Strength integration for the beginner, advanced and rehab athlete
By Joe Eisenmann, PhD and Dan Hutchinson MS, ATC, CSCS
Muscular strength is an important factor in athletic performance and injury prevention – and many strength coaches argue that it is the basis of movement. Likewise, most athletic directors, coaches, and sports medicine staff understand the importance of resistance training (strength training) as an essential component to an athletic program. Therefore, most, but not all, schools and teams organize strength and conditioning as part of the overall program. Even so, those who currently have existing facilities may not be fully integrating strength in efficient and productive ways.
In essence, all of the Perform-X products can be categorized as resistance training and therefore improve muscular strength and power. Some of these products offer great versatility for multi-directional functional training such as the X-plode cords, Hip-X 360, Flex-X, and Ult-X upper body system, whereas the Lift-X strength cords are utilized with the four cornerstone lifts – the bench press, squat, deadlift, and clean – conducted in many high school, collegiate, and professional strength and conditioning programs along with recreational and competitive weightlifting and powerlifting.
Training the cornerstone exercises: the Bench, Squat, Dead, and Clean
These four lifts are compound movements that activate major large muscle groups. Walk into any weight room and you will probably see these four lifts on the record board as they are also often used as a yardstick for lower body strength (squat and dead) and upper body strength (bench press) and power (clean).
Given their importance as a test measure, much emphasis is placed upon improving the 1-repetition max or estimated 1RM. Many training methods are used by coaches and athletes to improve strength and power. One such method that has gained popularity in strength and conditioning programs is variable resistance training.
Variable resistance training
Briefly, here is how variable resistance works. As the lifter gets into the ‘easier’ portion of the exercise (think about the top part of the bench or squat exercise), the cords or bands provide greater resistance because it is at its greatest stretch. This additional load forces the lifter to increase the acceleration of the resistance, complete the lift through a full range of motion, and allows for the recruitment of additional muscle fibers.
Is it effective? A recent scientific review article (Suchomel et al. Sports Med 2018) noted that variable resistance training offers superior advantages in producing the greatest comprehensive strength adaptations compared to other methods.
The Lift-X™ strength cords
The Lift-X™ Strength Systems consist of variable resistance cords for loading the big four lifts. Each device has specific loads associated with the distance of stretch that has been quantified. The Bench-X and Squat-X Strength Cord Systems can be used in a traditional rack set up using the built-in peg system or retrofitted with the Trak-X™ System.
Although not common until recently, the downfall of loading with variable resistance on the deadlift and clean has been securing the cords or bands to the platform area. The Trak-X™ System has provided a solution to this problem by providing a safe and secure anchoring system to properly load these two platform lifts. The Dead-X and Power-X can be used within an inlaid platform as described here and shown below or can also be retrofitted with the Trak-X on existing above-ground or inlaid platforms.
Versatility of cord-loaded resistance training
Although variable resistance training for the bench, squat, dead and clean may be advanced, other Perform-X resistance cords can be used for beginners, weaker, or younger aged athletes, and during the rehabilitation or reconditioning phase of a return to play program.
Compared to machines, utilizing resistance cords offer multi-directional movement variations, and they are noticeably less expensive and offer great versatility. Variable resistance cords allow athletes to push, pull or lift high or low, at various angles, or with one arm or one leg. All of these variations can be performed with resistance cords at different resistances, angles, positions, and speeds in the weight room, in the gym or on the playing field.
Upper Body and Core training
Upper body strength exercises include pushing, pulling, and pressing, while core training is more than sit-ups and includes rotational movements, lifting and chopping. The Ult-X™ Upper Body Cord allows the individual to perform all of these upper body and core movements. This device can be anchored to the Trak-X or a wall anchor, as well as stationary devices, inside and outside, like racks, fences, or poles.
The exercises below offer some options for upper body training applications using the Ult-X™.
- Chest Press (Double-arm and Single-arm)
- Shoulder Press (Double-arm and Single-arm)
- Pulling or Rowing (Double-arm and Single-arm / High or Low anchoring point)
- Rotational / Core Exercises
Lower Body training
Of course, the squat and deadlift are signature lifts of the lower body. However, additional exercises that focus on strengthening the hip musculature are also important for linear and lateral speed development and injury prevention via the lower body kinetic chain– think of the childhood song to learn body parts “the hip bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the ankle bone….”.
The Hip-X™ 360 System (shown below) offers cord-loaded hip related exercises in all four directions:
- Hip flexion for muscles involved with driving the knee up;
- Hip extension for muscles involved with driving the knee back and into the ground;
- Hip abduction for muscles involved with raising the leg away from the body;
- Hip adduction for muscles involved with bringing/keeping the leg toward the body’s midline.
The Flex-X™ Trainer (shown below) also targets the muscles of the hips, and can be used for lateral and linear movements.
Summary of strength integration
Strength training and the development of muscular strength is important for reducing the risk of injury and athletic performance. Most programs rely upon the big four lifts – bench, squat, dead and clean – and it is now well-founded that variable resistance loading of these major lifts can improve gains in size, strength, and power. In turn, other exercises using variable resistance cords may supplement core lifts and may also be more appropriate for younger, less experienced, weaker athletes, and/or those rehabilitating injury. In addition, the Perform-X cord systems are versatile and durable for use outside the traditional weight room and can easily be implemented into the practice setting. Bottom line – get strong!