With summer around the corner, it won’t be long until you can rejoin your teammates and fill your days with cricket, soccer, tennis and all your favourite summer sports. As a result, we’ve been fielding plenty of questions about the most effective ways to improve sports performance, and do so fast.
Our answer is an easy one. It’s tried, tested, and undisputedly proven to have a significant effect on performance, injury prevention and more: it’s strength training. If you’re looking for ways to get a competitive edge this summer, or just feel your best as you play or workout, strength training is for you. Our physios have shared how and why strength training is your #1 key to unlocking optimal sports performance while helping you prevent injuries.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training (often referred to as weight training or resistance training) uses the resistance to the contraction of your muscles to help build your strength, endurance and muscle size. Occasionally, we still hear a misguided presumed connection between the term strength training and the image of bulky bodybuilders that make it seem far out of reach for many, but thankfully this perception is quickly changing. Strength training can, and should, be performed by people of all levels of sport, size, age and fitness goals. If your goal is to stay active and pain-free, then some form of strength training should be part of your exercise routine.
Strength training is backed by a large, high-quality and comprehensive body of evidence, with studies referring to it as “medicine” for our bodies. This is because the benefits of strength training far exceed helping you grow stronger and preventing or reversing muscle loss. Strength training also results in:
- Improving your bone mineral density – which can decline with age
- Recharging your resting metabolism – with increases of around 7% to your resting metabolic rate observed in studies
- Reducing your body fat – and most importantly the risks associated with excess body fat like cardiovascular disease and diabetes
- Reversing the effects of inactivity as you age – older adults have been shown to display enhanced movement control, functional abilities, physical performance and walking speed after strength training
- Helping resist type two diabetes – by counteracting age-associated declines in insulin sensitivity
- Improving cardiovascular health – at least as much as aerobic endurance training, like going for a walk or jog
- Reducing the symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and depression while improving self-esteem and cognitive abilities in older adults
- Reducing resting blood pressure and blood lipid (fat) profiles
Strength Training Unlocks Performance
While many are quick to critique their sports performance using phrases like ‘my reaction times aren’t fast enough’ or ‘I can’t run fast enough’, the real glass ceiling we see sportspeople hitting over and over is that they’re not strong enough. To perform at your best in any sport or form of exercise, you need to regularly be working on your relative, absolute and sports-specific strengths.
Without adequate strength, you can spend your training trying all the new drills and gameplay strategies without being able to execute them in an optimal way, or with a consistent, healthy or efficient technique. This is an easy rabbit hole for frustration, slower gains, and injury.
Studies have shown that even endurance athletes that add strength training to their program improved their performance in time trials, as well as their movement economy. Strength training doesn’t need to be an everyday activity, either. Even one strength training session per week has been shown to further improve a person’s reactive strength while maintaining their maximal strength. On the other hand, runners who omit strength training can experience a deterioration of their reactive strength by almost 8% during their racing season.
Strength Training Helps You Prevent Pain & Injuries
Strength training is highly regarded for helping to prevent injuries on and off the field, pitch or court, and is considered safe, effective and worthwhile for both adults and children – as long as the methods are age-appropriate and approved by health professionals like your physio or exercise physiologist. Strength training may also help speed up your recovery if injury does occur. Strength training works by:
- Helping prevent overuse injuries. A primary cause for muscle-related injury is from overworking the muscles by continuously applying loads to them that exceed what they can safely handle, based on their current strength and flexibility. This can happen in sport from going too hard, too fast. Strength training can help ensure the musculoskeletal system can safely handle higher forces without injury.
- Helping improve stability. Maintaining good muscle strength can improve your balance and stability, which can help prevent falls and other injuries.
- Helping build stronger bones. By helping promote the increase of bone mineral density and improving bone strength with strength training, the risk of osteoporosis, stress fractures and other fractures are reduced.
- Reducing muscle fatigue. When your muscles are tired, you’re more prone to technique errors. Stronger muscles can help you go for longer without fatigue, helping you maintain an optimal and efficient technique.
Start Your Season On The Best Foot
Whether you need to add strength training to your routine but you’re not sure where to start, or you have an injury that’s currently holding you back from training, our experienced physiotherapy team is here to help. We conduct comprehensive assessments to understand where your strengths lie, and which areas may need improvement. If you’re battling an ongoing injury, or have a niggle that has been there for years, we’ll work to help you get back to optimal function.