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Strength DOES NOT Make You Slow

It's high time I got back writing regularly, as was pointed out to me yesterday when long time member of our extended WGFamily sent me this message:

Well, I've a topic today based on a conversation I was part of recently

The subject was running speed in field sports.

I know, not my specialist subject, but I do have some ideas of what's involved.

But when asked my opinion, I pointed to a hill near the venue and said how that could be their greatest asset in building straight line speed.

This was answered by the older, retired coach talking about how he doesn't like hills as it makes lads too muscular.

This is a viewpoint that used to be very prevalent amongst the martial arts community.

I'd assumed that with the leaps and strides that have been made in Sports Science, the cross pollination of information between various codes, sports and of course coaches, that this viewpoint would be very much dead and buried.

If we look, the fastest straight line speed is found on the 100m track.

The potentially quickest, and most heavily muscled athletes are found on the Rugby League field (we could argue for NFL but, I'm playing to both my experience and bias 😉)

And the athletes with probably the highest all round conditioning are wrestlers.

All of whom are on average muscular athletes.

OK, Usain Bolt is cut from a different cloth, but he's not exactly without muscle!

We can argue that somatotypes guide people towards one sport or another.

The Olympic swimmers all tend to be tall, long backed with relatively short legs.

The distance runners tend to the exact opposite, long lean legs and slight upper bodies.

Gymnasts average out at 3' 2", while basketball players average out at 7' 13"

Of course there are always exceptions, look up the former Irish fly half Peter Stringer for an example of a man excelling where on paper he shouldn't.

But I'm getting off point.

The point is, the quickest and fastest athletes tend to be the ones carrying a significant amount of muscle.

They are strong.

They're also mobile

They're also enduring

But they're unashamedly strong.

Those who say muscle mass makes you slow are possibly those looking at the monsters of bodybuilding.

And in that case, they have a point.

But bodybuilding isn't about athletic performance, it's about aesthetic performance.

There is a cross over in methods, lifting weights is lifting weights. But a very clear deviation in overall goal.

To be a strong athlete, one must spend the majority of the time in the sport.

The time in the strength room is to supplement that sports practice.

The exercises performed in the strength room will be chosen from those that offer the highest return with limited time spent on anything aesthetic based (allow some time, it’s good for the athletes mindset)

As for hills.

It's one of the most elegant solutions to a problem you'll ever come across.

If the athlete builds muscle from sprinting up a hill, that's muscle that will absolutely help them get around a field faster!


Dave Hedges

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