This is an excerpt from Velocity-Based Training by Nunzio Signore & Nunzio Signore.
When building out an athlete’s off-season program, while all phases are important, I believe the key role is increasing general strength to its maximum because this is the foundation upon which to build all the other types of strength. In most sports, the development of maximum strength is used to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, their frequency of activation, and the ability to simultaneously call into action all the primary muscles involved in a given movement (Howard et al. 1985). A good example of this is during the late off-season when training power. Power is a product of strength and speed, so improving power requires improving maximum strength first. As a result, strength training is a prerequisite for attaining faster power improvement and allowing athletes to achieve higher levels of performance.
When training strength, it is important to realize that not all strength is created equal. One strength just does not work as efficiently without the other, so it is important to understand the two different categories of strength and how and when they are used:
- General strength. General strength is the foundation upon which all other types of strength are built, and it provides a base for the more sport-specific strength that follows. General strength is the focus of the first three phases of the off-season training plan for a more elite athlete with a higher training age (more than three years). But, for more inexperienced or novice lifters, it should be the main focus for most of the yearly plan. Intensities range from 60 to 80 percent 1RM for submaximal strength and over 80 percent 1RM for maximum strength. (Note: Spending an inadequate amount of time on general strength will negatively affect all of the future phases designed to develop sport-specific skills. Neglecting to sufficiently train this foundation can also compromise the athlete’s ability to accept force, thus increasing the risk of injury.
- Specific strength. Specific strength training (covered in chapter 10) is incorporated into the late off-season when transferring strength gains to power or sport. Specific strength training accounts for characteristics specific to the sport regarding movement, energy system contributions, and exercises designed for continual improvement to the joints’ range of motion. This training is used only after the athlete has developed an adequate level of general strength, which usually takes anywhere from one to three years. Note: Some athletes may develop general strength more quickly than others because of their genetic makeup.
To train specific strength, I use training intensities from 40 to 60 percent 1RM (0.75 to 1.0 meters per second). While heavier loads above 60 percent can still be used in the same program to train contractile properties, the majority of the program is built around the use of these lighter loads for training more sport-specific movements. Exercise selection should be based on the sport of the athlete being trained. Some examples may be hang cleans for a volleyball player, heavy sled pushes for an offensive lineman in American football, or landmine presses for a shot putter or other throwing athlete.