April 12, 2018

with Mike O'Hearn -

After spending time with Mike and having the privilege to train with him, we shared some great moments and knowledge on various ways of training. What was great for me on a personal level was talking to Mike about his sport specific training for his role in the American Gladiators. This was due to me having been a sportsman in the past and the fact that I still train very much for performance over looks. 

There is a huge difference in a strength / muscle building plan for sports compared to bodybuilding. Just following the routine of a bodybuilder will not cut it if you are after optimal performance. The KEY to sport specific training is to use your new found gains in muscle and strength to enhance your performance on the field of play. When following a specific plan you should notice improvements in your speed, conditioning and performance rather quickly.

When building a plan for your specific sport you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why is building strength and muscle important to the sport I play?
  2. What kind of strength training is required to improve functional fitness for my game?
  3. How much rest should I have between sessions to find a healthy balance?

Most sports played will benefit by improving the ability to generate force (strength) and improve the speed in which you can accelerate from A to B. Not all sports require you to just be powerful. For instance, sports like football, hockey and rugby would benefit massively from being powerful and strong. When taking on an opponent physically your power and strength is an important aspect. Therefore, working on your functional mass would be key. Whereas sports like tennis, badminton and squash are very different with no physical contact or the need to physically overpower the opponent. In these cases, actually carrying excess muscle would be a disadvantage and affect the longevity of your performance and the speed in which you can move. 

Building functional strength is not just about lifting the largest weight or growing the biggest muscles. There are many important factors to consider. Sport specific muscular development, total body strength, effective range of motion, neuro muscular activation, ability to generate maximum power output, delay of the onset of mental and physical fatigue, improved agility, mobility, co-ordination, stabilization, elasticity and flexibility. 

Correct Strength Training Methods

Be sure to use the correct strength training protocol. There is no point in building strength that will not enhance your sport. This could be how strong you actually need to be, how often you are required to perform moments of strength during a game, and the muscles that need to be strong for your sport. 

This can change even in the same sport, depending on the position you play for the team.  Some will require you to perform differently. A detailed analysis of your specific sport and the role you play is essential before you design any plan. 

Here is an example of a basic plan where the goal is:

  • To become as lean and muscular as possible, creating you into the ultimate power/speed athlete. This would suit contact sports that require you to be powerful, strong, agile and fast. These could be sports such as rugby, fighting, hockey, American Football and so on. 

The workouts should really focus on strength, explosiveness and speed along with a capacity to maintain a high level of strength for an extended period. The amount of exercises that are performed should be limited. An extensive amount of needless exercises will be massively counterproductive and will really affect the body’s ability to recover. 

What does it take to be an ELITE performer?

  • The athlete needs to be able to produce power and speed explosively through a space. To do this at an optimal level, it is essential that the athlete carries maximum amount of muscle with minimum amounts of fat.  Fat is a dead weight, and will hamper massively the performance and longevity of performance. 

Athlete Strong –

Being athlete strong is so much more than just being strong at certain lifts in a gym with a barbell. Whilst this will help, if you cannot transfer the strength into everyday activities then your gym strength is pointless. You must change up your training so not only are you doing barbell lifts for strength, but also different versions of load carrying in various training methods and activities. 

Explosive and Fast –

These two attributes will make or break you as a next level athlete. A natural skill set will only get you so far. Working on being that complete athlete is the difference between being GOOD and being GREAT. 

To be explosive you need to be able to:

  • Jump high
  • Run fast
  • Throw things a long way

There are different ways of training that are all key in creating that complete athlete plan. These are: 

  • Maximal power output
  • Maximal capacity output
  • Overload

Working on all of these is essential, but what do they mean? Maximal power output includes low rep jumps, moderate weighted throws, and sprints of 60 seconds or less. Maximal capacity output would involve sets of jumps or throws lasting 45-60 seconds and sprints of 200-400 metres. Overload would include resisted sprints, weighted jumps, and heavy throws. All of these will contribute massively into making you into the ultimate speed and power athlete out there.

Example Training Plan:

Monday (Lower Body)

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Distance

Rest

Walking Lunges

X3

 

50 metres

1 minute

Squat Jumps

X3

x30

 

1 minute

Behind neck Squat

X5

x5

 

90 seconds

Box jumps

X3

x30

 

1 minute

Dead lift

X5

x5

 

90 seconds

Barrel carry

X3

 

50 metres

1 minute

 

5 sets of 200m sprints on a track or treadmill with 90 seconds of active rest between sprints.

Tuesday (Upper Body)

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Dumbbell Chest Press (Pause Press)

x5

x5

90 seconds

Medicine Ball backyard throw

x3

X45

60 seconds

Medicine Ball push/press throw

X3

X45

60 seconds

Pull ups

X3

X max

90 seconds

Weighted Dips

X3

x10

90 seconds

Dead stop Barbell row

X5

X5

90 seconds

Standing Barbell press

X5

X5

90 seconds

 

We would finish this off with sprints on the rower, aiming for 5 sets of 45 second sprints with 90 seconds of active recovery between sprints.

I would recommend that you perform 2 upper and 2 lower workouts per week.  Use this as a structure, changing some of the exercises from session to session for similar movements that hit the same body parts. However, keep the lifts basic, only using compoundmovements. Isolation movements are pointless for what we are training for. 

Be sure to add 2 high intensity cardio days into the training week. Jogging, rowing, cycling and swimming are all very good forms of fitness training. Keep duration between 30-45 minutes, focusing on quality over quantity. 



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