It is a common belief that strength training should be an important part to an athlete’s preparation. Strength training has been shown to improve strength, power and speed while also increasing muscle mass and decreasing risk of injury [1]. The ultimate goal of preparing athletes is to maximise performance during competition [1]. According to McGuigan et al. [1], the question can be asked whether or not strength training enhances match performance in non-strength sport athletes such as team sports. It has been noted that there is limited evidence showing strong relationships between strength training and motor performance such as agility. McGuigan et al. [1] set out to provide an overview on whether strength training really helps with athletic performance.

Strength Training For Team Sport Athletes

Physical capacities that can be developed through strength training have been shown to differentiate between elite, sub-elite and junior or amateur level athletes. This includes jump height, speed, force and power measures, speed and agility. Given this evidence, it’s reasonable to conclude that strength training has positive benefits for an athlete’s performance. However, some research has determined that strength is a poor predictor of agility performance. This could be due to agility having a cognitive component to it and isn’t purely physical. More research is needed in elite athletes to investigate relationships between strength & power measures and sports specific performance.

Transfer Of Strength Training To Athletic Performance

There is a large body of literature showing that strength training can increase strength, power, vertical jump, speed and acceleration in a range of different sports. However, McGuigan et al. [1] ask this great question I am always asking myself.

“To what extent do these physical capacities and their development contribute to success in terms of improved match performance?”

“There are also issues concerning the extent of transfer that occurs from strength training to these measures of performance.” While strength training is important for a variety of performance factors, how much is enough? Is there such thing as too much? Is it just too much on certain exercises and not others? Research is not conclusive with some studies showing improvements in strength and power without a concurrent improvement in sport specific skills [1]. It is interesting to note that performance tests such as agility, bench press, vertical and horizontal jumps have very low relationships with making an NFL team.

What Does This Mean For You?

I’m not saying to throw the baby out with the bath water and not perform strength training for your sport. The message I want to get across here is that resistance training is not the be all, end all of athletic development. Resistance training is vitally important for not only developing athletes, but also decreasing the risk of injury. However, once you get to a certain level of strength on a lift, is adding ‘x’ amount of weight to your 1RM going to translate to ‘x’ performance when playing your sport? Is being really strong in that lift actually that important? What other aspects of your preparation are you missing out on by spending more energy trying to go from strong to crazy strong? These are all valid questions to ask yourself when your focus gets pushed too far in the weight room and not far enough with your sporting skills and other components of fitness.

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