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What is Strength and Conditioning?

What is the purpose of strength and conditioning? What are the benefits? When should you follow a S&C programme? Who is it for?

These are all fundamental questions that should be understood and answered by both athletes and coaches to improve performance, aid recovery and rehabilitation and prepare for competition.

What is the purpose of Strength and Conditioning ?

It identifies areas such as speed, agility, endurance, strength, stability, flexibility, injury prevention and rehabilitation vital to an athletes performance in a given sport and builds a programme to improve the performance in these key areas. Strength and conditioning starts with identifying the main characteristics of a sport, for example, A strength and conditioning programme for a squash player would differ greatly from that of a powerlifter, due to the sports having their own characteristics and physiological/biomechanical needs to be successful within the sport.

A successful S&C programme should start with building a solid base from which to start. As with learning a technique in any sport, the basics must first be learned and then built upon, this is vital enable a coach and athlete to get the most reward and least risk from a S&C programme.

Once a coach has identified the specific needs of an athlete, a programme can then be built with those needs in mind. A programme is often highly specific to the needs and demands of a sport. A S&C coach is able to further break down the requirements of a sport if necessary, for example if strength is a focus of the athlete a coach will then identify what type of strength is required? is it maximal strength, speed strength, strength endurance etc.

In conclusion the purpose of following a strength and conditioning programme is that it enables the athlete to be correctly training for a given sport enabling a solid base for the demands and technique of that sport to be carried out more effectively. whether it is boxing, rowing, rugby or gymnastics, a strength and conditioning programme can dramatically improve athletic performance and skill.

What are the benefits of following a strength and conditioning programme?

Sport-specific training requires a more specified and thoughtful approach and plan than simply lifting weights and spending the early hours of the morning running. Following a carefully constructed S&C plan means that the time spent wasted on exercise that has no relevance or benefit to an athlete is greatly reduced, time which could be spent focusing on key elements of competition or the chosen sport. Building a solid base is vital in all sports. S&C coaches ensure that an athlete is tuned to the demands of the sport and is fully prepared to cope with the stresses and perform at a higher level.

When should you follow a S&C programme?

Elite athletes should be constantly following an S&C programme. The programme will differ depending on the time of year, competition status, injuries to the athlete but a high level athlete should always be following a programme designed to maximise performance. for example, a football player who may be predominantly working on agility and speed during the season may have a S&C programme designed to increase strength during the off season due to the extra time and lack of constraints imposed by the games during the season.

Who is it for?

An S&C programme can be followed by anyone, but it is generally accepted to be imperative to professional athletes. Amateur and recreational athletes may wish to plan their training to improve performance just as much as elite athletes, a major benefit of  an athlete doing their own strength and conditioning planning is they are able to take a step back and look at the physical demands of the sport, something which is often forgotten by athletes. This often increases motivation during training and makes the athlete think a lot more about the sport and the movements being performed.