Term Paper: Athletic Training Whether to Win

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[. . .] Football

Football is a sport of power, strength, speed, endurance and finesse. Of all the most popular team sports, the need for weight training in football is probably the most obvious, based on the demands of the sport and the visibly bulky condition of many of the athletes. Conditioning programs and exercises for football must be sport-specific (Football strategies, 2000). At whatever level a football player competes, the athlete who adds weight training and strength training to their regiment almost always demonstrates greater aptitude for the game.

The weight rooms of high schools, colleges, and professional arenas are filled with football players year-round because of the efficacy of strength training. Coaches and trainers recommend that players use both an off-season strength/weight training program and a separate in-season program, with the former structured to be the hardest and most intense to allow the athlete to gain solid weight and strength (Football strategies, 2000). Mannie (1997) asserts that the physical development of football players is a multifaceted endeavor involving several key factors. Inherited attributes are essential, as there is no substitute for genetically innate potential. However, a year-round training regiment that includes weight and/or strength training will determine the degree to which a "naturally talented" player increases his speed, strength, conditioning, and position-specific skills. For example, Mannie (1997) recommends high-tension strength movements that progressively activate the "fast-twitch" muscle fibers as the athlete approaches the point of momentary muscle fatigue. The rationale behind this approach is that the more difficult the repetitions in a set of lifts or presses become, the more force must be generated to complete the last, very intense repetitions.

Variables in Football Training Programs

In an anaerobic strength or weight training program, the variables that must be monitored for quality control include frequency, sets, repetitions, distance, intensity, relief interval, and duration (Mannie, 1997). Mannie (1997), as well as Bauer (1996) and Schoenfeld (1994) contend that football players participating in strength training should have their programs designed by skilled trainers who continually monitor performance and progress. Strength and weight training for specific body parts, including arms, legs, and trunk, must be included in an effective and comprehensive program rather than leave out any key body part (Schoenfeld, 1994). Neglecting a body part could lead to severe injury due to under-reliance on certain muscle groups. A prime example is the importance of strengthening abdominal muscles in preventing back problems or in strengthening quadriceps muscles to prevent the overextension of hamstrings. Once again, involving the core muscle groups on each and every strength training day can help prevent imbalance and injury. Some experts suggest that development training in football should include strength training, resisted training, overspeed (assisted) training, pylometric exercises, form running, and interval training (Ebben & Blackard, 1998). More simply put, football players should incorporate strength training into their overall regime regardless of how often they play, at what level they play, what position they play, their gender, or how old they are.

Strength training not only builds vital muscle mass; it can also be invaluable in lengthening the athlete's running stride, a major component of the game of football for many positions. Ebben and Blackard (1998) reported that all of the National Football League (NFL) strength and conditioning coaches report the use of strength and speed training, employing strength and power development exercises such as Olympic-style lifts, squats, step-ups, leg presses, and lunges. The dead lift is used also for speed enhancement, stride lengthening, and increased muscle mass.

Bouche (1996) recommends that trainers should use a High Intensity Training (HIT) program in weight rooms. Such a program not only minimizes the time spent in training, but also maximizes the use of technologically-advanced equipment such as Nautilus and Hammer machines, along with free weights. The HIT program when properly implemented reduces the time spent by players to as few as fifty minutes through the application of forced repetitions and negative repetitions.

Moreover, says Bouche (1996), the HIT method is safe because it focuses on the full range of motions and on multiple repetitions, as opposed to multiple sets of fewer repetitions. For example, an athlete using the HIT approach will do 20 to 25 reps, then decrease the weight by 10 to 20% and continue for another 10 to 20 reps. The weightlifter may need help with forced reps for the final few repetitions, but to ensure maximum increases, lifters are required to completely fatigue the muscles.

Variety is the Key

Bouche (1996) described a typical HIT program as employing bench, squat (Oxbo bar), incline press, and dead lift regiments on one day of the week, say Monday. On Wednesday, the athlete would participate in decline presses, hang cleans, lunges and push press exercises. Then on Friday, the athlete would employ the bench, squat (Oxbo bar), and push press. The reps and percentage of weight used will be changed from week to offer variable resistance and more closely mimic real-world athletic situations. To avoid the dreaded plateau, experts recommend a change to multiple sets with high reps at different times of the year. With most sports, environmental and team conditions vary considerably from day-to-day and practice to practice, as do the athlete's diet and his or her psychological situation. Such variable conditions differ from the predictable conditions of the gym, so variability in strength training can be a key component in an elite athlete's regime.

Bouche (1996) cautions that each athlete must be treated differently, based on his strength and physical condition. This comment is echoed by Bauer (1996), who believes that individualized strength training and weight training programs must be developed for every football player. Regardless of preliminary strength or condition, each player can benefit from an overall full body conditioning program that includes strength training (Football strategies, 2000). Strength training programs help prepare the muscles to endure the short burst of output, and the one hundred-percent intensity required to play the game.

Safety, Recovery and Rest

Weight and strength training can and should be safe, and when performed under proper guidance and self-awareness, need not result in any type of injury. However, weight training can lead to injuries if not properly programmed and supervised. Reeves, Laskowski, and Smith (1998) noted that over the past twenty years, weight training injuries have accounted for an estimated 43,400 emergency department visits out of a total of 5.6 million visits for all sports. Many of these accidents were and are preventable. Improper use of machines, operating machines when tired, fatigued, or under the influence of mind-altering substances, unsupervised lifting, or general carelessness can all cause accidents and injuries. Clearly, weight and strength training methods have the potential to harm as well as improve an athlete's overall condition. Reeves, et al. (1998) support strength gains and training programs, but recommend careful oversight to avoid poor technique and further recommend that younger players should not participate in this kind of training because of skeletal immaturity. Recovery periods are essential for weight training, and speed recovery periods also help the athlete be better able to pace his or her energy output.

Conclusion

Coaches and trainers are increasingly turning to strength and weight training programs to condition their players. It is likely that all coaches at all levels, regardless of the size and scope of their programs and/or facilities, will indicate a positive attitude toward the benefits of HIT, core training, and other strength/weight training programs. Finally, it is highly likely that coaches and personal trainers will emphasize the necessity of creating individualized, carefully supervised programs for their clients, programs that will undoubtedly include strength training as an essential element.

Works Cited

Barwis, Mike, Director of Strength and Conditioning, West Virginia University, Personal Interview, 15, June, 2005.

Bauer, G. (1996). B.F.S. isn't (a) H.I.T. Coach and Athletic Director, 65(8), 70-73.

Bouche, J. (1996). Making a H.I.T. In your weight room. Coach and Athletic Director,

66(3), 28-31.

Ebben, W.P., & Blackard, D.O. (1998). Speed developmental strategies of NFL strength & conditioning coaches. Coach and Athletic Director, 68(1), 30-34.

Football Strategies. (2001). Be Fit Net Alliance Football Conditioning. Available at www.befitnet.com/fotball.htm.

Mannie, K. (1997). Five major facts on player development. Coach and Athletic Director, 66(6), 6-12.

Mosby's Medical, Nursing & Allied Health Dictionary (1998). Mosby Year Book, Inc., Edition 5.

Reeves, R.K., Laskowski, E.R., & Smith, J. (1998). Weight training injuries: Part 1: Diagnosing and managing acute conditions. The Physician and Sports Medicine, 26(2). Available at www.physsportsmed.com/issues/1998/02feb/laskow.htm.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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