Youth and High School Athletics- The issue I see running though young athletes is the over emphasis on specificity and underdevelopment of general motor development and base of strength building. The specificity occurs in multiple avenues. First, athletes are just competing year-round much more than in decades pervious. Gameplay is by definition a high intensity and more specifically a high velocity activity. When you combine high intensity movement with underdeveloped motor control, movement quality, and strength, injury becomes not if but when.
Nothing combats soft tissue and joint injury like maximal strength displayed through quality movement patterns. Strong glutes, hips, hamstrings, and core stabilizers protect surrounding joints like the knees and lumbar joints during high speed sprinting, jumping, and rotation.
A second mistake often comes when athletes do train in the offseason. Far too often in young populations, the fallacy of “sports specific training” takes priority. Like anything else, strong play requires a strong base. The weight room should focus on developing a strong base, and practice should focus on sport skill development. The two SHOULD NOT intermix. If a young athlete cannot perform a quality squat with weight, they certainly shouldn’t be squatting on an unstable surface. (I would argue no person should do this anyway.)
General Population- With the average gym goer, the biggest flaw I see in training programs is too high of volume and not enough intensity or effort per exercise. Take a leg day for example. For effective strength and muscle building when speaking on a large scale, one does not need 10-12 different exercises. Compound movement will target many muscles in a single exercise. Too truly elicit a response, one must move either a heavy weight or push the reps to a high level of fatigue. (not necessarily failure.). The common formula we use for training lower body includes:
1.A heavy squat or deadlift (5 reps or less)
2.A heavy lunge or split squat variation (5-8 reps)
3.A heavy hip dominant/hinge exercise (6-10 reps)
This formula effectively allows the entire lower body to be stressed under heavy weight and equally target anterior and posterior muscles along with attacking left and right deficiencies. Consider the all or none law with muscle contractions. Lifting heavy may seem contrary to an average gym rat looking to build muscle. However, in order for the muscle cell to have a response, the stimulus of the muscle neuron must be strong enough, otherwise there is no response.
This issue, I believe pops up often in the bootcamp world. The primary goal seems to turn into packing as much volume into a set amount of time with a large number of exercises without taking the time to develop movement quality and push exercises to a high intensity.
Females- This is one of the most discussed demographics in training and the misconceptions involved; most notably the topic of lifting heavy. The previously discussed principal of all or none, of course exists in all humans alike. Males and females possess the same set of muscles that function the same way. Where the uncertainly comes from is determining what the goal of an individual is. While many coaches and trainers cringe at the word “tone” when it is used to describe a goal, it’s important to understand what that means to the client, not the trainer. When a female trainee says they want to get toned, they likely have a visual body goal in mind. The toned image is simply the shape of human muscle. It really is as simple as maximal muscle and minimal fat.
CrossFit- CrossFit does a lot of good. They do a good job of putting real weights in peoples hands and addressing the importance of multiple facets of physical well being. What I would critique, from my opinion is the programming of particular exercises and the purpose behind them. Take just a few examples, snatches, cleans, and box jumps. While these are all great exercises, the purpose behind them is power development. Power exercises should focus on an alactic approach(meaning under 10 seconds) and full recovery. Often I see these exercises are programmed in circuits with higher reps, done while fatigued and breathing heavily. These lifts are very technical and breakdown of form can occur after so many reps and sets back to back. The risk-reward ratio eventually doesn’t justify prescribing the exercise in this fashion.