Do you even lift bro?
Improving sports performance is usually a simple equation – train hard in the gym, on the track and recover. However, one often overlooked concept is ‘HOW’ we train, are we performing skills and exercises in a way that maximises transferrence to game day. We know that great athletes spend hours trying to perfect their craft, whether it’s controlling the ball in hockey, passing in soccer, shooting in basketball or kicking in AFL. They do this to master the skills so that they can execute when the time comes in a game.
Do you spend endless hours trying to perfect your sporting skills? Do you pay close attention to each rep you do to make sure your getting better? Do you pay as much attention to your exercise technique? Just like sporting skills, exercise technique should be practiced in the same way. When an exercise/skill is executed poorly it becomes less effective at achieving the goal, sometimes to the point that it actually makes you worse.
Just like keeping your eyes on the ball as you guide it down to your foot in a drop punt (AFL kick) is important, so to is sitting between your legs in a squat. If both tasks are executed well the athletes ability to perform those skills gets better, vice versa, if they are performed poorly the athlete gets worse at those skills.
Run the risk of injury
Poorly executed exercises not only make you a worse athlete they can also increase your risk of injury. Just like good movement partterns in the gym can carry over to athletic performance on the field, so to can poor movement patterns. Picking up bad movement habits in the gym can carry over to the sports arena which can increase your risk of injury.
Even worse, you can get injured while moving poorly in the gym. Unless you are a strength sport athlete you should never get injured in the gym. In the pursuit of better athletic performance we often don’t weigh up the risk vs reward. Being strong enough can help you on the field but being injury trying to be stronger won’t help you at all.
One of the main reasons technique often breaks down in the gym is because athletes try to lift too much weight too soon. Less is more! You can get a better training stimulus from lifting lighter weights with proper form. Regardless of weight you will still be building strength. Patience is the key, take your time to “perfect” your technique and then when a previously difficult weight feels easier add a little more load. Better yet find other ways to make the exercise harder such as; more sets, more reps, perform exercise more often (e.g. twice/week), slow the reps down (e.g. 4 sec lowers), pauses (e.g. pause at the bottom), variations (e.g. dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, cables, bodyweight).
If your going to invest a lot of your time into improving your speed, agility, strength and fitness then you want to be doing it right so you can get the most out of your training and therefore sports performance. So if you want to get the most out of your training don’t just focus on how much weight you can lift or how many reps you can do, rather focus on how well you can perform your exercises. Overtime the weight and number of reps will increase because you took your time to “master” the exercises.