Using Conditioning as Punishment

There are always going to be 2 sides of this argument, those that believe in it, and those that don’t. We’re here to bring you to the good side!


One thing *I think* we can all agree on, is conditioning is paramount for our athletes growth and success, yes? You’re with me? Okay great!



When was the last time your athletes put their 100% effort into something they DIDN’T want to do? If your athletes do this, well, you’ve got some unicorns on your hands, because the majority of us will perform better at the things we like to do.


Your athletes come to practice and yes they talk too much, maybe they don’t complete a skill properly every time, or they do another one of the million things that make us want to pull our hair out, this should never result in conditioning as a punishment. We say this for 3 reasons;


  1. They are going to end up hating something that is paramount to their growth

  2. They are not going to see the maximum results of the conditioning

  3. They are increasing their risk of injury



They are going to hate conditioning:


If we truly want our athletes to succeed, they’re going to need to be happy! If we make conditioning a positive part of their training, they will be more likely to actually benefit from it because they will put in more effort.


It is clear that we all need a way to make our athletes work harder when they are slacking, or get to work when they are not listening, but using conditioning as a punishment is not the answer as they will then associate conditioning with negative behaviour. If conditioning is so paramount to an athletes success, we need to condition them mentally to believe that conditioning them physically is what will lead them to success, and in fact is a positive thing. We need to teach them, the more they condition the more results they will see. If, we as coaches, have created a negative connotation towards conditioning from the get go, athletes will not only condition far less often, but will not see the same results.



They are not going to see maximum results:


Cheerleading is all about skill development and implementation. Adding in exercise for punishment is usually not addressing the skill requirements for the sport and generally is fatiguing.


To perform the skills necessary for our sport it is important to stay fresh. This will allow for, in Dr. Scott’s words; “maximum utilization of your neuromuscular system and help grove the proper skill technique”. Meaning; when we create unnecessary fatigue, we start to use and train muscles that are not actually appropriate for our sport. (see: this blog post for a deeper explanation). Throwing in exercise as punishment more often than not will lead to conditions that interfere with improving your athlete’s skill levels and power. This is not an effective or efficient way to improve the “buy in” from your athletes.



They are increasing their risk of injury:


Fatigue. If you’ve read some of our previous blogs, or been to any of Dr. Scott’s talks you will know fatigue is his favorite topic. Fatigue plays such a HUGE role in our success on the mat, so it is important to take into consideration when working with your athletes every day.


The more fatigue that is created at practice, the higher the athletes risk of injury and the more challenging it becomes to successfully achieve your goals. We will use joint sloppiness as discussed in our previous blog post ‘Is it Better to Condition at the Beginning or the End of Practice’. The higher an athletes fatigue, the more “sloppy their joints become”, when we fatigue our athletes unnecessarily by using the conditioning as a punishment, we could be unnecessarily increasing the risk of an acute injury when we ask them to perform high level skills.


By keeping conditioning a positive part of the sport, together we will be able to have our athletes gain skills more quickly, reduce their risk of injury, and more importantly set them up for long term success with health and fitness being a positive in their life.


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