Athletes use the off-season to improve their performance, build up resistance to injury, and prepare for their competitive season. At the beginning of a new season athletes return to their team, and some have not made as many performance gains as they may have hoped to in their off-season. Some of the main reasons athletes do not reach their performance goals during the off-season is because their training is either not individualized, or they are not training in a competitive environment. If training is performed in a large group, then the programs become too generalized and athletes do not receive individual guidance. On the other hand, one-on-one training allows for individual programs but doesn’t provide a competitive environment. Small group training however, can provide the best of both worlds.
Several studies have shown that physical effort during training is partially regulated by self-efficacy, which is a fancy way of saying the level of confidence an athlete has for a lift or movement. In one study, athletes were told that they lifted more weight than what was actually on the bar, instilling the belief that they were able to accomplish something of that magnitude. In their next workout, the same athletes reported greater self-efficacy and lifted significantly heavier weights. Numerous studies of similar context have been conducted over the last two decades, and it is now well established that raising an athlete’s self efficacy has positive effects on strength and performance. So how can you raise an athlete’s self-efficacy without tricking them about how much weight they are lifting?
When a new athlete begins training at SPARTA they train in small groups of 3-10, with athletes of various levels and training backgrounds. Being placed in this environment, the athlete quickly takes notice of the complexity of the movements, and the substantial amount of weight being lifted. This in turn raises their awareness and increases their desire to attain similar performance output. If an athlete isn’t surrounded by other athletes training at a high level, then most likely they don’t even realize the intensity their training is lacking. So training in a small group with a competitive environment can help to improve self-efficacy and drive an athlete to set higher standards for themselves.
It is important to keep in mind when training athletes in small groups, to keep the program specific to each athlete’s needs. At SPARTA we test each individual to identify weaknesses in their performance. Programs are then written to address these weaknesses, and focus the athlete on a path that will help them reach their goals faster and safer. So to be best prepared for your next competitive season, find a training environment that is focused on your needs, and surround yourself with athletes who will push you to achieve a higher standard.