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Monday, October 17, 2022

US Sports Strength and Conditioning: Strength Training Philosophies for Athletes


  • Author Matt Hank
Every athlete’s strength training program should closely follow basic guidelines and coaching philosophies. In this article, I have included the training philosophies that I adhere to when designing a routine for an athlete. I want my athletes to get the most out of their training and improve their overall sports performance.

Ground based training

Sports movements (with the exception of rowing or swimming) take place upright on your feet. Whether you are running, jumping, hitting, throwing, shooting, or doing any other sports movements the muscles in your legs and core are working. Strength training exercises should take place in different standing positions to increase the rate of transfer to your sport. Example: incorporate the standing shoulder press using the legs (push press) instead of doing a seated shoulder press.

Multi-joint training

It is important to train movement patterns and not individual muscles in the weight room. The body is an integrated machine that uses multiple muscles in all planes of motion to produce sports movements. The body needs to learn how to work as a cohesive unit to produce smooth, natural and powerful movement patterns. Example: squats are a better exercise selection than leg extensions and leg curls.

Training in multiple planes

The body has to react, control and overcome forces in all planes of motion. Sports actions take place in all three planes of motion; therefore, training should take place in the various planes of motion. Example: instead of only doing lunges where you step forward try lunging to the side and at a backward angle. Also, try incorporating rotational movements such as chops or twists into your workout.

Train at different speeds

It is important to train with heavier weights (slower speeds) to build strength and muscle mass. It is equally important to train at high speeds with relatively lighter weights. There should be an emphasis on speed of movement because you need to train at high speeds to play at fast/quick speeds on the field or court. Example: during a training routine it is appropriate to include heavy squats, squat jumps (lighter weight), and body weight plyometrics.

Unilateral Training

Many athletic movements take place using one limb at a time such as a running (during the support phase – one foot is on the ground), throwing, and kicking. Unilateral training can help correct deficiencies between both sides of the body, challenge the stability within those joints/muscles that are performing the exercise, and help enhance the neuromuscular system involving single limb movements. Example: incorporate single leg squats and single arm rows into your routine.

Functional Training

Functional training does not imply that you need to incorporate balance boards, Bosu balls, physio balls, and other pieces of equipment that claim to be "functional". The goal is to incorporate strength-training exercises that will transfer to your sport and help to improve your overall athletic performance. Example: standing barbell squats is a much better selection than a seated leg press machine, the push press is a better selection than front and lateral raises, and doing pull ups is a better selection than the seated lat pull.

Athletes and coaches should reevaluate their strength-training programs and make sure it follows scientifically based training philosophies. Most of all the program should be functional and help to improve overall athletic performance.

Matt Hank, MS, CSCS, USAW is the owner of ASAP Performance Training in Valencia California. Matt is a sports performance coach who trains youth, college, and professional athletes. For more information about sports training or any other questions check out ASAP Performance Training, or email him at

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