This article is authored by Erik Schwager. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Coach Schwager is currently the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Hartford. Erik designs and implements training programs for numerous teams for Hartford Hawks. Before becoming the assistant at the University of Hartford, Coach Schwager owned his own business in Tampa, Florida. He also spent time working in the minor leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals with their single-A affiliate, The Batavia Muckdogs, as well as interning for numerous Division I institutions such as The University of South Florida, Michigan State University, and Princeton University.

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Conditioning can be performed in so many different forms of modalities these days and this article is not meant to try and reinvent the wheel, but to hopefully help educate those who do not know what the point of conditioning really is in actuality. There are many different sports that as strength coaches we train throughout the year, but a lot of colleges/high schools still do not have strength coaches. The sport coaches then must train the kids to the best of their knowledge. The problem is different sports revolve around different energy systems. Running kids just for the sake of running will not benefit your athletes and could be detrimental to their performance. There must be a specific goal in mind with training specific energy systems mimicking their sport.

Think of your body as a car. Some cars have a high power output in which they burn up fuel very quickly and can only be used for a short period of time before needing to refuel. Other cars use gas in a more conservative manner in which fuel is burned less quickly and they can go for hours without having to refuel. Your body is the same way. Some people benefit from training energy systems that burn fuel more rapidly, as others benefit from training that learns to burn fuel slowly and last for a longer period of time.

The Hemi is a powerful engine but has very limited gas mileage, cars with hemi engines move very fast and usually require a high octane gas system to run smoothly. The hybrid is a low power production vehicle that does not require a lot of energy to operate, but can last for miles and miles on end before you need to fuel it up. Simply, think of a car’s engine the more powerful the engine the less gas mileage you will get, but there is an increase in power output and acceleration. The smaller the engine, the more gas mileage you will get with a decrease in power and acceleration.

Sports are the same way, take basketball for instance. Basketball is a very fast paced game and is primarily anaerobic. Athletes must be able to make short bouts of explosive movements for extended periods of time with minimal rest in-between unless they are subbed out or have a time out. So, when conditioning your main focus should be on stressing the anaerobic energy systems such as the phosphagen system which is at the start of initial movement lasting 10-20 seconds and fast glycolysis which is the energy system primarily used during explosive running such as sprinting up and down the court.

Then you have a sport such as cross country. I am using them primarily as an example. They need to be able to maintain energy for long distance as they run for many miles from anywhere to a 5k on up. They are primarily using the oxidative system.

Soccer on the other hand is actually an anaerobic sport with some oxidative properties. The sport requires quick short bursts of speed both linear and multi-directional, increased levels of high velocity sprinting, and athletes must be able to move for two 45 min halves nonstop. One of the best conditioning applications for soccer would be interval training, where you are able to manipulate work: Rest ratios to be able to maximize the different energy systems used during a game.

As you can see I only used 3 different sports that use different energy systems. As a coach it is important to understand the energy systems used in your sports or the sport you are training and make conditioning specific to the energy systems used. This will be very beneficial in preparing your teams for the season to maintain conditioning levels and reduce the risk of injury. What type of vehicle are your athletes?

Erik Schwager believes that strength and conditioning is both training the mind and the body. Athletes need to be physically prepared to perform on the field, but if they are not mentally prepared it can be just as detrimental to performance as not being physically prepared. You can contact him at [email protected].