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THE THREE PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING

Training to improve an athlete's performance obeys the three principles of training, summarised here.

Specificity

To improve the range of movement for a particular joint action, you have to perform exercises for the specific mobility requirements of a given event. The coach can analyse the technique of his/her event, identify which joint actions are involved and determine which need to be improved in terms of the range of movement. A thrower, for example, might require improvements in his/her shoulder and spine mobility. A hurdler might need to develop his/her hip mobility.

The amount and nature of the mobility training required by each athlete will vary according to the individual athlete's event requirements and his/her individual range of movement for each joint action. It may be necessary to measure the range of movement for particular joint actions to determine the present range and future improvement.

Specificity is an important principle in strength training, where the exercise must be specific to the type of strength required, and is therefore related to the particular demands of the event. The coach should have knowledge of the predominant types of muscular activity associated with his/her particular event, the movement pattern involved and the type of strength required.

Although specificity is important, it is necessary in every schedule to include exercises of a general nature (e.g. power clean, squat). These do not relate too closely to the movement of any athletic event. They do, however, give a balanced development, and provide a strong base upon which highly specific exercise can be built.

When an athlete performs high velocity strength work, the force he/she generates is relatively low and therefore fails to stimulate substantial muscular growth. If performed extensively the athlete may not be inducing maximum adaptation with the muscles. It is important therefore for the athlete to use fast and slow movements to fully train the muscles.

Overload

When an athlete performs a mobility exercise he/she should stretch to the end of his/her range of movement. In active mobility the end of the range of movement is known as the active end position. Improvements in mobility can only be achieved by working at or beyond the active end position.

Passive exercises involve passing the active end position, as the external force is able to move the limbs further than the active contracting of the protagonist muscles Kinetic mobility exercises use the momentum of the movement to bounce past the active end position.

A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its customary intensity. The load must be progressively increased in order to further adaptive responses as training develops and the training stimulus is gradually raised. Overload can be progressed by increasing these factors:

• The resistance e.g. adding 5kg to the barbell

• The number of repetitions with a particular weight

• The number of sets of the exercise (work)

• The intensity- more work in the same time, reducing the recovery periods

Reversibility

Improved ranges of movement can be achieved and maintained by regular use of mobility exercises. If an athlete ceases mobility training, his/her ranges of movement will decline over a period of time to those maintained by his/her other physical activities.

When training ceases the training effect will also stop. It eventually gradually reduces at approximately one third of the rate of acquisition.

Athletes must ensure that they continue strength training throughout the competitive period, although at a much reduced volume, or newly acquired strength will be lost.