Updated: Nov 11
Building a Program for Injury Prevention and Performance
Strength and conditioning is one of the most important aspects of an athlete’s development. Strength training is important for several reasons but mainly to optimize physical performance and reduce the risk of injury. Every coach has their own training philosophy and it is imperative to create a quality program for the athletes in which that coach is working with. As a coach, it is important for me to build my programs with a philosophy and training principles for an athlete to achieve their goals.
Philosophy The philosophy at The Micheli Center is fairly straightforward: simultaneously maximize athletic performance while reducing the athletes’ risk for injury. In all sports, it is common to see that seasons end because of significant injuries whether a key player or a high volume of injuries among the roster. The main priority in athletic development is injury prevention because if the players get injured they can’t play, or at the very least, their performance may be inhibited. The next priority is to maximize athletic performance. Essentially every sport requires speed, strength, power, flexibility, agility, and conditioning. Strength training programs should be designed to improve all these qualities in order to prepare for sport. I have always believed that injury prevention and performance training mesh with one another, so working to improve performance qualities will also place focus on injury prevention.
Training Principles Training programs are built with the intention to help the athlete appropriately prepare for the demands of their sport. It is important to incorporate the following principles into training regimens for athletes because these are best strategies to help them succeed. My principles of training involve training ground-based movements, multi-joint (free weight) based movements, and three-dimensional (functional) movements.
Ground based movements are exercises that involve limb contact with the ground. Examples include plyometrics, squats, Olympic lifts, and speed & agility drills. Multi-joint movements involve exercises that can be done with free weights or body weight which include squats, bench press, Olympic lifts, and pull-ups. Three-dimensional movements include all planes of motion (forward, back, side, up, down, and rotational).These types of exercises are specific to human movement and best prepare athletes for their sport.
Program Design A well-rounded training program incorporates the following:
Speed & Agility Training – Linear sprint mechanics, multi-directional change of direction drills: These drills contribute to an increase in linear speed which will improve acceleration, top speed, and running mechanics. The multi-directional and change of direction training will improve multidirectional agility and deceleration mechanics, which is also helpful in preventing ACL tears.
Mobility/Flexibility – Breathing, dynamic flexion, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching, static stretching: Mobility and flexibility training is important to reduce muscle stiffness and increase joint range of motion. This will better exercise technique as well as improve overall movement patterning. Dynamic or movement based stretching is ideal prior to workouts because it optimized range of motion and primes the nervous system for activity. Postural restoration breathing exercises may also have benefit before workouts because of their ability to relax specific muscles and contribute to improved posture. The supine 90/90 hemi bridge is a basic one that improves hip flexor range of motion while improving pelvic position.
Power/Rotation Power – Triple extension (vertical & horizontal), plyometrics, hopping, Olympic lifting, throwing, jumping: Power training will improve explosiveness and the ability to absorb external forces, leading to decreases in non-contact and contact related injuries. Olympic lifting and plyometrics improve jump height and the ability to run faster.
Strength Training – Torso/hip stability, lower body push/pull/ vertical-horizontal, upper body push/pull/ vertical-horizontal: Strength training with free weights while variating exercises, planes of motion, and intensities is the best way to improve overall strength. This will allow the athlete to effectively strengthen all muscle groups throughout the body while mimicking functional movement patterns that are similar to the patterns required in all sports/activities.
Conditioning – Interval training (anaerobic/aerobic energy systems): Most sports are interval based with the exception of endurance based sports such as distance swimming and running events. Doing anaerobic, high intensity, interval based conditioning such as sprints, sleds, and shuttle runs are the best ways to condition most sports such as field and court sports. This will also maintain and improve the athletes speed and quickness without compromising their body composition and risk for overuse injuries.
Typical programming consists of either daily or weekly undulating programs with athletes, meaning that exercises, intensities, and movements change on daily or weekly bases. Below highlights a particular phase of a two day training program for an athlete.