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On The Use of Deep Squats and Intense Conditioning with Athletes

Lately, we have faced a number of questions regarding two subjects:

1)   Why don’t we make our athletes perform full, deep squats?
To be very clear on the subject, it all comes back to the understanding of how different movements and work outputs affect your training goal.

Technique manipulation can have a tremendous impact on training outcomes. When it comes to the training of athletes, training outcomes must ensure high level of competitive performance in their primary sport(s). The considerations one makes when training for pure strength and power will be completely different from the individual training for maximal muscular hypertrophy. When training for strength and power, you want to set yourself in a position for the greatest mechanical advantage. An individual’s greatest mechanical advantage will also be influenced by their anthropometry. This becomes the context of making coaching decisions that will dictate technique and variations used in movements such as squats, deadlifts, presses, and Olympic lifts.

In sport, one can argue that there is some level of sport-specificity in utilizing ½ and ¾ squats as they may provide a greater transfer of training into the dynamics of certain sporting movements. Keep in mind that auxiliary or supplemental work in the training program must ensure muscular/connective tissue health and balance.

This is not to say we don’t utilize a full, deep squats. Some of our athletes are more than capable of performing them. For others, there is a greater risk to reward ratio and greater sporting outcomes can be realized with squat variations that impose less structural risk.

It really comes down to selecting the best tools for the job and removing the variables that don’t have a place in an athlete’s long-term goals.

2)   Why don’t we use intense conditioning work with our athletes?
Understand that the adaptations an athlete undergoes from both a neuromuscular and energy system (aerobic and anaerobic) viewpoint will always be influenced by the structure of training load and volume in a given program.

“Explosive, not tired.”
At GP, that is a concept we communicate to all our athletes, but still this is a concept many of them have a hard time understanding. Many come to us with the goals of being bigger, stronger, and faster. They want it all and convincing how the process really works, through intelligent conversation, is a challenge.

Flash forward several weeks into the program and these same athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster through intelligent program design and execution. All aspects of the training program align with their goals and their bioenergetic (energy system) demands relative to their sport. There is conditioning work, but it is structured best to according to their needs. Conditioning work doesn’t have to push you face first into a pile of your own sweat and vomit.

Nowadays, young athletes assume conditioning and speed are the same and that by improving their conditioning, they will get faster. For many athletes, suicides and gassers come to mind. Intense practices run by coaches for no other reason that to make their players work hard also comes to mind. Players are instructed to sprint with minimal rest, pushed to exhaustion. Many trainers and "programs" utilize high-intensity conditioning methods. Sure you want your athletes to last an entire game and not get out worked, but this will not get them faster. Actually, it is counter-productive if speed is the objective since it is physiologically impossible to perform at your maximal effort without adequate rest.  And it doesn’t ensure that they will be in the best condition either.

There is such thing as training parameters and workload capability. These concepts demand consideration when training athletes. Sadly, if you asked the majority of trainers and coaches what those two terms mean, you learn pretty quickly that you are talking to yourself. True speed is only developed at near maximal effort. Maximal effort depletes energy systems and strains the nervous system. All these need adequate time to recover between sprints. This must be monitored closely to ensure that a speed training session does not become a conditioning workout. Conversely, conditioning work must follow guidelines designed to help athlete’s maximize their conditioning without disrupting other aspects of performance.  If conditioning training is performed at too high of an intensity, the training not only inefficiently conditions the athlete but can also interfere with speed performance and development. It will also interfere with strength and power development as well.

Are you getting the picture?

The very same athletes who want speed, strength, and size must understand that intense, non-directed conditioning only serves to inefficiently condition you and interfere with the goals and needs required for sport success. This is not our opinion; this is fundamental sport and exercise science.

Conditioning is a primary component in our training programs, for any athlete. However, conditioning takes on different looks due to the various energy system demands for the individual athlete. Conditioning is tailored to their needs. Just because a coach crushes them in practice with endless gassers, it doesn’t mean they are suddenly out of shape.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/guidelines-for-selecting-a-strength-coach-or-personal-trainer/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-essentials-of-speed-training/
Why Therapists Should Understand Strength
Does Practice Make Permanent? How Practice Rewires...

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