How Much strength

do you need?

How fast and how much strength you gain appears to be most important in the eyes of most strength and conditioning coaches, athletes, fitness buffs and the general public. As a result, strength has become the most important factor to be developed in order to have a better athlete and/or fit individual.


There is no doubt that strength is an extremely important factor in the success of an athlete. It is related to almost all aspects of his or her performance. However, this does not mean that more and more strength will be of greater benefit to the athlete.

It is a Catch-22 situation. You need strength for greater speed and execution of skills but too much strength will lead to slowness and poorer execution of skills. This is an often overlooked factor but one that is critical to an athlete’s success. The optimal amount of strength allows for the display of the greatest amount of
speed and power in addition to effective skill execution.

Recent studies done on the effectiveness of collegiate strength training programs have shown that after four years of strength training there is no improvement in speed, power or skill execution. This indicates that all the additional strength training that was done every year did not improve performance of the athletes on the field. Why do we continue to emphasize greater strength on a continual basis?

To reverse this practice it is necessary to devote more time to other factors that are as important, if not more important, than strength training. One example of this is strengthening the muscles in the same neuromuscular pattern as seen in execution of the skill. Only specialized strength exercises that combine technique with strength can do this.

However, specialized strength training exercises are rarely used because mostcoaches are not familiar with the basic skill technique involved in running, throwing, jumping, kicking, etc. But yet, this is a prerequisite for effective creation and administration of specialized strength exercises. They are the key to improving performance on the field.

Skill perfection should be the prime objective in the competitive and especially in the precompetitive periods. Keep in mind that in order to win a game you must have the ability to execute a particular way be able to execute the skills on a high level or at least higher than the opposing team. But skill practice is still ignored on almost all levels of play. Understand that skill involves the basic needs of an athlete such as the ability torun, jump, kick, hit, throw etc. as well as possible. A quarterback may know every play in the book but if he cannot throw long, short and accurately this knowledge is of little value.

Basic skills should not be confused with what many coaches call skill teaching in which the athlete is instructed to execute particular movements or patterns of movement specific to the athlete’s position. The basic skills referred to in this article are a prerequisite to such skill teaching.

Studies done with world record holders by Anatoly Bondarchuk have shown that they are not the strongest athletes nor are they the weakest. They appear to fall in the middle of the specific group of athletes. What also distinguishes the highest level athletes is that they do mainly specialized strength exercises and skill perfection.

In view of this information should strength training still be the number one factor
in training?