Looking at Workout Equipment
Most athletes know that cardio alone isn’t enough to be in peak form. Resistance training helps by building muscle strength, muscle memory, endurance, joint support, and bone density. These are all factors of a healthy, powerful performance in any area of physical activity.
It is possible to get some level of resistance training with no equipment needed, but the benefits can top out too early. We’ll discuss this later.
First, let’s review some of the most common resistance training equipment.
Bands and belts
These tools can be used solo or in pairs. The bands tie the player down to an anchor point, providing resistance as they try to move away. The bands can be attached to waist, arms, feet or upper body (using vests that hug the chest and shoulders).
When used during sprints or runs, these resistance tools can help increase speed, explosiveness, stride length and stride frequency. In short, they’re designed to help the players get from point A to point B in less time.
Waist Attachment for Lower Body
This style is sometimes called a “Bullet Belt.” It helps with the explosive starts necessary in football, baseball, and other sports that require sprinting from a dead stop.
The waist style of resistance bands usually requires a partner. One person wears the belt around their waist while the other holds the end like a leash. The band contains a break-away snap that releases the band from the waist belt. The “Pop” method of training requires the trainer to release the band almost immediately after tension begins. The “Rip” method releases the band more gradually and helps overload the first few steps.
Some similar products are designed to run 360 degrees, providing a more realistic experience. These are great for basketball, where jump shots can be restrained to provide higher jumps. These products are demonstrated in the video below:
The downside of this type of resistance equipment is the need for a properly trained trainer. That is to say, the person holding the other end must know how and when to safely release the band or when, in some cases, to follow alongside the athlete.
Other resistance bands focus on arm strength and control of movement. A belt is attached to the waist with bands running to the wrists or upper arms. The swinging motion it reinforces makes it excellent for sports like tennis, baseball, swimming and running. These are a great solo tool.
Range of Motion and Lateral Drills
These more elaborate looking set-ups provide unique movements and improve range of motion for all of the limbs in nearly every direction. The bands attach to the feet and upper arms for work on jumping sports like basketball, volleyball, etc. They’re also great for floor work, when you can work on simple muscle training exercises like bear crawls.
Shackles attach around the ankles only and are designed to help eliminate false steps in sports like football, where up to 90% of players instinctively step in the wrong direction.
Shackles are also great for reinforcing explosion from the hips and knees instead of driving through the feet, so they’re great for sprinters in any sport.
A running parachute will work the same as a waist or chest-strapped band resistance. However, it can be used solo instead of relying on another trainer. These parachutes also allow the player to start with no resistance. Adding resistance at other points in the run can help with endurance running required in sports like soccer.
Power sleds are great for both pushing and pulling resistance. They’re very common for football training, but they’re great for many other sports. The pushing and pulling motions work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glues, triceps, biceps, and abdominals. Chances are most athletes could benefit from this type of training.
The Rogue Dog Sled model, in particular, has a variety of set-ups that include adjustment of the handle height, a “wheelbarrow” mode that works the triceps, and more.
Weighted clothing can also include ankle or wrist attachments. The idea is to add resistance through additional weight, so that the unburdened athlete will be able to use muscles more quickly and efficiently. With a vest, for example, you can perform pull-ups with added weight to increase the intensity of the workout. You can also simply sprint with the added load for a step up in difficulty.
Balance boards don’t necessarily cause as much sweat, but they’re great for working on rapid stabilization. This is great for all athletes, but especially for those like gymnasts and football players who are likely to have their center of gravity thrown off.
Some trainers prefer to focus on increasing balance in other “more natural” ways. They argue that balance is best obtained through running, high knee drills and plyometrics (jumping drills).
However you approach it, all athletes will stand to gain from working on resistance balance exercises because they focus on the subtle and fine control of the leg and abdominal muscles.
It seems ironic, but slippery slide boards are a great resistance tool for increasing lateral ranges of movement. Most resistance equipment is focused on forward and backward motion, so a slide board adds a unique pattern to any resistance training program. It works on both the lower and upper body, especially on the oblique and lower back muscles, which are often missed in other forms of resistance training.
As far as direct, on-the-field translation, this a great tool for hockey, football and soccer players who need to move quickly from side to side.
No Equipment Needed?
Calisthenics, which use the body’s weight for resistance, can be a great tool in a pinch. However, these exercises are not so great for athletes who are seeking some serious strength. Doing more reps of an easy movement is not as effective as doing fewer reps with increased resistance or weight. Once the bodyweight no longer provides enough challenge, things have to be mixed up.
Calisthenics exercises, like lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and squats, are a great base to any training regimen, but they should be supplemented with the increased intensity provided by resistance training equipment for the best results. Be careful to not rely too much on body-weight exercises unless the athlete is a true beginner and is still developing basic strength.
In combination with cardio exercise
You’ll get maximum benefit by doing a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Each serves its own purpose in training for oxygenation, cardiovascular endurance, and muscle strength.
High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT is great for any sport that requires quick bursts of movement, but it’s also ideal for overall conditioning. It’s an effective and efficient way to push the body to its limits with frequent periods of rest in between.
Dr. Doug McGuff, M.D. best summarized the benefits of both cardio and strength training HIIT.
What seems to be evident is that a high-intensity exercise stimulus is what triggers the body to make an adaptive response to hold on to muscle. We have to remember that muscle is a very metabolically expensive tissue… If you become sedentary and send your body a signal that this tissue is not being used, then that tissue is metabolically expensive. The adaptation is to deconstruct that tissue…
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