The WAY we condition can affect the outcome of our “gains”. When we say gains, we don’t mean making gains and building muscles on muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his prime (or Dr. Scott for that matter.. If you haven't seen the photo - you need to - but we will save that for another day).
ANYWAYS, when we say gains, we’re talking about general improvements in your performance.
We dedicate hours in the gym, and hours at home to being the best cheerleaders we can be, but what if everything we are doing, isn’t working in our favour? If the WAY we are conditioning - or training at practice isn’t actually improving our performance to its fullest potential?
We’re going to keep this one short and sweet so you stick with us, because it is so important, and if understood properly can change the trajectory of your growth/performance.
We are going to use a squat as an example to demonstrate HOW we should be conditioning and WHY!
Cheerleading is a high velocity sport. Whether we are stunting, jumping, tumbling or dancing we are consistently performing high velocity movements using our fast twitch muscle fibres. Studies show that how we condition/train these movements can actually affect the effectiveness of the training.
In its simplest form;
To do a standing tuck, are you doing a slow squat down and a slow squat up? No. It’s a fast, explosive movement - and in order to gain power in that movement, you have to train it that way. A trained strong slow squat will not translate to a quick powerful standing tuck.
Seems simple right? Well that's just the beginning.
Now that we know how to train the movement signature of a squat in preparation for a standing tuck properly, we need to better understand how close to failure you should be getting to in your training. When it comes to pure strength training, you can train as close to failure as possible, however, that isn’t relevant for our sport, as our strength needs to increase, yes, but it’s our high velocity strength in particular that needs to improve.
What this means, and what studies are showing is; by training farther from failure - ie, fewer reps with more rest in between, we are more effectively able to make gains in maximum strength and velocity.
In a more sciency way of saying it; when we train close to failure, there is a change in the muscle fibres characteristics (from type IIX to type IIA) , which ultimately will reduce the ability for those muscles fibres to produce force at maximum velocity because those muscle fibres are not meant to move and train in that manner, ultimately reducing maximum velocity, and strength gains at maximum velocity.
IIX = Extremely Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres
IIA =(not as fast) Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres
We used the squat jump in comparison to the standing tuck as an example; however, this concept can be applied to many different areas in our sport. Take basket tosses for example; a very explosive movement. If we train basket tosses for 30 minutes straight, and throw 20 baskets in that time, without adequate rest, we will be transitioning from extremely fast twitch muscle fibres to ones that are little slower, and the velocity of the basket will be reduced, an aspect we as cheerleaders are quite often trying to correct.
When working on baskets, how often have you heard, or said “you need to be more explosive”?
Next time, if you’re a coach, think about how fatigued your athletes are when you say that. Are they training the right way to be able to deliver on that request?
If this article made you think differently about how you will condition each movement, how you will structure your practices, and how you will address your weaknesses, share it with your fellow coaches! The more tools we have to succeed, the farther we can take this sport, TOGETHER!