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Understanding the fundamentals of strength and conditioning

We spoke with Future Fit Training’s master PT, Mark Laws to discuss the key fundamentals of strength and conditioning to help provide valuable insight into the industry. The article below is written by Mark.

Strength and conditioning, commonly referred to as S&C, is the process of planning, delivering, and reviewing a combination of exercises and drills with the specific goal of improving someone’s ability to perform optimally at their chosen sport.

S&C has long been reserved for elite-level athletes, but the benefits of understanding S&C within a PT world are highly beneficial, and vice versa.

There are many moving parts within any S&C programme, and an effective coach must be aware of how each part can influence another – either positively or negatively.

From the outside looking in, there are a plethora of similarities between personal training and strength and conditioning. Both need to identify the client or athlete’s current capabilities, their aims or goals, and the timescale they are working towards. Both aim to make their clients or athletes stronger and better. Both need to understand that simply prescribing a ‘perfect’ list of exercises is not enough to produce the results that are desired.

The crossover between the two fields is vast, and although the differences are minuscule their impact is immeasurable.

This comment could make me very unpopular but having straddled both worlds for over 15 years I have no problem admitting that personal training and world-class strength and conditioning are extremely similar.

The equipment, the exercises, the environments, the personalities, the obstacles…there isn’t much difference. In fact, I have seen several personal training facilities which have better equipment, programming, and coaching than I have observed at elite sporting teams and institutions.

However, although large parts can only be separated by cigarette paper, the one thing that separates the two beyond recognition is the ‘generic vs specific’ approach.

For the most part, personal training will be delivered to the general public who want to ‘lose a bit of weight’, ‘tone up a bit’, ‘feel a bit better’, or from time to time, someone might want to ‘get a bit stronger or quicker’. These are primarily generic goals.

Helping someone drop from 30% body fat to 15% body fat isn’t that hard. But going from 12% to 8% is.

Helping someone to increase their deadlift from 20kgs to 80kgs isn’t that hard. But going from 180kgs to 200kgs is.

Helping someone to get off their sofa and complete their first 10km event in an hour isn’t that hard. But going from 28 mins to 27 mins is tough.

My point is that although the goals might be the same, the better people can perform, the harder it is to keep improving their performance levels. Every 1% of improvement becomes more difficult the better they are.

This is where strength and conditioning is poles apart from personal training because effective S&C coaches can make continuous improvements with athletes who are competing at the highest levels. This can only be done with a greater understanding of the theory, a more specifically designed programme, and a more effective practical application.

Within strength and conditioning, attention to detail is crucial.

The fundamental areas for this attention to detail to exist include anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, aerobic and anaerobic programming, age and sex-related considerations, testing and evaluating, effective warm-ups, resistance training, plyometrics, speed and agility, recovery strategies, planning and periodisation, communication and coaching skills, sports nutrition, and much more.

If you dream of one day working with professional athletes or in the development of younger athletes, then adding a credible S&C qualification is a no brainer, as long as it is endorsed by an elite team or organisation such as the UKSCA (UK Strength and Conditioning Association) – without such a stamp of approval it is unlikely your application will be seriously considered.

But the other main benefit of adding an S&C qualification to your repertoire is the vast improvements it can bring to any personal training business in terms of the effectiveness of the sessions, the added value, the inflated rates you can charge, the increase in success stories, and the flood of new leads coming in.

The bad news is that it sounds like a lot to learn which could well take a lifetime to master.

The good news is that Future Fit Training’s S&C trainer course can be completed in 3 to 6 months, and is the only course for fitness professionals that the UKSCA fully endorses. Once you obtain the qualification which is necessary to get your foot in the door you can learn in the best possible way – by doing.

This blog post was authored by Mark Laws at Future Fit Training – a leading training provider, offering courses in personal training, nutrition and much more.

This entry was posted in: Fitness & Health


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