Bodyweight Exercises For Athletes
Using General Strength in the Training Regimen
Boo Schexnayder- USTFCCA Lead Instructor, Team USA Olympic Coach
General strength uses exercises that develop strength, using the athlete’s bodyweight as the sole load or resistance. In general strength work, no external loading is applied. General strength exercises can run the gamut from simple traditional exercises like the pushup or the sit-up, to highly advanced, complex exercises designed to address very specific goals. These exercises train a variety of abilities and should comprise a large part of any strength development program.
When dealing with young, developmental athletes, general strength exercises are a safe way to provide a variety of strength development activities in the program. The absence of external loading keeps injury risks minimal and makes then applicable for athletes of any age. Also, unlike weight training, the safety characteristics of general strength work mean that large numbers of athletes can be managed efficiently with a minimum of individualization. Skilled exercise choice can make the program as easy or as difficult as the coach desires.
General strength exercises use the athlete’s bodyweight as the resistance load. For this reason, generous doses of general strength work teach athlete’s to better manipulate their bodies, improving general coordination and flexibility and enhancing technique in any sport. Many coaches regard general strength work as a mix of strength and coordination training.
The lack of external loading in general strength exercises virtually eliminates the possibility of overtraining and developing muscle imbalances. Also, general strength work is capable of activating, training, and strengthening small muscles and muscle groups that other means of strength training don’t reach, further improving agility, mobility, and many other qualities.
General Strength exercises affect the body’s recovery processes as well. These exercises, when done in certain ways, increase the level of certain hormones related to recovery from exercise. For this reason, many coaches use general strength exercises on recovery-themed days, in order to accelerate the recovery from the previous day’s work.
General strength exercises can be combined into circuits or groups that challenge and develop an athlete’s endurance abilities. A skilled coach can administer these exercises with carefully chosen work and rest intervals to train aerobic or anaerobic fitness. Very short sprints can be mixed in to increase demand. These circuits can be made as easy or as difficult as desired.
Using general strength to develop endurance has the added advantage of minimizing injury risk when compared to using running workouts for the same purpose. The variety of movements employed in a general strength circuit virtually eliminates all overuse injuries and repetitive movement syndromes. Also, fatigue-related degradation of running mechanics is eliminated as well.