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Which training type is “best”; perhaps a better question is “why?”

Of late (and really not so ‘of late’), there has been much spirited discussion in regards to which form of training produces the best results.

In terms of resistance training, questions abound as to whether Strength and Conditioning coaches should be choosing Olympic lifts as opposed to old-fashion style power lifts, as opposed yet again to exercises which involve lighter, balance-challenging loads that have been grouped in under ‘functional’ training. In the realm of ambulatory training, debate stems from whether to use extended linear training as opposed to multi-directional agility training as opposed to predominantly vertical movement expressions. There is even more chatter still as to which type of cardio or energy systems training is best…and so on and on.

Recently I was amused, or perhaps more accurately described as bemused, by a debate among well meaning (but slightly rabid) fans of an SEC football program’s strength and conditioning strategy that chose to emphasize Power-lifts over Olympic lifts (or was that vice-versa?) In fact, when I’m teaching my Foundational Athletic Performance Methodology course to eager sports coaches and strength and conditioning coaches, the very first big question of the very first session almost always jumps units ahead to “…and which one training modality or methodology is the best?”

My answer is thus: They all are “best”.  I continue on in my response to the blank stares and ask; “how are you defining ‘best’? I remind my audience that they have sought me out to delve into Athletic Performance and the singular goal for Athletic Performance training is to help athletes perform to their absolute peak genetic potential in their sport of participation, period. What is the best strength system to use? All of them…maybe! What’s the best ambulatory system to use? All of them…maybe! Etc, etc.

Perhaps, however, a better question to ask is: “why?”

Athletic High Performance training has as its foundational starting point the thorough and complete understanding of the sport for which an athlete is being trained. This grows out of rigorous and mostly tedious, science-based analysis of the particular sport. The sport must be analyzed in terms of energy system usage; strength expressions (encompassing type, frequency, optimal muscle stiffness ratings, directionality and duration); ambulatory expressions (linear ‘speedality’, multi-directional movement, and again the frequency, directions, types and durations); foot contact (length, reactivity); etc, etc, to name only but a few basic specificity-of-the-sport factors of consideration.

The next foundational commencement point for Athletic High Performance training is the thorough and complete understanding through science-based analysis of the athlete being trained. The athlete’s endemic biomechanical makeup and CNS success as they relate to his/her sport of participation must be gleaned and again, this too is a necessarily tedious process.

Once the sport of participation has been analyzed and understood and combined with the analysis of the athlete’s biomechanical and CNS markers, then one can start to test (if applicable) for Rates of Force development and head towards planning out the phasing and peaking strategies (which should be fundamentally inclusive of rest/recovery allocation). Once all of these basic parameters, (and in fact, many more) have been mastered, then and only then can one decide which exercises are the best for the driving of the training to achieve peak performance. One cannot choose best until one asks and fully answers why.

Once the why has been asked and answered you will find that the creation of a 360/360 (360days/360 degrees) Athletic High Performance training program likely requires that you choose exercises from all sorts and “types” of training. The goal of the training is to elicit a tangible and lasting adaptive response that drives the athlete towards his/her best sport result. The tools (meaning the exercises, systems and modalities) are only the means. All may have their place if used at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner in one single successful Athletic High Performance training program; however the choosing cannot begin until one actually understands the sport of participation and actually understands the athlete’s genetically dictated make-up as best one can…one cannot choose  the best until one asks why?

Asking and answering why, means therefore, that the only best that matters is the best sports result.

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