Strength and Conditioning or “S & C” has emerged as a commonly used term for exercise participation.
An early thought was that S & C was only for professional athletes, and that mr or mrs general population couldn’t participate because they weren’t fit enough, or worse still, they were not “elite” enough.
Of course this is absolute bullshit and like many things his has now gone full circle, and everybody is participating in “S & C” training.
Because of this, confusion reigns.
What is the difference between S & C, and a Personal Training session?
Are they the same?
Is S & C something different, or just a new name for good old fashioned exercise participation?
So with the above in mind, what should a Strength & Conditioning session look like?
Here are 3 things your coach should be teaching you, and you should expect to experience, during your S & C session:
The Inclusion Of Real Strength And Power Training
Research has shown the endless overall benefits of strength and power training participation, with strength training playing a crucial role in the production of power.
More recently there are many exercises being added to S & C programmes which either do not belong there, or are too focused on the element of conditioning. Exercises such as “battle ropes” or “tyre flips” etc are all cool and will certainly increase your fitness, but they are not addressing the vital elements of increasing strength and power.
I will repeat that again so we are clear:
These types of exercises DO NOT get you stronger or more powerful.
Sands and Stone (2007) defined strength as “the ability to produce force” and as we know,
Power = Force x Velocity.
This gives us the rationale for participating in strength training to increase our power output, however heavy weight training alone will not always cause an increase in power.
Hakkinen (1994) showed that in lesser trained subjects, heavy weight training showed beneficial effects and a shift in the force velocity curve. Yet amongst well trained subjects who have a good strength base, the addition of exercises with a lighter load and increased velocity is required to elicit benefits in peak power.
Put simply, there was an old school thought that “lifting weights makes you slow” and this is simply not true. It is also untrue that the more modern style YouTube or circus style exercises will increase your strength and power.
Slower movements where a heavy load is moved will increase your strength, and you must do this type of training. Faster ballistic type movements, with a lighter load, such as the Olympic lifts and their derivatives, as well as certain medicine ball exercises (amongst various others) are what will increase your power, and these must also be incorporated into your S & C programme.
Plyometrics is defined by Rimmer and Sleivert (2000) as:
“A type of training that develops the ability of muscles to produce force at high speeds (produce power) in dynamic movements; these movements involve a stretch of the muscle immediately followed by an explosive contraction of the muscle”.
The common thinking is that if you are jumping around in any shape or form, this is plyometrics training. To some extent this is true, but there is a little more to it than that.
Due to a phenomenon known as the ‘Stretch Shortening Cycle’, exercises such as the countermovement jump (CMJ), depth jump and drop jump are true plyometrics exercises and should be included in your training programme.
It is however commonly advised that you should have a good strength base of 1.5 x body weight (back squat), before participation in an ongoing intense plyometrics training block.
As a client, you must be consistently participating in some forms of physical testing, where your scores and data are recorded.
Effective coaching has so many pieces to the jigsaw and if testing is too regimented, or repeated to often then ‘paralysis by analysis’ can occur. Your training sessions should be varied and fun, because that is what will want to make you keep attending, however they must include data collection.
You coach should produce reports and charts citing your progress, and your planned journey of future progression.
If you do not have data, times and scores, then it simply is not a Strength and Conditioning session (or a Personal Training session for that matter, it’s somebody winging their way along!).
Each and every person should participate, and would benefit from S & C based training sessions. However the crucial element, is understanding what you are doing and why.
Strength and Conditioning sessions usually focus more on improving your athletic performance (getting you fitter, faster, stronger), helping you improve in your sporting participation. Personal Training will help you get fit, lose weight, or gain aesthetically pleasing muscle, with a focus on your physique being the priority (hopefully alongside your health!).
It is important that we do not confuse the two, so we know which one suits our goals best.