Weight training in Athletics

Weight training and associated gain in relation to sports performance  has been called ‘ non-functional hypertrophy’ .  It is wise to plan training to  comprise of Stregnth-speed exercises and is useful once the athlete has developed their general physical phase (GPP). Cyclic training and preparation is the cornerstone of Athletic performance, indeed after a long season the body will probably be a little deconditioned.   Application of weight training and speed training should also be applied onlly after the athlete is comfortable with exercising with just body weight.  Should the weights be heavy ? – (Verkhosshansky 2009, Thibaududeau, 2006  – stated that there should be accleration and utilisation of  moderate to heavy weights. Indeed muscle in athletics is gained very much outside of the weight room as much as within it, these other exercises can greatly enhance performance.  At spinalsolutions we have begun to see a greater volume of athletes through the support we give to the ‘Body Mechanic’ , it is noticeable that bulk does indeed not equal power , in fact power when palpated in muscle groups reflects a different kind of density . The science tells us that there are two types of hypertrophy evident through training.

  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy: The volume of the non-contractile protein and semifluid plasma between the muscle fibers increases. Although the cross-sectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area decreases and there is no corresponding increase in muscle strength.
  • Sarcomere hypertrophy: An increase in the size and number of sarcomeres which comprise the myofibrils. These may be added in series or parallel with the existing myofibrils, although only the parallel growth with contribute to an increased ability to produce muscle tension. The area density of myofibrils increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength.

There is such a demand in the general public certainly amongst men to develop big guns, big pecs or a six pack , it is hard to believe when observing these ‘pumped up ‘ specimens that the muscle is in fact ineffective.  Observing athletes at the practice has confirmed this for me

 Compare this with the typical bodybuilding style training that is so popular: moderate weights, high volume and slow repetitions. Most sports are played in a ballistic and dynamic manner. Training should be designed to reflect this. Many athletes have phenomenal physiques (i.e., jacked with a lot of muscle) as a side effect of their strength training. Most do not set out to gain a ton of muscle; rather they are looking for ways to improve their performance. This tells us that muscle can be gained through other forms of training and these forms of training can greatly enhance performance, something that bodybuilding training will not do.

An increase in muscle diameter is due to enlargement of individual muscle fibers by an increase in the number and size of individual myofibrils, accompanied by an increase in the amount of connective tissue. This increase in muscle protein is produced by increased protein synthesis and decreased protein degradation (Verkhoshansky, 2009).

Samson the great strongman awys criticsed ballooning muscle groups and promoted what he called tendon stregnthening through pulling and pushing activities utilised by the use of a set of chains .   Here’ s an extract from a web page promoting his life and training:

‘Alexander Zass was also known under the stage name of The Amazing Samson.

Zass was born in Vilna, Poland in 1888, but lived most of his early years in Russia and after 1924 in Britain. He lifted a 500 pound girder with his teeth, carried a small horse, caught a woman fired from a cannon and allowed professional boxers to hit him in the stomach, but his greatest talents were in bending steel bars and breaking chains which were the center piece of his music hall exhibitions.

Like many other strongmen of his era Zass was initially motivated to develop his strength when he attended a circus and saw the feats done by the circus strongman.

At first he developed himself by climbing trees, running and with home made dumbells and barbells. Later he trained under some of the great Russian professional strongmen including Krelov, Anokhin, and Demetrioff who taught their systems in person and through correspondence. Anokhin taught his system to George Lurich who eventually became famous as a world champion strongman and wrestler.

Zass was very innovative and started bending green branches and twigs to develop his grip strength. Perhaps this was the start of his great belief in the application of isometrics and “maximum tension” (a concept that is present in Russian training methods to this day) for the development of strength. He believed such an approach superior to the use of weights in developing strength.

Whilst a prisoner of war he continued to develop his strength with the use of isometrics by pulling on the bars and chains. This episode and the knowledge that he obtained from it later became the basis of his mail order course which featured isometrics in the form of pulling on chains of various lengths.’

The benefits of lifting slow may be in fact to add some stretch legnth to the muscle in the negative phase and perhaps to prevent injury by training form and balance.

What we do  see is athletes with protracted shoulders , locked hips , shortened calves and tilted pelvis’s – all  a symptom of training inefficently with weights.  The slow and heavy probably has its place but not above the functional and fast, a logical combination of the two may be the best way .  Education of the athlete so that he/she is not influenced incorrectly by the need to be a part of society as well as an indvidual with a particular skill that may be further developed by ‘smart’ weight training.   All training takes a good coach with up – to – date knowledge .   Theraputically we are always restablishing chains of movement and through manual treatment, releasing restriction at joint level.

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