Programming the Novice Power Athlete, Part 1

Programming the Novice Power Athlete, Part 1

Every athlete wants improvement


Every athlete wants to be a step ahead of their competition, no matter what level they are on. As a result of this ‘want’, the athlete must train harder than they already are. They want to be stronger, fitter, faster, more powerful and more agile. The athlete watches YouTube videos of elite athletes training. They read fitness magazines.


Reading and research is all well and good. Knowledge is power. But when applied incorrectly, it can lead to regression, setbacks and injury. It is at this critical point where things can take a dramatic turn. Do things right and you progress and improve. Do things wrong and you regress and make things worse.


Most athletes do not know where to start


Training is the best part because it’s fun. However, before you get started, you must go through a checklist. This may not be fun but it is an absolute necessity. You must build a solid foundation in order to have a solid structure. The exact same applies to athletic performance development.


Some people are born athletes. They have gifted genetics. They move easily and adapt quickly. For those that are not born athletes, they have to work that bit harder. Training development is all about efficiency; how efficient your joints move, how efficient your muscles function, perform and recover from a training stimulus. If some of your joints and muscles only have 75% mobility and flexibility (R.O.M), then the most you will get out of those joints will be 75% efficiency. That is a 25% deficit, a huge loss of potential power and development. Any mobility and flexibility issues must be identified, addressed and corrected before that area even touches an external load.


Where is the weak link?


If there is a weak link in your foundation, where do you think that foundation will fail once you start laying blocks and increasing the load? Once that point begins to fail and starts to collapse, all of your focus must go into fixing that part of the foundation. Treatment and rehab follows.


Injuries are a major setback, but we can reduce the severity of that injury and prevent further injuries if we identify and address the weaknesses first. A building is only as strong as its foundation, and once you apply the same principle throughout the construction of your entire building, you are preparing for success and preparation is key to success.


Functional Movement Screening


Weaknesses are identified through a Functional Movement Screening (FMS). Gray Cook, who came up with the idea for the FMS, wanted to find a way to identify movement and stability flaws in athletes that were looking to develop strength, power, speed, agility and sports skills. The screening uncovers flaws that would normally be missed if not screened properly.


The movements that make up the FMS are the foundation for all human movement. They require good flexibility and control. An athlete who is unable to perform a movement correctly shows a limitation within one of the movement patterns or demonstrates an obvious difference between the function of the left and right side of the body. This results in the discovery of a significant piece of information that may be key to limiting and preventing injury while improving overall sporting performance.


Power athlete


An athlete cannot and must not focus on improving their strengths while an obvious weakness is present. Seven movements make up the FMS:


  • Squat
  • Step
  • Lunge
  • Reach
  • Leg Raise
  • Push Up for trunk control
  • Rotational Stability


If testing reveals poor mobility and stability, you must focus on an effective fundamental mobility and stability program before any kind of training. The movements used for this program should then be incorporated into your warm up and your actual training program. If more than one movement problem is present then focus on one movement problem at a time. Always address the imbalance with the greatest limitation or difference first.


The building begins


Once your problem areas have been corrected, you can begin designing your training program. When training for a sport, it is important that your training program reflects the movements used in the sport and the metabolic pathways that are targeted during the sporting event. That sounds obvious to some, but so many athletes, novices, amateur and even semi-professional/professional use the wrong exercises and exercise combinations and as a result waste valuable training time. We are not bodybuilders, we are athletes and we don’t train muscles, we train movements.


You must break down the elements of your sport, its movements, and its functions. Then you must replicate these movements and functions in the weight room and training paddock. If you want to be a powerful and explosive athlete then you must train for power and explosiveness. You have to move heavy weight fast and combine heavy movements with explosive movements.


This leads us to a training system known as Complex Training.


Complex Training


Developed in Eastern Block countries and utilised by Russia and East Germany from the 1970’s on. Complex training is essential for strength and power sports. It should be the core of every strength and power based training program.


Before we get into Complex Training, you must first address your weaknesses, correct them and turn them into your strengths. Then develop the appropriate program specific for your goals and for your sport.

That is programming.

By doing it correctly, you give yourself the very best chance of succeeding.


Check out Part 2 where we’ll focus more on Complex Training.