Dear Athletes, Don't be the best at exercising

There is confusion between fitness and sports specific training. Fitness is the state of being physically active on a regular basis to maintain good physical condition, which is a great goal for the general population. At Sparta, we train elite athletes involved in high school, college, and beyond, and after training dozens of Olympic medalists and successful professionals, I can unequivocally tell you that there needs to be a definitive priority on preparing the athlete for their sport rather than overall health.

For example, volleyball training must seek to improve vertical jump first and foremost, and anything that detracts from this goal must be questioned. The same statements must be made for other sports, such as rotational power in baseball to allow you to hit the ball further, or running speed in football to provide faster sprint and agility times.

Even sports requiring more endurance, such as soccer and water polo, receive suffice stimulus in their practice and game schedules to improve “fitness”. However, a separate provision of power can be provided in training sessions that stress maximum efforts with larger rest periods to increase shooting power.

The challenge begins when we try to identify and eliminate any detrimental activities for our chosen sport. Perhaps the biggest culprit is training continuously for longer than 30 seconds. While this long distance training has many aspects that improve fitness for the general population, all forms can cause drastic decreases in vertical jump and sprinting speed (see Sparta Point 12/31/08). This includes any form of training, whether it is jumping rope, jogging, or circuit weight training. Even this 30 second ceiling is long and should only be adhered in the first month of off-season training to prepare the body for fewer repetitions at higher weights and speeds.

Make sure your training sessions involve maximum efforts, such as your highest jump or fastest sprint; after all you are an athlete trying to get to the next level, and not trying to be the best at exercising.

But if you’re competing against our athletes, please continue to stress fitness over your sport’s needs and perhaps some day your jogging time will be reflected in your sport’s statistics.