This is the third post of a four-part series on functional strength training. Click below to see other posts in the series.
Is Functional Strength Training A Fad? A Gimmick?
Stop Leaking Speed!
Functional Strength Training: Key to Generating Power and Speed
Functional Strength Training: You Need To Be Stable To Perform Your Best
We've spent the last few blog posts talking about what functional strength training is, and outlining why it is supremely important for any athlete to get and stay as functionally strong as possible. Let's talk now about the importance of STABILITY, a key athletic component that can be greatly improved through functional strength training.
"Stability? Huh? No coach has ever mentioned that."
It's much easier to tell an athlete to "just train more" for gains in their chosen sport than to explain why seemingly amorphous concepts like stability, mobility, and neuro-muscular firing are essential for top performance. Driven athletes often like short answers, and the advice that seems to resonate--and is most readily accepted--is to train more, more, and still more. We have an informative blog post here on why following the "just train more" philosophy is ultimately disastrous.
But back to the issue of stability....
If you are not functionally strong, your body cannot remain stable during the rigor of training or competition--and you need to be rock solid. When an athlete is functionally weak, FORM is the first thing to go when fatigue sets in. We've quoted trainer Matt Dixon in this blog before, and, again, he sums up why being a stable athlete is so important. In this case, he writes on the sport of triathlon, but his words apply across many sports:
The elements of triathlon are each performed in effectively a single plane. However, when fatigue sets in, the first thing you will notice is the athlete's inability to control slight lateral (out-of-plane) movements. Hips and shoulders rock from side to side, efficiency drops and the metabolic costs rise. Once this instability sets in, it is extremely hard to reverse.
Instead, using functional strength training to ignite the big prime movers (glutes, quads, and hamstrings) so they can do their job for extended periods of time is essential. The important, supporting stabilizing muscles can then go to work to help you KEEP GOOD BIOMECHANICAL FORM OVER LONG DISTANCES. If you want to perform at your best over the long haul, the simple fact is you have to be solid and stable.
We know sport--particularly running--shouldn't and doesn't have to hurt. Injuries do not have to be accepted as the norm. Athletes can return to race and make gains season after season. None of that is possible, however, if you are a weak, unstable athlete, falling apart biomechanically.
In our next and final post in this series, we'll talk about how functional strength training helps you produce more power. And we all want that!