By Lee Boyce (@CoachLeeBoyce)
Turn on the TV and you’ll see mostly misleading advertisements because, let’s face it — “sexy” sells.
For some reason, a select few can recognize that when it comes to general fitness. But when speaking of athletic training, people are often singing a different tune. Most of what we assume about how professional athletes train comes from television spots or sports movies. In most cases, it’s not the most accurate depiction of what’s really going on behind the scenes in the athlete’s unique conditioning program.
In truth, athletic training is often the most misinterpreted method of training out there. Here are five myths that both coaches and trainees would benefit from taking note of in order to improve the performance of their athletes or themselves.
Myth 1: You need to be simulating a true movement in your sport. Even in sports I played as a young athlete, coaches in the weight room would erroneously enforce that the movements we chose had to in some way directly translate to the movements we perform on the court or track. That meant exercises like hamstring curls, lateral raises, or dumbbell rows found no place in our programming. In reality, it’s not resistance exercises that make you more skilled in your sport — it’s practising those actual skills. Training in the weight room should be focused on your general strength, development, and injury-free health. Whatever exercises are necessary to improve all three should be used.
Myth 2: Plyometrics are the key to power and speed. On a similar note, oftentimes an athlete or coach will realize his need for explosive power, max strength, and speed for the demands of his sport of interest, which is true — sports like football, basketball, and track all require explosiveness as a dominating attribute. So, like it’s second nature, a lifter ditches his program in favour of the most advanced plyometric jumping, bounding, and stairs drills. On the one hand, training in this manner can indeed improve the performance of your fast-twitch muscle fibres. But, on the other hand, most people rush into this form of training without regarding their base of foundation. The reason you’re not explosive, fast, or powerful may not be because you don’t practise your plyometrics — it could be because you’re just plain weak! People overlook the reach of a general strength program when looking to improving their ability to jump high, run fast, or throw far. If you’re struggling with a 225-pound deadlift and 185-pound squat, focus on getting those numbers to 400 and 300 before prioritizing plyos as your main order of the day.
Myth 3: Muscle development slows you down. Minus extreme cases (like, say, a 60-pound size increase), this is a myth that’s worthy of debunking. Too many times on the track I’ve heard fledgling-sized sprinters say they don’t want to get too heavy or bulky since it’ll give them slower times. Actually, if they trained to add muscle and increase their body weight, chances are the opposite would happen. An added 10 pounds of solid muscle can do nothing but good in an athlete’s quest for greater athleticism. Where people go wrong is in taking care of those added muscles. When you look at the tissue quality of a typical bodybuilder, you’ll note that they’re generally wound up pretty tight, with plenty of inflexibility. Though many football players share similar circumferences to bodybuilders, football guys never get mistaken for strongmen in everyday life; they look athletic. Athletes are flexible and have supple, high-quality muscle tissue.
Myth 4: Unstable surface training should be a staple. When people think “athletic” in the gym, they tend to immediately think that the more complex and challenging the movement is, the better it is for your athletic goals. This mindset has provided equipment like the BOSU ball and any other unstable surface with a huge following. This can be debunked by stating one rule: you can’t produce maximal force against an unstable surface. That means all the pressing, deadlifting, and rowing that you do on a BOSU ball will do nothing to improve strength — not even through the core. As we learned previously, having more strength is a cornerstone to training to become a better athlete. BOSU ball training will make you better at BOSU ball training, but those results won’t be too transferrable to other skills and abilities.
Myth 5: Pushing it to the limit is just another day in the life. CrossFit, the “sport” of fitness, has changed the mentalities of many lifters by causing them to think that too much is actually not enough. Real athletes take rest days, deloading weeks, and taper their training off before competitions. Every single workout doesn’t run them into the ground. Likewise, it would be useful to shirk the thinking that squatting until you puke should be the goal, and crawling out of the gym after every workout should be looked highly upon. This shouldn’t sound like an excuse to be lazy, however. It should sound like a reality check to use common sense. Know when to draw the line when you’re training hard; it should happen long before your hands are bloody and you’re seeing spots.