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Future of sports in the SCV: Training gets specific

As methods evolve, workouts will cater to more than just improvement

Posted: July 21, 2010 10:13 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.

No one can deny that athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster.

The record books reflect it, just as much as plain eyesight does.

Advances in training have a lot to do with the progression, and it's an area that is evolving year-to-year and sometimes day-to-day.

The new era of sports training and conditioning won't prepare athletes to just get bigger, stronger and faster. Instead, the industry is trending toward individually specific training that eliminates unnecessary and sometimes detrimental workouts.

"We're going to stay on the trend of functional training," says College of the Canyons head strength and conditioning coach Robert dos Remedios. "We're not going back to the days of just bodybuilding."

The idea of functional training is to craft individual workouts designed specifically for the needs of a particular sport and a particular athlete.

"You look at things in football like running the (40-yard-dash) or lifting while you're on your back," says Alwyn Cosgrove, who runs Results Fitness in Santa Clarita and is a regular contributor to Men's Health Magazine. "How often do you see a football player running 40 yards in a straight line? And when you're on your back, you're done in football. Those methods just don't translate."

Although some find displays like the 40-yard-dash and bench press figures fruitless, others see them as signs of success and improvement in conditioning.

"They are indicators of how well your training is working," says Adam Johnson, the sports performance director at Santa Clarita's Velocity Sports Performance facility. "I don't think there are any inherently bad exercises out there. Things like a bench press will hopefully help an athlete get stronger, just like other weightlifting, which is used as a general preparatory exercise."

Johnson sees much of the traditional weightlifting techniques as the base to build better athletes.

"The wheel has been invented already," Johnson says. "There may be a couple of twists, like how long to do an exercise or the volume, but exercises are pretty much created. Anyone who is inventing new exercises, in my humble opinion, is just trying to make a name for themselves."

Others, like Cosgrove, potentially see an entirely new landscape to gyms and workout centers.

"I think we'll see the complete elimination of exercise machines," Cosgrove says. "We have a joke that says, ‘Exercise machines were invented by athletes to keep the general public away from the weight room.' You go to the gym and see machines where you sit down, but other than rowing and cycling, what sport are you in that position?"

Although the new age of sports training and conditioning are certainly up for debate, there is one trend everyone is noticing — the increased presence of females in the weight room.

"Over the years, you're seeing more and more girls with experience in the weight room," dos Remedios says. "They're not coming in clueless anymore."

The times of females designated to treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes are all but over.

"Now you're seeing women who lift and lift hard," Cosgrove says. "Some of the girls go harder than the guys."

Cosgrove cites the diminishing stigma of women being muscular and fit as one of the reasons for the increase, but that doesn't mean the stigma is gone entirely.

"For the most part, more female athletes are open to more intense training, but even today, you get the dad who is worried about his daughter looking like a linebacker," Johnson says. "Even the female athletes themselves worry about their legs getting too big. These are real things that people still care about."

Another evolving idea is a trainer who will also deal with maintenance and prevention, in addition to improvement.

"Sports are progressing at such a pace, we're not just making guys better," Cosgrove says. "We're thinking about keeping you in one piece. There's no reason why so many injuries happen without any physical contact (with another player). That has a lot to do with conditioning."

What it all boils down to is molding an all-around athlete, with as few flaws as possible. To do that, however, 1-on-1 training is practically a must.

"We're looking beyond sports specificity to individual specificity, where every program is designed around each athletes' strengths and weaknesses," Cosgrove says. "Is it harder for the coach? Absolutely. And you will need more time 1-on-1 with a trainer. You see a doctor and optometrist 1-on-1. It's very important."

Although the peak of the conditioning world has embraced many of these methods already, the impact on the grassroots level is what may draw the most noticeable results.

"High school programs are still behind, but as the years go on, you're going to see them make improvements," dos Remedios says. "Some people aren't doing anything at all or doing really archaic things. We hope that the highest levels of conditioning will trickle down to the high schools."

That could be aided, according to dos Remedios, by the presence of a trainer position at every school, including public ones. But with ever-present budget issues, it's hard to imagine the addition of those positions.

"It's tough with the Hart district, with people losing their jobs," dos Remedios says. "It's hard to think they'll be adding positions anytime soon."

Although many in the training and conditioning industry think they have a pretty good idea of what the future will hold, nearly all acknowledge they might be dead wrong.

"It's such a young field, we've been wrong so many times," Cosgrove says. "But it's exciting because now we're looking at three-dimensional athletes who don't have weak spots. The knowledge in our field is doubling every 18 months. Everything that we know today could be wrong. It's exciting to think that we're just beginning."




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