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Maximising Speed, Power and Strength

New training techniques every dedicated sports player should know about

Serious athletes don’t need reminding of the importance of sports conditioning. They know it’s not enough nowadays simply to put in hundreds of hours of basic training – be it on the bike, on the track, in the pool or on the court......

To compete at your very best, you need to build the appropriate strength, power and speed elements into your conditioning regime. That’s what gives you the extra edge you need to excel at your sport.

The question is: what’s the most effective way to do this for your sport? It’s a rare opportunity to assess the latest thinking on sports conditioning for yourself, and decide how best to integrate it into your regular training regime.

Here are some of the facts you’ll learn:

• What are the best weight-training exercises for tennis players wanting to maximize strength and power
• How to get the maximum return on the time they spend in the gym?
• What steps can masters athletes take to reverse age-related deterioration in speed?
• What’s the best way for you to encourage fast-twitch muscle fibre development?
• Which sport-specific drills boost agility in your sport?
• What are the new techniques you can use to ‘fast-forward’ your speed conditioning to a new level?

Are you as fast as you’d like to be?

Speed. We all want more of it, whether we’re 100m sprinters or marathon runners. After all, is it any more frustrating to lose a track event in the last two meters, or a marathon in the last two hundred yards?

However, it is often assumed that those blessed with great speed or strength are born with a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres, and that no amount of speed work (or neuronal stimulation) will turn a cart-horse into a race horse.

But, in fact, fast-twitch fibres are fairly evenly distributed between the muscles of sedentary people, with most possessing 45-55% of both fast- and slow-twitch varieties. That means few of us are inherently destined for any particular type of sports activity, and how we develop will depend mostly on two factors:

• The way our sporting experiences are shaped at a relatively early age
• How we train our muscle fibres throughout our sporting careers

In Training for Speed, Power and Strength we shed new light on how you can get the utmost speed out of your system through the appropriate training techniques.

For example, we describe acceleration techniques used by elite sprinters and that you too can use to stimulate neuromuscular activity. And we describe several basic mechanical devices, hitherto used only by elite athletes to assist their speed conditioning programmes, that you can easily put to work for you.

Is your weight-training regime specific enough for your sport, and your event?

It has long been accepted that weight training (and the right strength training programme) can improve performance for aerobic athletes. But it’s crucial to select the right exercises, perform them at the right intensity and place them within a progressive and carefully structured weights programme.

In Training for Speed, Power and Strength we show you how to weight train for explosive power. First we draw on the ‘inside secrets’.of a weight training programme that mirrors the players’ speed requirements as closely as possible. Crucially, we also explains how to structure the programme within a 6-week training microcycle so as to maximize the sports-specific transference of speed and power and avoid what we call “physiological confusion” i.e. targeting two different physiological goals at the same time.

Then, we sets out the principles underlying our weight training techniques for achieving explosive power. We explain our training methodology in terms of hormonal response to the overload situation, and explains the importance both of exercise relevance and recovery.

Finally, we set out six weight training tips for enhancing performance, whatever your chosen sport.

Do you have adequate power in reserve – even in the closing stages of your event?

Wherever you look in the world of top-class sport, power counts; and one of the best ways of developing this most precious commodity is through plyometric training.

Plyometric exercises are based on the understanding that a concentric (shortening) muscular contraction is much stronger it immediately follows an eccentric (lengthening) contraction the same muscle. It’s a bit like stretching out a coiled spring to its fullest extent and then letting it go: immense levels of energy are released in a split second as the spring recoils.

Plyometric exercises develop this recoil or, more technically, the stretch/reflex capacity in a muscle. With regular exposure to this training stimulus, muscle fibre should be able to store more elastic energy and transfer more quickly and powerfully from the eccentric to the concentric phase.

However, to get the best out of plyometrics you need adequate preconditioning. And that’s where weight training can play a crucial role. Moreover, when it comes to selecting the right plyometric moves, the coach or athlete needs to consider the specifics of their sport, the athlete’s maturity, his level of pre-conditioning and his ability to pick up what can be a complex skill.

Here we show you how to build plyometrics into your existing training regime – and to do so safely, with the minimum risk of injury. We also set out a periodised plyometrics training course, explaining which exercises should be performed in the appropriate phase, paying particular attention to volume and intensity.

What’s the best way to build greater arm and leg strength?

To optimize strength and power, competitive players need to supplement their on-court training with training in the gym. For best effect, tennis players need to follow a programme of exercises that replicate their actions on the court as closely as possible.

If we perform a basic analysis of the mechanics of the groundstrokes, the main actions that produce forward propulsion, the hit-zone and the follow-through. The ‘leg kick’, which alternates hip flexion and extension of the legs. In addition, tennis involves the ‘stop - start and push off turn’, which requires dynamic ankle, knee and hip extension.

We identify the three weight-training exercises that are best for the development of arm strength in tennis specializing in upper body, plus the best exercise for the development of the lower body for the leg movements. We also explain how you can use gym work to develop your stop start and push-off turn – essential components in any competitive player’s armoury.

What’s the best way to preserve, even improve your speed?

It’s well-known that speed declines with age. What’s less well-known in that this degenerative process can be slowed – and even reversed in some cases. We explain the most common physiological and biochemical causes of the age-related decline in speed. Then, more importantly, we show you what you can do about it. If you’re serious about your sport there’s no need to take this situation lying down!

There are special training routines you can do that will slow the age-related reduction in stride length and the commensurate increase in ground contact time. There’s even a way to counteract the biochemical aspect of aging – and do so safely.

The bottom line for masters athletes: you may be older, but you’re also wiser. So you can train smarter!