The Missing Link for Athletes: Maximal Strength
When it comes to helping an athlete reach their full potential, we always start with increasing maximal strength. No, we aren’t training them to be powerlifters. Yes, they do share a thing or two from powerlifting training, but they also share things from track and field, bodybuilding, CrossFit, and physical therapy.
For the last 3 years, I had an overwhelming desire to go learn, to find piece after piece that could be used to help those with the same questions. This lead to over 500 hours worth of travel from the west coast, to the Canadian border, as far east as Philadelphia, and down to the Mexico border. I wanted to help the athlete I was at one point in high school that had an abundance of questions about sport, training, God, and how the world works. I had always felt like more is possible, but I needed to know how. If you want things to go smoothly, go with the flow. If you want to create a better life for others, get ready for the repercussions of rocking the boat.
Gaining maximal strength is one of the key factors in that equation. Increasing maximal strength helps the athlete both psychologically as well as physically. All sports are more mental than anything else. The wrong thoughts will never lead you to the desired outcome. When an individual goes from lifting 225lbs to 495lbs, a surge of confidence is created. That confidence comes from EARNING the outcome. There is nobody other than yourself that can make that increase happen for you; no teammate, no mom/dad to save you, nothing but you. The athlete is made during that process setting themselves up for even more success to come. We will never go where our mind won’t first let us go.
Along with the psychological process, a physical process is occurring. Maximal strength is KING as it increases the athletes durability, recoverability, and ability to be more explosive. As the athlete goes from a 30lb lift x10 reps to 60lbs x10 reps or 225lbs to 315lbs, the body “hardens”. Stronger tendons, ligaments, and muscles created from the strength increase will help keep the athlete in the sport to continue improving. Strength improvements also lead to the athlete being able to handle more work which is the entry level to being able to push past the norm. If an individual wanted to get into their bedroom, oftentimes they have to open the overhead garage door, open the garage door, and then open the bedroom door. Finding your potential requires the same thing. In this case, the ability to do more is the overhead garage door that allows you into the next door.
There has never been an extremely fast athlete who isn’t also extremely strong.
No I’m not referring to weightroom strength as there are many sprinters who aren’t near as close to being strong with a barbell like a powerlifter is. If we were to test both individuals on the force they put out into the ground when sprinting though, the athlete will put up some incredible numbers. A more accurate way to assess to strength of an athlete is to measure the force they can put out each step when they run. Will weightroom strength help build that? It absolutely can if done properly which is what we seek to do with our athletes as most of them all need a faster first step, faster takedown, etc in their sport.
All in all, with the athletes we work with who DO want to push beyond what it considered average/normal, maximal strength has to be emphasized or they aren’t even starting the process. The faster we start getting stronger, the faster we can find our full potential.