Athletes, along with their parents, are concerned with their performance. Part of performing at a high level requires that the athlete actually stays on the field.
This is where the revolution of injury prevention has come from. Most people are worried that they are going to get hurt through training. The reality is that they are more likely to get injured from too much competition and practice. A good training program is essential for making the athlete as resilient as possible from the demands of their sport.
When looking at what makes up a good training program that is definitely going to depend on who you ask. Some high school strength coaches are only looking for weight on the bar and how many people are in the 300 club. On the other hand, some doctors will go crazy over the idea of a young athlete lifting more than 20 lbs.
My hockey bag had to weigh over 20 pounds and no one had any issues with me lugging that thing around after the age of about 8.
We must meet somewhere in the middle of the two previous examples. Athletes do need to be given challenges for them to then adapt to. If the stress of training does not exceed the level that they are at, they will not improve. If the stress is too high, the athlete is at risk for injury.
Here are some guidelines for good training that will also be injury preventative in nature.
- The program must be safe
If the program given to an athlete is unsafe then it sure as hell is not going to help them prepare to resist injury. Exercises must be coached well and performed with good technique. If good technique is not happening, then we need to coach it better or ditch the exercise.
When it comes to weight, everyone loses their minds.
They have no problem with their kid playing 6 games in a weekend but the training police come out at an 8k kettlebell.
I do not like progressing too quickly with weights. I would rather watch young kids use the same weight for 4 weeks instead of giving them too much too soon. That being said, we do have to challenge the kids within reason.
- The program must be effective
There has been a trend in the industry where people forget that they actually need to train. People who want to lose weight need to burn calories, kids that need strength must lift weights, and those that move poorly need to improve their movement.
When people spend half of their session on a foam roller, breathing, and performing a warm up then they have wasted too much time. All of that stuff is important but it cannot be the majority of the session. There must be a training effect to improve performance.
I like Physical Therapists and they have a very valuable role in our industry. A lot of them are a whole lot smarter than I am too. Unfortunately Physical Therapy has kind of brought on this idea that activations and warm up exercises count as training. For someone who is rehabbing from an injury those exercises are probably going to provide the adequate training effect that they need.
Taking healthy athlete and putting them through physical therapy style programs will not provide the kind of stress that the athlete needs to adapt and improve from.
- The program should be progressive
Athletes should start by mastering the basics. Once this happens then the program can continue to become more difficult when the athlete is ready for it.
If your athlete is in a program that does not change over time, run. That is a dangerous notion. Our athletes are given programs that start with the most simple exercise variations. From there is gets more difficult with each new program.
More difficult also does not mean more weight. Sometimes we are training for more speed, more height, more reps, etc. There are a million different ways to make an exercise harder without just always adding weight.
Injuries are not preventable and they are going to happen no matter how good our programs are. Programs designed for injury prevention might not actually be training. The stress on the body needs to be high enough so that the athlete can adapt to those demands. These are typically programs designed to make them stronger, faster, more powerful, etc.
Doing a bunch of band activation exercises are not going to be enough, we must remember to train.