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Strength and Conditioning for the Average Joe or Jane: Why Everyone Should Train Like an Athlete
Myles Methner, CSCS
Some people claim that Strength and Conditioning training should be reserved exclusively for athletes who are participating competitively in sport. Everyday gym-goers on the other hand, should stick to your classic “bro split” of “chest and triceps”, “back and biceps”, and “shoulders and leg” days. A brief YouTube search of Strength and Conditioning will return a myriad of training montages. These clips typically including athletes performing incredible feats of strength, speed, power, and endurance in the weight room, on the field, or on the track. Surely these training modalities are only meant for elite athletes, right?
Not so fast.
These are fun and effective methods that can be incorporated into anybody’s program, and today we’re going to look at how.
According to Human Kinetics: “Strength and Conditioning training involves a wide range of exercises developed to build a variety of skills with a focus on mind, mobility, stability, strength, endurance, power, speed, agility and performance. Strength and Conditioning programs are generally developed specifically to improve performance in athletic competition. They also help with injury prevention and develop the proper mechanics within an athlete’s sports performances.”
Competitive sports are not the most forgiving of endeavours due to their unpredictable nature. Athletes must train hard to stay healthy and enjoy a long career. Longevity is a major focus, but couldn’t everybody benefit from this? No matter who you are, your body craves movement. The reality is, we all performed many of these movements as children: running, climbing, jumping and throwing. However, now when we perform them in a gym, on a field, or on a track, it’s no longer called play. Remember, we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing. It’s time to bring back play into our lives and truly enjoy our fitness journey!
Explosive exercises like sprints, jumps and throws are great "bang for your buck" movements compared to your traditional steady-state, long-duration bouts of activity. This is because these movements train our fast twitch muscle fibres (muscle gain), burn more calories per unit of time, and burn more calories after the workout is done.
Have you seen how jacked most sprinters are?
Additionally, while all forms of exercise can help to improve brain function and mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression, research suggests that sprinting is more effective in doing so than long-distance running. Lifting heavy weights can also be advantageous for most of us because the increased strength we gain can assist in making our activities of daily living much easier. Carrying the laundry basket up and down the stairs or squatting down to play with your kids becomes a much easier task when you can routinely and safely perform heavy squats, deadlifts, and weighted carries.
Athletes are also extremely focused on their nutrition and recovery, another value we should really try to emulate. We may not have access to all of the same recovery modalities, but we can definitely make a conscious effort to eat more whole foods, get plenty of sleep, and throw in a 10-minute cooldown of total body stretching and breath work.
Here are some ways you can effectively incorporate proper strength and conditioning into your daily routine.
At home training can be a cost-efficient, convenient, and effective option depending on your budget! It is certainly cost effective as training at home is free (save for the money you may spend on some basic equipment like dumbbells or medicine balls), you can be comfortable in your own space, and you can train whenever you like! We have to be able to walk before we can run anyways (no pun intended).
Your best bet would be to first master the bodyweight movements; pushups, pullups/chin-ups, squats, and lunges are a great place to start. As mentioned, sprints are also a great addition to any workout routine because they incorporate virtually every muscle in your body and require no equipment. You can likely find a hill or set of stairs locally as well that you can sprint on for free to crank up your workout and make it even more intense. If you feel confident, you can even add some explosive “box” jumps up onto a stable park bench or up a set of stairs!
*Note: Although there are benefits of jumping off the box and sticking the landing, I would recommend that an unsupervised beginner steps off of the implement instead because in this case the injury risk outweighs the reward.
Hybrid online programming:
If you’re the kind of person who feels confident in working independently but are looking for guidance in regard to your programming, hybrid online programming may be a great option for you. This can be an excellent option for those who either have a gym membership or well-equipped home gym, along with some training experience. Many coaches will offer online programming where they have an honest conversation with you about your goals, abilities, injury and medical history, equipment available, and desired training frequency. From here, they can develop a personalized program suited to you that will set you on the path to success! A good coach will also check in with you periodically to keep you accountable; it’s like having a strength coach at your fingertips for a fraction of the cost!
In-person with a coach
This is the Cadillac of all of the services mentioned. For those looking to truly optimize their training situation, one on one coaching is the way to go because you will have a personalized program in which every single rep is coached! The professional is constantly adapting and readjusting the program to fit with your current state of readiness. If you are looking to perform some of the more advanced exercises such as the Olympic lifts, this is also likely the safest and most effective way to learn and practice them. Some people even begin lifting weights, fall in love with it, and realize they want to compete. In this case, it is definitely in your best interest to get with an in-person coach. It’s certainly not all about bringing home medals or owning the podium, either! For some, it’s a way to spice up their workout and keep their fitness journey fun. At Iron Performance Center, we have multiple folks who are not athletes but train as if they were and they report feeling strong, confident, and having an overall improved quality of life. Many of them even have their names and personal records displayed proudly on our “Alpha Record Board” which keeps them engaged and motivated in the training process. Some gyms will even offer a semi-private setting where you still receive a personalized program but are training and being coached at the same time as another client. This can be a great way to meet new people and train with another like-minded individual and encourage you to push harder.
Put simply, strength training is really for everyone! Whether you are trying to bring home some hardware or simply take onus of your fitness journey, there’s something for everyone in terms of strength and conditioning. As with any training program, make sure you always receive clearance from your doctor, perform a proper warmup prior to exercising, and listen to your body.
It’s time to pack your gym bag and bend some barbells!