Strength & Conditioning Staff:
Strength & Conditioning Mission Statement
The strength and conditioning program at Mercer University has three primary goals. These goals are to maximize athleticism, minimize injuries and increase mental/physical toughness. The way this is accomplished is by primarily utilizing ground based, multi-joint, triple extension, explosive exercises. Athletes will perform exercises of all types but focus is put on three main exercise styles: Olympic lifting, power lifting and plyometrics. The goal is to try and replicate the movements, velocities and forces that are experienced during competition of the athlete's sport.
The Core of Mercer University's Strength Training philosophy is base upon six components. These components are:
1. Maximizing Power
The logic behind maximizing power is that the central nervous system (CNS) fatigues faster than the musculature and due to this fact they are trained differently and each one is emphasized separately. After a dynamic warm-up working on flexibility, balance and speed mechanics the first exercise performed is some form of the Olympic lifts to emphasize the CNS and increase rate of force development (RFD). Power is defined as Force x Distance/Time and the athlete that can exert the maximum amount of force in the shortest amount of time tends be more successful on the field/court. It allows the athlete to run faster, change direction quicker and jump higher.
2. Ground Based Movements
Most sports skills are performed standing with the feet in contact with the ground. Force must be transferred through the kinetic chain into the ground to produce the desired reaction force. The more force an athlete can apply to the ground, with proper mechanics, the greater the potential to generate power and speed in athletic movements. Also by training with the feet in contact with the ground an athlete increases proprioception and engages stabilizer muscles that can help reduce the risk of injury.
3. Triple Extension Movements and Multiple Joint Movements
Triple extension movement is the extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. The extension of these three joints occurs in most athletic movements (running, jumping, pitching, etc.). Triple extension exercises are more likely to carry over into athleticism for sports. Exercises that involve more than one joint are superior to single joint movements for athletes due to their efficiency and similarity to actual competition. Specifically exercises that focus on the hip joint where the strongest muscles of the human body are located. Snatch, Clean, Jerk, Squat, Deadlift and all variants are the basis for increasing hip extension forces. (Competitive Olympic lifters on average have vertical jumps exceeding 36in are also among the fastest athletes in 25m sprints.)
4. Athleticism = Movements not Muscles
There is a difference between body building and sports performance training. Training individual muscles for growth is called bodybuilding and is not for athletes. Yes, bodybuilding type training (Hypertrophy training) has its place in an athlete's training program but it cannot be the primary focus. The qualities of a superior athlete are: power, speed, strength, agility, flexibility, coordination, sport-specific conditioning, balance, skill expertise, mental toughness and being goal oriented. By training motor patterns and movements instead of individual muscles athletes learn to use their bodies as a whole and athleticism is achieved!!
There are many forms of periodization to train athletes but in a collegiate environment the cycles are planned in years. The goal of periodization is to have the athlete at their peak performance level at the most important time and to reduce the risk of over training. There are many phases of training in the periodization process but the basic phases are: muscular endurance training, hypertrophy training, strength training, peak strength training, and conversion to power and functional strength training.
6. Attitude & Mental Toughness
If athletes can persevere through difficult, highly challenging situations in the weight room and in practice they are better prepared for stressful environments in actual competition. Strength training helps develop a lot of intangible assets in athletics. The Athletic weight room is a great training ground to develop mental focus, working through pain and fatigue, and gaining self confidence.
The success of an individual athlete will have much to do with his/her commitment to excellence and how that athlete deals with time between training sessions. Recovery is one of the most important factors in training, how an athlete deals with habits like sleep, diet, alcohol consumption, drugs, academics and social life play a huge role in athletic development and success.