The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase. A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training. And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.
Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface. Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion, for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds. Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.
Functional strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints. In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen. At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.
Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips. Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment. We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings.
Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body. Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.
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