How to optimize performance training for athletes

By Nicole Sullivan, CSCS

There is often a misconception that if you’re not sore or not puking following a workout then you didn’t have a hard enough workout or did not improve. Both of these statements are false.

Strength and conditioning specialist, Nicole Sullivan, at Sanford POWER in Fargo, NDAthletes should train differently than regular population for a variety of reasons. Usually these two populations have different abilities, demands and goals. This is not to say that a regular person cannot train like an athlete. Training like an athlete refers to someone with goals of increased performance, i.e. strength, quickness, speed, etc. When training for strength, speed and quickness, certain rest periods need to be taken into consideration. Rep and set ranges, load, exercise selection and exercise order also need to be factored.

Personal training clients, or someone looking to lose fat, have a training advantage because they can reach their goals using a variety of training methods. For athletes, a certain training style is optimal depending on the time of the year, which is also called periodization.

Although different people may have different goals, all populations should be giving maximum effort. For example, if and athlete is back squatting for 5 reps, regardless of the weight, they should still be exerting the maximum amount of force during each repetition. This will improve rate of force development as well as strength.

Some important things for athletes to keep in mind when training:

  1. When training for strength, speed, and quickness, you should be resting 3-5 minutes between sets of that specific exercise.
  2. To optimize work done in an amount of time, exercises of opposing muscle groups should be superset or done in a circuit to not hinder the main lift.
  3. Adjust rep ranges and load depending on the time of the season or goal, i.e. strength and power vs. hypertrophy/muscle growth.

There is a time and place for conditioning; however that may not always be following an intense strength training workout. What many people may consider a really tough workout, or one that may include a lot of conditioning, does not necessarily mean the workout was beneficial for the goals that are important to increasing performance.