Training Secrets

Functional Strength Training for the Athlete

If you are an athlete should you train in a specific manner when you at the gym or another location working out? Yes, functional strength training for the athleteyou should! It is especially important to stress a program of functional strength training if your goal is to improve your level of performance.

What is exactly is functional strength training? Let’s review the concept!

Inside FST

Really the term ‘functional strength training’ is more of a buzz word people in the fitness industry have slapped onto a lot of concepts and programs. The general idea of FST is that is that you train your body in a manner that directly increases strength for certain activities. A good example would be high rep jumping squats with dumbbells to work on the explosiveness of your vertical jump.

However some people have gone to the extreme with this training method and push certain aspects of training too hard, almost to the point of being dangerous. When you exceed the natural capabilities of the body repeatedly you put yourself at greater risk for injury. Not every motion should be turned into a weighted exercise!

The best method of performing functional strength training is to train specific movements with resistance, not to just focus on individual muscle strength. Why is this more effective? Along with increasing muscle strength, you are also training the brain and nervous system to react quicker. The brain tends to work with coordinated movements and not the individual muscles more effectively. Repeated movements help hone the neurological pathways which results in signals being sent and received quicker.

So in our example of jumping squats, you might be a basketball player who should be working a specific type of jumping squat that mimic getting a rebound. You are training your muscles, as well as coordination and agility. While this won’t build you as much leg muscle as doing sets of heavy, low rep squats, you will work on your functional muscle use along with muscle endurance, both of which are critical aspects of athletics.

Of course you can still utilize certain single joint movements to train weak links within a larger movement.

While FST might seem like a newer concept, many athletes have been doing workouts involving plyometric movements for years to help build speed, quickness, and power.

Typical FST Exercises

  • Squats – Squats are simply put one of the best weighted exercises you can do. All athletes should work with both heavy and light squats to build core strength and endurance. The hips, lower back, and upper legs are critical to almost all sports and training with squats also adds overall body strength.
  • Lunges – Lunges have a lot of ways they can be done which allows them to mimic certain movements utilized in sports that require a lot of leg explosion.
  • Deadlifts – Deadlifts are much like squats and should be a staple for building overall body strength. Low rep and high rep work helps build a strong foundation that covers everything from helping a friend move to driving up quickly.
  • Clean and Press – Another powerlifting motion is here on this list. This starts like a deadlift then turns into an overhead press. This exercise is one of the best full-body exercises to work with training explosive power from top to bottom. For the athlete going with higher reps to work endurance is better than heavy weight and low reps.
  • Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch – This is probably the single best kettlebell exercise. It helps work with hip, shoulder, and arm strength along with coordination.
  • Pull-Ups – A great upper body strengthening motion that has a few varieties to help with different style of training.
  • Push-Ups – Much like pull-ups but has even more variations such as single arm and wall pushups to work on strength and explosion at different angles.
  • Sprints – Part of the core movements for most athletes is working on short, 10 to 40 yard dashes to build a better connect and strong fibers coming off the blocks.
  • Jumping Movements – There are a huge number of plyometric jumping movements that any athlete can use to improve jumping or just quick movements in any direction. Training with quick jumps helps agility and foot speed as well as explosive muscle contractions and endurance.

The Bottom Line

Functional strength training should be a critical component of any athletes training program if they are serious about getting stronger, faster, and more agile in a way the directly relates to how they compete.