Get Stronger or Get Better

There are some very good sports performance trainers available and there is no doubt athletes are bigger and stronger than ever. However, are they better? The issue I see daily is the lack of attention to where quality time is spent on athletes trying to put up good numbers at their sport. Stars and Stripes Sports has exposed me the top professionals across the country who each have valuable input into my thoughts.

I feel many times athletes and their trainers, coaches, instructors are spending too much time on getting stronger and investing time in areas that are not paying off in production specific to their task. Hard work is necessary to receive good results however, it is most important to learn the specific skills necessary to master your position. Most of the time there is an imbalance of time spent refining the skill as opposed to building strength.

Getting Stronger seems to override the importance of learning the specific details necessary in form, technique, and timing that is key to the proper execution of throwing a ball, hitting a ball, etc. I see so much effort while trying harder versus trying better. Trying better to me is the only approach upon gaining mastery of a skill. Does increasing your bench press or deadlift equate to a better batting average or more home runs? Or, does calibrating your swing and executing timing drills with proper sequence produce better results?

Focusing on the specifics and understanding the physical requirements to produce desired results seems to escape many athletes on their journey. Execution of a skill is directly related to the training leading up to the execution. An athlete that is focusing properly on the skill it takes to achieve versus the strength, will always have an advantage in efficiency and in execution. You can not muscle a ball or a play you have to skillfully execute a task.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Many times the athletes that look physically impressive and prepared are not skilled and become frustrated when competing at a high level. There is no question they are putting the work in to get stronger but they fail to get better. The standardization of priorities in training are missing in many training facilities across the United States. What the most important areas and the priority of the areas to focus on vary from one training facility to another.

Parents that invest in strength and conditioning programs believe their investment will pay off. They see the work, sweat, and dedication of this training put forth by their child and believe this is producing the best possible scenario for their child to reach their full potential. The reality is the investment of time in getting stronger at the expense of getting better creates under-performing athletes.

If You Are Not Testing…YOU ARE GUESSING!

No matter the credentials of the trainers at a training facility, if they are not testing on a regular basis, they are guessing about the training elements they are utilizing with their clients. Benchmark numbers provide the basis for training plans and the ability to measure the value of such plans provided. Testing results provide a direction for athlete and trainer to modify training style as necessary.

Testing the specific skills necessary in the sport the athlete participates in is the only way to target the specificity of training needed to allow the athlete to benefit. Performance on the field as in statistics and success are important in the long-term planning and training regimen needed to increase the skill level of the athlete to become better at their sport. If the athlete is not getting good results on the field, the training needs to be re-evaluated.

Quality Of Training- Technique, Sequence, and Competitive Adaptability

Slowing things down to the point where you know the quality of what an athlete is doing while analyzing the technique of each task will improve the value of time invested in getting stronger, which will relate to getting better. The sequence of the movements needed to execute a skill is often overlooked and not addressed causing an ineffective approach which will not yield the desired results. Getting stronger with an inferior skill set does not make sense as each athlete should be more focused on how easy the execution of a skill becomes opposed to how hard they are training.

An athlete gets better by focusing on the technique needed to execute a skill while mastering the “timing” necessary for performing a properly sequenced movement. The more muscular endurance the athlete can build will pay off in competition. Getting stronger in areas that do not generate results in getting better at executing a skill absorbs valuable training time.

The risk of many of the tasks provided by trainers to the athletes is not worth the return. Many trainers are torn from a cloth of a specific sport understanding little about other sports and the requirements necessary to achieve at a high level. The lack of knowledge and experience in multiple areas of sports limits the training protocols that can yield superior results. Typically, the sports performance trainer is going to teach/instruct based upon their personal knowledge in their personal sport which may not yield the best results for an athlete from a different sport.

Competitive adaptability is the most significant element overlooked by strength trainers who are looking to help their athletes achieve. The environment in which the athlete trains is going to dictate the success in competition. Athletes need to be exposed to various training conditions having to alter their routine and adjust to specific challenges. Periodization in training increases the benefits of training while assisting in avoiding injuries.

Review and Design

Workouts and training sessions should be reviewed on a regular basis by an outside party so the efficiency of the programming being provided can be validated. A third party can challenge the protocol presented and can offer a variation of training techniques and programming that will add value to the trainer and the athlete.

An improperly designed workout plan or strength building plan that does not result in getting better in a competition will create frustration for the athlete and cause mental fatigue leading to physical injury. Every athlete is different and needs constant revision to their training based upon data-driven results from sports testing and daily athletic performance surveys. Each athlete must be managed based upon their numbers and specific execution requirements.

Accountability

Test and Train Sports provides an accountable solution that can be customized by trainers for athletes to test and train the athlete, recording all steps of the journey. This platform allows multiple parties to engage in the training of the athlete including trainers, coaches, professional instructors, orthopedics, recruiters, etc.

Each athlete 12 and older should take the Mental MRI to enable the athlete, parents, trainers, coaches, etc. to create the best approach possible specific to each individual athlete. The Mental MRI provides the foundation necessary to understand what the athlete will respond to and where their challenges are so proper planning and development can take place.

A good trainer must be able to prove the results and provide a system that is accountable. The sports performance trainers need to get better as do the athletes they are training. It is time to be accountable and provide non- subjective views of the value of performance training as it relates to getting better at the athlete’s sport.

Kelly Ahrens is the founder of Stars and Stripes Sports and Test and Train Sports. He provides sports testing and development services to individuals and organizations across the United States. Kelly has assisted in building a unique sports technology platform that captures the daily journey of a committed athlete looking to reach full potential. Contact: KellyAhrens@StarsandStripesSports.com