When the whole purpose of your training is centered around getting better at the sport you play, programming your workouts is not simply a case of throwing a few random exercises together, or doing a few sets of this and a few sets of that. In fact, constructing a routine in such a manner will not only be ineffective, it could actually be detrimental to your performance. A good sports-specific training routine should contain all of the following elements.
The benefits of a good warm up are numerous:
- Increases blood flow
- Warms the muscles and joints
- Reduces risk of injury
- Activates the central nervous system and weak muscle fibers
- Mentally prepares you for the session.
Start your warm up with five minutes of light aerobic exercise, before moving on to foam rolling, dynamic and static stretching, and finally, some workout-specific warm ups.
No matter what sport you play, increasing your power output and speed will improve your game. The best power exercises are ones which relate to your sport. For example, if you play basketball, then vertical jumps and box jumps can be very useful. For soccer players, lateral bounds have a lot of carryover to in-game situations.
Pick one or two exercises, and do between 5 and 10 sets of two to five repetitions. The focus should be on generating maximum power and maintaining perfect technique, not fatiguing your muscles.
You can also use this time to perform some sprints or agility work.
As with power, more strength is always useful on the playing field. The majority of your strength work should be based around compound free-weight exercises, as these are more functional for sports training than doing your workouts on machines. This is because when you lift free-weights, your body has to recruit all its stabilizer muscles to help you balance, which machine training doesn’t do.
The majority of your strength work should be based around compound free-weight exercises
How you split your workouts is up to you. You may like to hit the whole body in every session, or do upper body one session, and lower body the next.
Pick one to three exercises from the following list in each workout:
- Squat variation
- Lunge Variation
- Deadlift Variation
- Bench or Overhead Press
- Chin Up or Row variation
The set and rep scheme you use is a very individual thing. You may respond better to very low reps but a high number of sets, or vice versa. The best thing to do, is to start off with a moderate approach, such as five sets of five on each exercise, and aim to add weight to the bar, or an extra couple of reps every session.
Accessory work isn’t as important as your strength and power work, but should still play a role in your training. Spend around 10 to 15 minutes per session on accessory work, and use it as an opportunity to improve your weak areas. These may be your cardiovascular fitness, upper body strength, lower body mobility, or anything else which is lagging.
Pre-hab exercises are designed to prevent injuries. The areas of the body where pre-hab can be most useful are the areas that are often injured when playing sport, or those which if weak, can contribute to poor performance, such as the shoulders, upper back and core muscles. You may wish to discuss with your coach, or team physio as to what areas you should concentrate on.
A cool down is necessary to help facilitate quick recovery, improve your mobility, and prevent injuries. It should include some light cardio, plenty of stretching, and foam rolling or self myofascial release.