reinforce their foundation for years so they can continue to have multiple layers added on, eventually making them a skyscraper. Many people look at the final result, but don’t look at the years of progression from when they started as a little foundation. Too many times can things look sexy on social media, but it’s the un-sexy things that really make the difference.
Do you need help planning your next program?
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can guide you through your own training progressions.
Even if you aren’t an athlete, a well-designed program that is specific to your needs makes a big difference vs just winging it and hoping you don’t get injured.
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.