Are you Designing Programs That Win?

In designing strength and conditioning programs for athletes and clients my job as a strength coach is to design a program that, without injury, elicits the fastest response possible for the sport the athlete plays and the time I have to train with them and improves the athletes ability to win and maximizes their genetic potential.


So, like any good strategy I start with evaluating the starting point of the athlete.  Next I look at what are the components of optimum performance in their sport  and then I determine where the gaps exist and how can I close those gaps as much as possible in the time I have to train the athlete.  So there are both short and long term solutions. 


I believe that all roads in most sports lead to a development of power.  The needed amount and duration of power is dependent on the sport.  A high jumper has a need for a few big jumps.  A cyclist has a need for thousands of revolutions and power produced in their legs over 4 hours of riding in a race. 


Other than a contest like high jumping, most sports are determined by who can produce high levels of maximum power longer in an event.  Inflection points of speed and power or effort at key moments are key in winning.  One more big effort!  This wins most sporting events lasting longer than 20 seconds.  However, many solutions focus only on maximizing strength and power on an absolute basis.  This will improve on one front, but typically does not make the big leap.  Training that focuses on both maximum strength, power and then how to sustain the highest percentage of maximum power will produce more wins.  This prepares the athlete for the inflection points of competition.


Many programs are developed in systems.  The problems occur if the framework you have to train in does not fit the system or the system does not match the needs to win in a sport.  In other words the system is based on a 6 month training window and you have 6 weeks.   The system is strength focused when strength is not the primary factor in wining an event.  So systems can be good, but the strength coach has to be able to improvise or use other methods to maximize gains when systems are incongruent to the training environment. 


Our bodies are conservation mechanisms.  The body is constantly trying to find the most efficient way to solve a problem.  How can our bodies perform a task with the least amount of effort?   Our bodies will only make a change if the current performance capability is insufficient in overcoming a particular task.  This works both mentally and physically.  So overloads need to be designed to fit the needs of the sport. 


The body makes change when there is a stress introduced that is over and above the normal stress the body has experienced and adapted to in the past.  The stress has to be large enough and regular enough in order for this change to occur.  The body has built in excess capacity to handle short term stress, but to efficiently execute a task regularly the stress has to be  introduced regularly so that this level of stress becomes the new normal and the athlete can perform at the level needed to win. 


This is where the thinking becomes complicated.  If the stress is sub normal the body sees no need to change and if the stress is low for long periods of time the body will establish a new norm at the lower level of performance output (detraining). 


So you need to design programs not for the skills of the coach, but for the needs of the sport.  Time is the athlete’s real enemy.  Great program design that truly addresses what wins an event is a gift of time to your athletes.  Make sure you are hitting the right target


Truth in Fitness


Jacques DeVore, CSCS