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  • Luke French, PT

Strength Training for Maximal Athletic Performance


Strength training is hugely under used, and by strength training I don’t mean just resistance training. Strength training is working near maximal efforts, around 90% intensity, using rep ranges of 1-5. So many people and even trainers and coaches neglect these lifts and they are missing a whole host of benefits.

Here are important reasons why you need to strength train:

  1. Firstly building your strength base will increase other athletic traits like power, speed, Vertical Jumps etc. When a trainer is asked to train a sport specific client, whether it be football, triathlons, or even just novice athlete running, coaches get too caught up on specific exercises for that specific sport before laying the groundwork for base strength levels. It is a fundamental to every sportsperson to have a high base strength level, or they will never, and I mean never reach their maximum athletic potential.

  2. You may not think it, but the heaviest lifting you do is the most protective and best way for injury prevention. Lifting near maximal weights, 90% and above improves joint, ligament and tendon strength, not just generic muscle tissue. Having strong joints and connective tissue is going to help greatly for reducing the effects injury.

  3. Progression in the gym, watching your weights increase, seeing the numbers on the programme go up every week is going to give you the most satisfying and motivating mentality. Seeing you relative strength levels in the gym increase will also make everything else so much easier in day to day life.

  4. Strength training also correct hormonal imbalances such as GH, testosterone, insulin and cortisol. Your body responds to strength training by resetting or changing the hormone levels in your body. Engaging in heavy lifting will massively correct your cortisol levels and insulin management.

  5. Near maximal lifting, and only working in the 1-5 rep range at 85-90% intensity or above will force your body to recruit more motor units and this will translate to speed and power in your sport. You will never activate all muscle fibres if you don’t force yourself to. LIFT HEAVY!

  6. Strength training, not necessarily near maximal strength, will also overcome postural issues and structural and strength imbalances.

Always working at 50-70% intensity in rep ranges from 6-15 and above is massively overused and abused. Working above these intensities is something you have to do if you want yourself or your client to reach their maximum athletic potential. It’s a fundamental to training and needs to be done.

Conclusion: Heavy strength training, maximal intensities and low rep ranges needs to be part of everyone’s training program,especially if they are training for specific events or performance. Ideally you want to introduce this before plyometric work, before SAQ drills for sure and before any other sport specific training techniques.


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