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The Role of Athletic Conditioning

Athletes do a lot of things, sometimes unconventional (e.g. walk over hot stones), in order to enhance their fitness so they can perform better in their respective sports. Some do yoga, others go weightlifting, but few actually engage in activities that help them perform better in their sport. Of course, their reason for doing all these aforementioned activities is to get better in their sport, but how can athletic conditioning accomplish just that?

Sport-Specific Movement Economy

Often times, athletes go to the gym and perform gross movements like squats and deadlifts, believing that it will help them get better. The problem is that movement mechanics, the technique of performing a movement, are often inefficient. But who, for example, takes the time and actually learns how to run properly? Maybe you should! By enhancing their running form, marathon runners were able to improve their times by 8%. They were able to do this because they were no longer wasting energy for work that was undesirable. 8% doesn’t sound like much but in a marathon race lasting 2 ½ hours, they were 12 minutes faster than before!

Energy System Efficiency

Another important aspect is training at energy system specifics – you want to enhance the energy system(s) that predominantly provides energy during competition. Marathon runners (aerobic glycolysis; endurance) have different energy system specifics than American football players (ATP-PC System; high power). Therefore, you need to be conditioned depending on your sport so that your energy systems become more efficient .

Neuromuscular Efficiency

Neuromuscular efficiency is referring to the economy of the neuromuscular system. The less work an athlete has to do, the less tired they get and fatigue becomes less of a factor. That’s where the economy factor comes into play but neuromuscular efficiency also includes appropriate muscle fiber recruitment (fast-twitch vs. slow twitch). This is important because muscle fiber recruitment determines how much force the athlete can produce and at what speed.

Energy Transfer

This is the most important aspect because it determines how well the athlete will perform in the sport. Whoever can manage their body weight most effectively, thereby transferring energy via the kinetic chain, will be the best athlete. For example, if you can move quickly towards the ball and maintain dynamic equilibrium during the shot, managing your body in motion effectively, then you can hit the ball harder and with more precision. It doesn’t matter if you hit the hardest ground strokes if you can’t get there in time…does it?