Ladies and Gentlemen I have to address the issue of sports specific training and “functional” exercise as it is not going away and is in fact getting worse.
The body learns skills in a specific manner. The order in which muscles and fibres are recruited, the speed at which they contract and much more.
I see many sports coaches trying to mimic a sports specific movement in the weight room with barbells, dumbbells, bands, balls and a host of other equipment which are more likely to hurt the performance of any athlete than they are to help due to the nature of motor learning.
A sprinter running with weighted shoes or bands around his waist or a parachute are skills that are very similar to sprinting but not quite the same, yes the muscles will experience a minute level of overload but at the cost of a second motor skill very close to that of the sports specific skill of sprinting being learned. The nervous system now has two motor skills to decipher in competition and that “noise” will only serve to slow the runner down.
The single best use of any strength coaches time is and should be to all, obvious. To coach strength and the ability to express it. Secondly should come the consideration of muscle building which ultimately dictates the power and strength displays of an athlete and allows a certain amount of injury prevention from impacts.
The use of stability exercises is another field of bamboozle that has been gaining momentum over the past decade to the point it is hard to find a gym without balls, boards and a host of other injuries waiting to happen. Not only that but they are touted as working the core harder. The core is some mythical set of muscles that can only be worked with new and fancy equipment or so we are led to believe. The core muscles are those that are at the core of our bodies, the centre and we can work them with a bag of shopping. Amazing.
Our abs, backs, sides and several other muscles deeper inside, beneath the ones we see on a daily basis are our “core”.
Now just ask yourself; do those very same muscles not get worked when you sprint/jump/lift/push/pull/climb/squat etc?
And do they not get worked as hard and in most cases a damn sight harder than they would whilst you struggle to stop yourself falling off something squishy?
To get stronger we must expose our muscles to high levels of tension through either an external load (barbells/dumbbells etc) or our own body weight and progressively increase that load as we get stronger to continue challenging the tensile and metabolic properties of the muscle structure.
Next time you are on a balance board or ball have a feel of your abs or lower back and see how much they are working…now go and pick up something heavy in one hand and walk with it….yes the same muscles are working but this time they are working harder.
Job done, no fancy equipment or pseudo science sales pitch, just plain old common sense hard work.
Activating your core is almost an entire industry on its own and it’s a con and a big one at that. Yes you can activate your core on a wobbly surface but to a far lesser degree than you would on a stable surface that you are less likely to fall off.
Beware the Personal Trainer or coach that tries to sell an exercise gimmick as anything other than fun.
Here in Epsom we know the difference between strength training and exercise for fun, I believe you should too.