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Winning Ways:
Condition With A Purpose: The 5 Step Plan

Wednesday, June 10, 1998

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

The Event (Step 1):

When conditioning for an event, many factors must be considered. The requirements can vary drastically from sport to sport. Some of the things that must be thought about are, what demands are made on the body, anaerobic, aerobic or both? Which muscles will be stressed, which are the injuries that can most commonly occur? And the most important question, is the conditioning protocol as efficient and effective as it can be?

I hope that more coaches will take a closer look at their sports. Get a better idea of the demands made on the bodies of the participant and then plan accordingly.

Generally in anaerobic sports, quick starts, sudden stops and rapid changes in direction are called for. In a typical NBA game, the ball is in play 49.1 seconds during the first half followed by a rest of 35.3 seconds. In the second half, the average time in play is 37.5 seconds with a pause of 58.9 seconds. A top rebounding power forward on this level only jumped 27 times during a game. Of those jumps, only a few were above the rim.

So remember when you are conditioning, condition for crunch time! The play that determines the game will be decided by the player who uses his/her speed and quickness in spite of the fatigue that comes from an intense game.

The Athlete (Step 2):

When conditioning for a sport, it's always best to know and understand the athlete. What attributes do they bring to the sport? What is his or her speed quotient? What is his or her strength index? Are there any injuries that should be taken into account and most importantly, what is driving the athlete?

The approach that I find most effective is to devise your game plan around the personnel than to try to force athletes into a system they may not be able to play. By having the system fit the athlete, you are also working within the strength and weakness of the athletes. It's always best to deal from a position of strength.

The System (Step 3):

It has been proven that more often than not, a good system will defeat numbers and talent. What is a system? A system is a set protocol for event training. A good system allows athletes with lesser ability to compete at a higher level since they will be prepared better.

The job of conditioning coach is to create an environment which insures that the only thing your athletes can do is get better. The complete conditioning program will include all of the following things in proportions to the needs of the athletes.

  • Strength: It is the ability to exert force with no regard to the time it takes to produce it. The most common way to develop strength is with weight training.
  • Speed: The ability to move the body as quickly as possible. The demand for speed in team and individual sports are brief 3 to 5 seconds bursts with rapid changes in direction. Speed is best developed by doing quick bursts and allowing adequate rest between reps to insure the performance quality is high.
  • Power: The ability to exert a great amount of force in the shortest possible time. Power is the ability to apply strength. Explosion in most sports occurs in less than 2 tenths of a second, which is well below the time needed to develop maximal strength. Once you have a good strength base, the emphasis should be on work capacity.
  • Skill training: Fundamental skills can be incorporated as part of a warm up in the form of drills than emphasize spatial awareness, and laterality. There are many means of training to work the previous components. The important thing is to make sure there is a purpose for each exercise and stick with the basic exercise in order to be most effective.

The Protocol (Step 4):

Be as specific as you can when you are deciding what are your training goals. The protocol works to bring the future into the present so that something can be done about it. For some reason, some coaches believe that once the protocol is written, it should be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of your athletes.

Testing (Step 5):

Testing must be continuous component of the conditioning process. Decide what to test. Remember, testing is not an end in itself, but it will help you to do a better job of enhancing the performance of your athletics. The ultimate test is the actual competition!

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