I get asked all the time what training an athlete should do, and what a DH racer should do. First and foremost you need to address the technical aspects of your sport and as I’ve written many, many times that it doesn’t matter how good you are in the gym if you can’t ride your bike down in a race run.
From Dirt Issue 146 – April 2014
Words by Darren Roberts. Photo by Sven Martin.
However at some point you do have to go in the gym and whilst I’ve written about the types of training that can be done, the recent Winter Olympics has reminded me of a key lesson that’s often forgotten about. Strength is the foundation for all athleticism. There are undoubtedly plenty of people who will disagree with me on that point, and raise a number of other deciding factors relevant to an athlete’s prowess, but at its most base level – strength is the foundation that everything is built on.
I had an athlete out at Sochi, and during his preparation and rehab we were not concerned with which muscles were or were not ‘firing’, because that’s misleading. Trainers talking about a muscle ‘not’ firing are in fact saying no nerves are innervating it. What is more accurate is to say the muscle is ‘weak’ because if it isn’t ‘firing’ you have a major nerve problem. We concentrated on making him as strong and durable as possible and addressing the strength/weakness balance in his body relevant to his sport. You may well need power, fitness, agility, control and a million other things for your sport, but without strength as the foundation you’re trying to develop those attributes on shaky ground. An athletes ability to tolerate what they ask there body to do will determine they’re durability and availability for competition, and that starts with strength.
The problem with strength training is two fold, it means lifting heavy weights and as far as most are concerned that means ‘getting big’. The amount of times an athlete has said to me ‘I don’t want to be big’, as if by merely looking at a barbell somehow brings about a massive hypertrophy reaction in the muscles. If only it was that easy! So many athletes are as driven by an aesthetic for their sport or socially as a normal gym goer in any globo gym. For female athletes I think the pressures do exist to look a certain way, however I find a female athlete with shoulders, abs, quads and biceps a much better physical role model for my 8 year old daughter… but maybe that’s just me.
Whether you’re an athlete or weekend warrior, your physical form must only ever be a result of function. You look the way you do because that is how the body has adapted to carry out the tasks you want it to, to the maximum of its ability. As soon as you start training to ‘look’ a certain way, this has nothing to do with performance. So if your sport requires athleticism and the foundation of that is strength – which leads to a comprehensive strength & conditioning programme that leaves you looking ‘hench’ or ‘diesel’ – so be it!
Anyway, I’m off to work my guns. I do over a 1000 reps, the burn was so deep…
This article is part of the Work Out series. You can find the rest of Darren Roberts’ training tips through the links below: