Training for Athletic Performance

Training an athlete for performance can seem like a simple task to the layman gym rat. Go work out and you get better, right? But in reality it doesn’t really work that way. Well, it may for a little while, but after that someone that knows what they are doing will have some damage to undo.


“In the beginning, a monkey can seemingly make you better”

  • anyone that is new to exercise (or any particular exercise) is highly adaptable for about 6-12 weeks

This is because during the first 6 weeks of a new exercise most adaptations are from the nervous system through increases in inter and intramuscular coordination. This is done through a variety of ways including:

  • optimization of neural firing rate
  •  optimization of each muscle’s motor unit firing patterns, including turning dormant motor units on and improving the sequence in which motor units are recruited 
  • optimization of the firing order of the muscles involved in a movement

After this initial training period, the body shifts toward utilizing physiological adaptations to yield improvements. There are several ways in which this occurs but they are not as relevant for this article.  Included among them  are increases in muscle size. In sports, rarely is bulk a desirable trait. Some, sure, but not much. The reason for this has to do with something called relative strength.

  • Relative strength is your maximal strength divided by your body weight. In nearly every position of every sport with rare exception, relative strength is your best predictor of athleticism and positional athleticism (this would be your athleticism compared to athletes of the same position and is assuming that you have the appropriate body anthropometrics for the position) 




But you have to really know what you’re doing. Even intermediate college strength coaches with degrees in exercise science lack this knowledge. These tricks are considered by some to be trade secrets that are reserved for only elite strength coaches. That being said, any decent strength coach that has trained sprinters should know many of these tricks, though it is another thing to learn how to appropriately apply them to team sports.



Assuming that you have a well established athletic base, the next most important part of an athlete’s performance is injury prevention.

I know, that’s probably not what you expected. But a multi-million dollar athlete is useless if he’s on the bench because of an injury.

Case in point:

injured…a lot = useless

But when he’s healthy you get

There are numerous variables that predict/prevent injuries, and they begin developing from the first workout that you do.

This is why it is important to start right, which is why you should start with the right person. 

For instance, hamstring injuries are often caused by improper inter and/or intramuscular firing patterns. These faulty patterns can be developed from something as simple as learning to do a squat improperly. For instance, a bodybuilding style squat will predispose an athlete to bad hammies while a proper powerlifting squat will help prevent them. The average personal trainer or gym rat couldn’t tell you what makes them different even while watching the to styles done simultaneously.

So, proper technique, and specifically proper for an athlete, should be learned from the beginning. 

Timing is also important. The  effect of a workout will temporarily and chronically alter the motor patterns stimulated by the workout. Assuming that the appropriate motor patterns were utilised during the workout for performance and injury prevention (and have been developed over time), the following observations are notable:

  • motor patterns are strengthen a few hours after a workout,  improving performance and preventing injury.
  • motor patterns are altered negatively over the next few days as the muscles and CNS recover. Performance will go down and injury risk for that muscle group is increased.
  • motor patterns are chronically adapted/improved approximately 7-10 days after the workout, improving performance and reducing risk of injury for the muscle group during that period. 


Next, is reducing the overall risk of both chronic and acute injuries. This is done through a variety of ways.

  • proper muscle balance for each joint is important. For example, if you bench 300 pounds then being able to do seated external rotations for 10 reps with a 30 pound dumbbell will reduce the risk of a shoulder injury. 

  •  Appropriate recovery exercises must be included to promote healthy tissues
  • The proper balance between high intensity, speed, and low intensity exercise must be maintained
  • The appropriate diet must be consumed
  • Appropriate supplements for the individual must be utilized


When all of these criteria are met, optimal athlete performance for the individual will be achieved.


So if you are an athlete, or your child is an athlete, their performance relies on you finding them the right personal trainer or strength coach to develop them. 





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  • Exercise Videos search for videos of a specific exercise or look for new videos to add variety to your workouts.
  • Mendeley Research Library See what I have been reading lately. This is agreat link for research on fitness, weight loss, diet, exercise, supplements and health.


  • Exercise Videos search for videos of a specific exercise or look for new videos to add variety to your workouts.


  • Mendeley Research Library See what I have been reading lately. This is agreat link for research on fitness, weight loss, diet, exercise, supplements and health.