Strength and speed development start in the weight room. Stronger and faster are the foundation for athletic performance improvement.
But you can't do it all in the weight room. What you do outside the weight room also impacts your performance. Speed and agility training, sport-specific skill development, nutrition, rest and recovery, and mental preparation complement weight room work and play important roles in athlete development.
Speed and Agility Training
Speed development involves three components:
- Technique — running form and mechanics
- Assisted and resisted sprinting
- Strength and power training, including plyometrics
Agility training uses exercises and drills that require acceleration, deceleration, change of direction and reaction.
Sport-Specific Skill Development
Being strong and fast is important, but it won't help you overcome weak ball-handling and shooting skills. Regardless of the sport you play, practicing skills—with proper technique and lots of repetition—is critical to your progress and success as an athlete. Time spent on the court, in the batting cage, etc., should focus on quality, and a knowledgeable, experienced coach or trainer can be a valuable resource to make the developmental process more efficient and effective. Video is also a great tool for performance development (the camera never lies).
Eating the right foods—quantity and quality—is important for two reasons: energy and recovery. Before you exercise, your nutritional choices ensure you will have adequate energy to perform. Afterwards, the proper balance of nutrients helps your body recover, preparing you for the next workout. You should aim to get most of your nutrients from whole foods. Nutritional supplements (multi-vitamins, protein) can also be helpful—especially since active individuals and athletes have a greater need for nutrients to support their active metabolisms.
Rest and Recovery
When it comes to strength and speed development, more is not necessarily better. The goal should be to avoid burnout and injury caused by overtraining, doing as much as you need to do to reach your performance goals, and not necessarily as much as you can (please note: this does not mean do as little as you can.)
Since training places physical and metabolic stress on your body, rest and recovery are necessary for your musculoskeletal system to regenerate. Generally, there is a correlation between the intensity of your training and the amount of rest your body requires to continue to perform at an optimal level. Make sure to allow for adequate rest during and between workouts, and get a good night's sleep every night.
In addition to preparing your body, you've got to prepare your mind. Elements of effective mental preparation include goal setting, visualization, focus, confidence and commitment. Be a smart athlete—a student of the game. Be positive and adaptable, and use positive self-talk as a motivator. Expect success and prepare accordingly.
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