If you’ve ever worked as or around strength coaches or personal trainers, you are probably familiar with vague questions from clients. More specifically, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “I am having _____ problem. I think it’s my _______. Do you have any tips?” at least 50 times.
Most of the time, this question is asked innocently and with the genuine desire to improve. In my experience, 90% of the time, the answer is not what the athlete was looking for.
You probably need to get stronger.
Need to be faster from the blocks in your sprint?
Want to be able to do more pull-ups in a row?
Struggling with nagging muscular issues?
Want to jump higher? Throw farther? Lift more?
You probably need to get stronger.
Let me clarify…
“Getting stronger” is not equal to getting bigger. It does not equal gaining or losing weight. It does not equal being exhausted. It does not equal constant soreness. It does not equal exclusively lifting for max strength above the 90% range. It does not equal barbells in every workout.
If you come to me as a coach and say your hamstring has been nagging you consistently this season, but you think it’s something to do with how you run, we’ll take a look at that.
I’m also going to tell you that you need to get stronger. How we get go about getting you stronger and in what ways are specific to you, your sport, and where you are in your season/cycle.
If you’re a soccer player, we’re not going to mass you up like Arnold in the name of getting strong. But you still need to get stronger, so we will make sure it is appropriate and beneficial to you individually.
The Simple Breakdown
One of the first things I look into with any athlete who needs to get stronger is what their sport is, what their predominant movements are, and what the demands of the sport are.
Every movement I have ever seen breaks down into these categories for the upper body and lower body:
You’re a football player? Your sport involves a lot of pushing.
You’re a firefighter? You probably push, pull, and carry a lot.
You’re a baseball player? You rotate and push.
You’re a climber? You likely do all of those things.
For example, in field sports like football and soccer, athletes run (lower body push, often rotation) a lot. If an athlete needs a faster run, we need to increase lower body push strength and lower body pull strength to boost speed and improve running economy.
However, since that athlete needs to run at speed, we don’t want to add unnecessary body mass so that the athlete remains as light and movable as possible. We also need the athlete to be resilient; we need to tackle the lower body pull (hamstring) to prevent injury that can occur from push dominance (anterior chain dominance).
It’s easy, but it’s not easy.
“Just get stronger” seems like a cop-out, and sometimes it is, especially when coaches give no further guidance.
Athletes require strength in order to develop speed, maintain resilience, and avoid injury. However, we need it proportionately and specifically.
This isn’t a bodybuilding competition and no one (expect your strength coach) is getting rewarded for bicep size.
If you’re an athlete who is getting the “just get stronger” line and nothing more, your coach is giving you too much responsibility.
It’s not “you JUST need to get strong!”. You don’t just go to the weight stack and curl until your head spins. It’s specific. Know why you’re getting strong, how it will transfer to benefit/protect you, and what to do.
But still, get strong.