Many times in fitness we see crazy acts of what some call “functional exercises.” Whether it be standing on a foam roller while practicing their golf swing, attaching a cable to the ankles to repeat the soccer simulated kicking action (also seen with football QB’s shoulders), there is no limit to the craziness of choices. Often times, we view certain movements in sport needing to be trained in order for them to improve their skill in that sport. There definitely are choices that can be special to that sport, more often times than not though we try to improve the general variety of qualities that are necessary for the athletes to succeed (certain sports need more of certain qualities). All athletes need to have good motor control, strength, power, stability, mobility, work on soft-tissue, balance, etc…in order to decrease the chance of injury and improve performance. The sport requires different capacities of those qualities but they should have a baseline level. Football is going to be different from soccer, baseball different from a mile runner. Participating in soccer and track for a good majority of my life, these are athletes that almost always lag behind with a good strength program (at least in high school in this area). Cross country or long distance runners and soccer players have a mindset that more running is what is necessary for success. Skill is definitely first but realize that there needs to be down time and a strength program. The example below of a typical track athlete…
We recently started working with a track & cross-country runner who’s coach disapproves of her training in-season and even would in the off-season. She is a sophomore who is a top pole vaulter and mile runner in South Jersey.
We are talking about an athlete who runs distances in the Fall upwards of 5-8 miles/day then does track in Spring (runs the 2 mile, 1 mile, and pole vaults) and does more running on top of that. It was no accident that she presents with typical distance runner issues such as poor ankle mobility, stiff quads (rectus), has groin pain (after running first event), low back pain, and anterior hip pain. She foam rolled for the first time last week and it basically crushed her. I explained to her parents that they need to get one and she should start incorporating the foam roll circuit and some miniband exercises before practice and one time at home every day. I coached track and was once a track athlete in high school and it was no surprise that some of these coaches simply don’t get it. The same could be said with a sport like soccer which I spent my fair time with as well. Unfortunately some coaches think crushing people is better. Does this sound like some fitness crowds? How do you think someone has all these issues? From running too little? Luckily, the parents took my advice and so far so good, the roller is a bit friendlier to her tissue and her strength is improving. The tough pill to swallow is explaining to the parents that there is no quick fix in-season. These injuries are most likely from overuse, not being strong enough (we need to build her strength up), poor core stability, and nasty dense tissue that needs to be worked on daily. All which can be dramatically improved in a good off-season.