How To Develop Strength for Athletic Performance
This is an often misunderstood aspect of performance training – how to develop strength for athletic performance. Many coaches have many different methodologies surrounding strength. Some work, some don’t.
And the reason most coach’s strength methodologies don’t work is because they lose sight of the goal of performance training… Increasing performance on the field!
I see many coaches building strength in their athletes just to build strength.
The goal in developing strength for athletic performance is to build strength that translates to power.
This topic’s on my mind because earlier this week, I was talking to one of my athletes about how much strength is enough strength for an athlete. He showed me an Instagram post of a coach who advocates training maximum strength year round.
That’s not how I do things. And I figured I could take some time to share the reason why… And help you get a better understanding of how to develop strength for your athletic performance.
Today, I’m going to share how I develop strength for athletic performance for my athletes.
Absolute Vs. Relative Strength
First and foremost, when we’re talking about strength development for athletes, it’s important to understand absolute vs. relative strength.
Absolute strength is the absolute maximum resistance you’re able to overcome. Relative strength is the amount of resistance you’re able to overcome relative to your bodyweight. Example: If athlete A weighs 180 pounds and can deadlift 500, while athlete B weighs 200 hundred pounds and can deadlift 505… Athlete B has more absolute strength, but athlete A has more relative strength.
And when it comes to athletics, relative strength is king. Reason being, the more force you’re able to output relative to your bodyweight, the more powerful and explosive you’ll be (or have the potential to be).
That’s not to say you don’t want to focus on absolute strength. With younger guys especially, I try to get their numbers up to give them a good base of absolute strength. If you skip this step, you could put yourself at risk in sport or even in the weight room.
Transferring Strength to Sport
The goal of anything you do in the gym should be to transfer to your sport. You’re not going to deadlift on the field, or bench press. That’s why you should steer clear of lifting JUST for the sake of growing stronger. Instead you’ll want to transfer your strength to sport by moving down the force-velocity curve.
The force-velocity curve is a chart that shows the relationship between force and velocity.
As you can see, at the top you have maximal strength, then strength-speed, power, speed-strength, then speed. Our goal is to move all the way down to speed. Because there are rarely moments in team sports where we display maximal strength. But, there are many moments in which we display speed-strength, power, etc.
Here are a few training modalities I like to use with my athletes to move them down the force velocity curve.
1. Triphasic Training
Triphasic Training is one of my favorite methods to build strength that transfers to sport. This method emphasizes each portion of a particular movement (eccentric, isometric, or concentric) to develop certain characteristics in the athlete. This development will ultimately lead to more explosiveness.
For example, the eccentric training block manipulates multiple neuromuscular mechanisms. For one, it desensitizes Golgi tendon organ inhibition. GTO inhibition is a mechanism that prevents a muscle from contracting too hard, but it’s a very sensitive mechanism. It kicks in at about 60% of a muscle’s capacity.
If we can shut that off, we can produce more force faster.
There’s a mountain of other mechanisms that Triphasic Training manipulates in the athlete’s favor. Mechanisms like motor unit recruitment, rate coding, the stretch reflex, synchronization, and more are affected by Triphasic Training.
To learn more about Triphasic Training, check out my FREE Advanced Strength Series.
2. Accommodating Resistance
One of my favorite weight training methods to develop power is accommodating resistance. Accommodating Resistance is filling in the gaps of lesser resistance with a band or chains to increase the velocity at which the athlete must perform a movement.
In other words, if you think of a squat or a bench press, there are certain portions of the movement where it’s easier to move the weight. In a squat and bench press, as you get closer to lockout, the weight is easier to move. When this happens, the athlete usually decelerates the speed at which he was using the bar.
Adding chains and bands prevents the deceleration. And it forces the athlete accelerate through the entire movement. This ultimately forces the athlete to move the bar faster than they would without the accommodating resistance.
You can use accommodating resistance with almost any movement.
I usually use it in conjunction with squats and bench press.
3. Limited ROM Reps
Another tactic I like to use to transfer to sport are limited range of motion reps.
Limited ROM Reps are exactly how they sound. I limit the range of motion of a certain movement to make it more specific to sport. This usually applies to the squat and deadlift. With the squat, I’ll usually have the athlete squat to vertical jump depth. For the deadlift, I’ll have them pull from blocks.
This allows them to add more weight to their lifts AND move that weight faster than if they went through a full range of motion.
Standards for Strength
So, the question is, when does an athlete have enough strength to turn the focus away from strength and more towards moving down the force velocity curve?
First, the athlete should always be performing movements on various points of the force velocity curve. I’ll never have an athlete perform JUST strength movements or JUST plyometrics. I will, however, place more of an emphasis on one or the other.
So, when do you know when it’s time to place less of an emphasis on absolute strength?
The main parameter I use is their strength on the trap bar deadlift. When an athlete can lift 2.2-2.6 times their bodyweight on the trap bar deadlift, I know we can place less of an emphasis on lifting and more on moving down the force velocity curve.
The reason I use the trap bar deadlift as the main marker of their strength is that the trap bar deadlift works hip extension. Hip extension is critical for every athlete because it plays a role in your ability to sprint, jump, cut, go for a takedown, or whatever else. The trap bar deadlift is also HIGHLY transferrable to sport, and there’s a bunch of data out there on that.
Advanced Strength Development for Athletes
Now I’ve given you a quick run down of how I develop strength that leads to athleticism.
If you want a little deeper knowledge on this topic, check out my Free Advanced Strength Series.
It’s a free video course that goes more into depth on my strength methodologies, and how it’s different than most coaches out there.
Click the link below to join: