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The 5 Key Components to Develop a Sport-Specific Strength Program

What You Need To Know As A Coach & Athlete

As a coach, you make your money on your ability to improve the general qualities of an athlete so they perform better at their sport.

You know that over the course of a training intervention, weight on the bar needs to increase. You know their quality of movement needs to improve. You know their confidence needs to lift.

If you get those things right – performance improves and injury risk goes down.

It’d stand to reason that if you want to be a strength coach, that mastery of programming is your first priority. However, the most common question I’m asked as a strength coach by other aspiring coaches is this:

“How do you train your athletes, and what does your periodization look like?”

Since identifying myself as a strength coach in the last three years, I’ve come to find that a lot of Personal Trainers haven’t yet fully grasped the most important elements of athlete development, and development of anyone for that matter. Because education is a high value of mine, I wanted to share with you what I feel are the 5 most important elements to developing a sport specific strength program. This should form a framework for which you could apply to any athlete or sporting endeavour.

1) Periodisation

Periodisation in sports is the planning of athletic training in a progressive, cyclical fashion with the goal of timing performance during the athlete’s major competitive events.

For individual athletes in track and field, tennis, swimming, running or cycling, competition usually occurs sporadically, making this goal a little more linear and easier to accomplish.

For team sport athletes who compete in long seasons, you need a slightly more systematic approach to keep the coaches and athletes organised, interested and engaged.

The basis for periodization stems from a physiological basis known as GAS, or General Adaptation Syndrome.

This involves three phases: 1) An initial shock of a new stimulus, 2) learned adaptation to the stimulus, and 3) exhaustion.

For progress to begin and continue, the athlete needs to receive a stimulus that the body is not yet conditioned to handle, otherwise known as the alarm stage of initial shock.

The body then positively adapts to this stimulus, and in a perfect world, this cycle would continue.

However, we commonly see athletes go the other way – they train too hard, don’t get enough rest which is compounded by work and study commitments and they enter the exhaustion stage – performance drops, injury risk increases, and feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction plummet – not ideal by any means.

As a strength coach, it’s important to play on the edge, in some cases overreaching the athlete in a controlled, organised manner may be beneficial, and we see this in practice during intensive training camps. However, these camps should be proceeded with adequate rest and recovery.

The best strength coaches employ wellness strategies to assess feelings of wellbeing, and they track training loads to ensure that the athlete is continuing to respond positively to training stimuli.

We use Teambuildr for our athlete tracking, and we highly recommend it for other strength coaches looking to sharpen their game.

2) Progression

If you have a bag of candy, and you give your athlete all the candy at once, you’ll not only lack candy for a later time, but they are going to expect more and more from you every time.

Keep it simple.

Progress movement patterns by systematically increases resistance. Vary the exercise approximately every four weeks to avoid stagnation. You can either increase the complexity of the exercise, or lateralise the exercise in a novel way. Eg, you can add complexity to the Barbell Squat by adding kettlebells, attached to bands at the ends of the bar, or lateralise the Barbell Squat to a more specific joint angle that replicates a demand of the sport. We have some examples on how we do this here.

By having a step ladder approach, training enables athletes to learn and master new movement patterns, harness their new found strength and continue to challenge themselves with more complex or challenging exercises (don’t forget, you need to keep providing your athletes with a novel stimulus to keep them adapting).

If you ever need to refresh your memory on how to progress, remember these four things:

  1. Volume
  2. Intensity
  3. Complexity
  4. Lateralise

3) Individualisation

Within a single sport, each athlete will have different strength and movement goals, depending on position, their specific event, and their current movement capabilities.

Strength training can, and should be tailored to individual athlete needs. Within the sport of track and field, sprinting athletes would use much more resistance and focus more on powerlifting set and rep schemes, whereas endurance athletes might adopt lower resistance, higher repetition exercises to better simulate the endurance demands.

The best coaches recognise the individual differences between player positions and create truly effective strength programs for their athletes.

4) Athlete Autonomy

You’re the boss and you’re the expert. That isn’t to say that for some athletes who are in tune with their bodies, and have a solid foundation of gym training, that their opinion doesn’t matter, too.

Some of the best relationships I have with my athletes are the ones where we get to collaborate – it’ll be rewarding for the both of you.

I ask questions like:

‘What do you feel are your strengths at the moment, and what your weaknesses?’

‘If you had 15 minutes of training to do what you wanted to do, what would it be?’

As a coach, you can guage player satisfaction exceptionally well with an approach like this, and ensure they feel like they have some control and autonomy on their training process.

5) Program Customisation for different Athletes

Depending on the time of season (aka periodization), some exercises are beneficial for all athletes, while some exercises may not be.

For that reason, we don’t write strength programs for rugby players the same way we do for tennis players, swimmers, or track and field. Each of these sports demand strength to be displayed differently; they need a different level of muscle mass; speed demands differ, and so do energy system requirements.

We take this into account by tailoring workouts to the movement patterns and energy demands of each sport.

At Athletes Authority, we have built out programs for our coaches to fit with an athletes training plan. For example, striking and throwing athletes (think baseball, tennis, golf and cricket) should be focused on rotational core strength to maximise their power output during their throw or strike, whereas rugby players require high levels of shoulder and hip stability and strength to protect and maximise the efficiency of the joint during exposure to high force and degrees of rotation during gameplay.

Using these 5 key components, you should be able to build out an elite level strength program. For those that want more help, you can contact us at info@athletesauthority.com.au for more tips on getting your strength programming kicking goals for you.

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Master Your Mental Game Mini-Course | Athletes Authority

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THE KVLR™ PROTECTION SERIES

Bulletproof your weakest links with our body-part specific protection and resilience programs. These 12-week programs target the most common weak links in an athletes body and protects them from re-injury.

THE KVLR™ RECOVERY SYSTEM

Performance = fitness – fatigue. Reduce your fatigue and recover faster with our 3-step recovery system.

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We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Let's start with your contact details...

We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Let's start with your contact details...

We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

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Monique Le Mottee

Athletic Physiotherapist & Rehab Coach

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Physiotherapy
  • Masters of Strength & Conditioning 

This may not be a PC thing to say, but when Lachlan and I met Mon, we were immediately in love. She got the role as an intern before she left the interview (which we never do).

We knew Mon would be an amazing fit from the get go — her passion for sports is infectious and she’s a dynamic young physiotherapist keen to combine her skills as a strength and conditioning coach. It’s the 1-2-3 combination we look for in our staff and any athletic facility can only dream of in a hire.

Since starting with us, we’ve had to put a pause on the amount of positive feedback we receive about her — it’s clogging my desk space.

You’ll see Mon on the gym floor, keeping our athletes tuned in the physio clinic and out on the pitch with the Mac Uni AFL team as their Head of Performance.

Justin Richardson

Athletic Physiotherapist & Rehab Coach

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Physiotherapy
  • Masters of Strength & Conditioning (undertaking) 

Justin has developed a passion for sports performance, finding his greatest interest in bridging the gap between traditional hands-on physiotherapy and the guidance and care required to get an athlete back to sport and performing at their best.

Having worked with the Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs, he has a deep understanding of the requirements to succeed at a high level of sport and is committed to providing you with the expertise to help you get back to doing what you love.

Alan Robinson

Lead Sports Physiotherapist

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Applied Science (Physiotherapy)
  • Masters of Sports Physiotherapy

Alan is a titled APA Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist who has spent his whole career living and breathing sports rehabilitation.

His career as a physiotherapist has seen him work with the NSW Waratahs and the Sydney Blue Sox, managing injuries that range from the acute-stage to end-stage rehabilitation. His philosophy aims to address long term athletic development and bring high-performance rehabilitation to athletes.

His work has been in close proximity to rehabilitation coaches, strength & power coaches, head coaches and high-performance managers, making him an asset on your journey to rehabilitation and back to full health.

Tom Longworth

Sports Doctor

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Medicine
  • Post Graduate Diploma of Sport & Exercise Medicine

Dr Tom Longworth became a registrar of the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Physicians in 2016 and is currently in his 3rd year of specialist training. He completed his medical degree with the University of Newcastle in 2010 and has had 5 years of experience in Emergency and intensive care medicine across Australia since graduating.

He has a wide variety of experience working with elite sports people, currently assistant medical officer at The Sydney Roosters Rugby League Club, team doctor for the Sydney FC Youth League and Head Doctor of the World Champion Jillaroos (Australian Women’s Rugby League Team). Other sports coverage includes the Sydney 7s rugby union, Australian school boy rugby union, Bledisloe Cup and National Rowing regattas as well as voluntary work abroad with the Surfing Doctors’ Association.

Dr Longworth has recently completed his postgraduate diploma in Sports and Exercise Medicine through the University of Bath (UK). He has published research relating to stem cell treatment for knee osteoarthritis and is currently investigating concussion incidence in the NRL, as well as conducting a trial on shin splint management.

Tom currently sees our athletes out of his home base at Eastern Suburbs Sports Medicine Centre.

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We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Lachlan Wilmot

DIRECTOR OF COACHING & PERFORMANCE

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Exercise and Sport Science
  • Honors in Rate of Force Development in Team Sport Athletes

Lachlan began his professional sports coaching career as the second ever employee at the GWS Giants in 2010-11 season prior to entering the AFL in 2012. Over 7 seasons, Lachlan grew a team of talented young men into back-to-back preliminary finals contenders. As the head of strength and power, his role was to turn teenagers into physically dominant men, developing their strength, power, speed and most importantly, their resistance to injury.

In 2018, Lachlan’s success afforded him the opportunity to shift codes, having been offered the role of High Performance Manager for the NRL’s Parramatta Eels.

In as little as one rebuild season, he had taken the wooden spooners of 2018 to the finals in 2019, where they inflicted the greatest defeat of the Brisbane Broncos in NRL history. By 2019, it was time for Lachlan to go ‘all-in’ on his other baby, Athletes Authority.

Now, Lachlan leads the performance program, designing the programs for all the athletes here. He works closely with the sports medicine team, just like he did in pro sport, to help athletes achieve more and reach new heights with their athletic careers.

Karl Goodman

FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Karl began his career in coaching as a Personal Trainer back in 2007. After competing for NSW as a Baseballer, and then competing at an elite standard as a cyclist throughout university,  Karl received the opportunity to work with Gordon Rugby in the Shute Shield competition. From there, he found a way to marry his passion in sports and competition with coaching; selling his investment property to start Athletes Authority in early 2016.

Starting from humble beginnings, the facility vision was taken to another level when Lachlan and Karl partnered up in 2017 and Athletes Authority was incorporated. It was no longer just a gym training athletes; Athletes Authority was committed to becoming a brand athletes worldwide could rely on for quality coaching, advice and service.