In the gym, we’ve all seen “that guy” whose workout consists of alternating sets of Bench Press and Bicep Curls. He sacrifices proper form in favor of curling an overly heavy pair of dumbbells. He slouches forward during the exercise, looking at each bicep as he curls, seemingly admiring his own gun show.
STACKletes, you do not want to be “that guy,” especially if you’re dedicated to improving your sports performance. With that in mind, here’s how the practice of integrated training will change your life.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) defines integrated training as a comprehensive approach aimed at improving everything necessary for an athlete to perform at the highest level and prevent injury. To become a complete athlete, you must follow a complete training program. This means flexibility, core, balance, plyometrics, speed/agility/quickness, resistance and sport-specific cardio training in all three planes of motion (forward and backward, rotational and side-to-side). Anything less will limit you as an athlete.
Starting a Program
Flexibility is the foundation. Before each workout, you should perform a dynamic warm-up, taking your muscles through their full range of motion. Following a workout, you can use static stretches to relieve your muscles and prevent the formation of knots resulting from the breakdown of muscle fibers.
If you are new to integrated training, you’ll want to ease your body into it in order to prevent injury. First, maintaining correct posture is of paramount importance in any sports performance program. Improper posture will cause other muscles and joints to activate, leading to muscle imbalances. Anything less than optimum posture can put undue stress on the wrong muscle or joint, sending you straight to the injured reserve.
Once you’re warmed up and focused on correct posture, it’s time to ease into your new program. Starting out, you want your base to be as stable as possible by using benches, firmly planting both legs on the ground, curling with both arms, etc. After you’ve mastered a beginner exercise, you can challenge yourself by using a physioball, standing on one leg at a time, alternating arms and using dumbbells, med balls, a BOSU Trainer or an Airex Balance Pad.
Committing to a system of progression will allow your body to safely adapt to the new challenges and prevent injury. Below is a sample progression that begins with a stable base and moves to a more challenging single-leg movements on an unstable base.
- Barbell Bicep Curl with two feet on the ground
- Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl with two feet on the ground
- Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl with one foot on the ground
- Barbell Bicep Curl with two feet on BOSU Trainer
- Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl with two feet on BOSU Trainer
- Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl with one foot on BOSU Trainer
Planes of Motion
With integrated training, you must challenge yourself in all three planes of motion: sagittal, transverse and coronal. Doing so best mimics the athletic movements you’ll have to perform during games. Even a seemingly single plane activity like sprinting requires training in the other two planes for effective performance and injury prevention.
How To Train In Each Plane
- Sagittal: Imagine a line bisecting your body into right and left halves. Movement in this plane is front to back. Bicep Curls, Bench Presses, Rows and Squats are all sagittal exercises, which specifically improve your strength and performance for movement forward and backward.
- Transverse: Rotation is the cornerstone of this plane. Med Ball Twists and Cable Pulls are popular transverse exercises. This translates perfectly for baseball hitters, pitchers, quarterbacks and tennis players who need to develop rotational power to improve their game.
- Coronal (a.k.a. Frontal): Imagine a line separating your body into front and back halves. Movement in this plane is side to side. Exercises such as Side Lunges and Lateral Shuffles take place in the coronal plane. In most sports, this translates perfectly to the constant side-to-side movement of playing defense.
Optimum Performance Training
Your body is smart. Even if you’re observing the principles of optimum form and multi-planar training, your body will find the best way to complete workouts, and at some point you will begin to plateau. To avoid this, you’ll need to challenge yourself at different stages, usually at three-week intervals.
NASM recommends their Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model, which has six training phases: Stabilization Endurance, Strength Endurance, Hypertrophy, Maximal Strength, Power and Maximal Power. Each phase challenges the body in unique ways, recruiting different muscles for various lengths of time and at different speeds. Using this model or a similar progression will round out your program, giving you a complete workout on your way to becoming a complete athlete.
Your body needs variety in order to train for the next level. Below are the key points to keep in mind when programming your workout.
- Incorporate flexibility, core, balance, plyometrics, speed/agility/quickness, resistance and sport-specific cardio training.
- Learn and maintain optimum posture for all exercises.
- Train in all three planes of motion.
- Follow a progression when implementing variables.
- Create a long-term model that challenges your body in different ways for different periods of time.