Years ago, strength training was heavily discouraged from athletic courses. Coaches would tell their athletes that if they lifted weights or trained like bodybuilders, they’d end up like one: stiff, slow, and unable to move. This philosophy has remained for the most part of the last century, with many athletes focusing on technique drills versus strengthening and conditioning.
Fast forward to today, strength training and conditioning are simply inseparable from any sport. Be it a ball game, a combat sport, or any field of athletics, you can expect that strength training plays a large part in their athlete’s training regimen. Coaches who hold their athletes back from doing so are also very rare, but what happened, and why is strength training so popular among sports- even the ones that don’t seem to immediately benefit from it?
It Increases Power and Strength
It’s obvious enough that if you lift heavy weights, you get stronger enough to lift even heavier weights. While this might seem applicable only to sports that have you lifting weights (say, powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting), all forms of sport use the muscles extensively. And strength training develops your ability to exert force, increasing your batting speed for baseball, making your kicks faster and harder, letting you jump higher, basically allowing you to do more than you can before.
Of course, skill-specific training still needs to be done in order to make use of this newly-generated power properly. But without strength training, your skill and technique can only go so far. Increasing your strength is one way to maximize your technique and turn it into a winning asset.
It Makes the Body Stronger, Reducing the Severity of Injury
Let’s face it, any sport, regardless of how harmless it might seem, has the risk of injuries. All the repetitive motion is done in training, the constant physical stress, and the danger of making a mistake during the action—all of these combined increase the risk of injuries. We have to accept that big or small injury are part of the nature of any sport, but what we can do is strengthen the body to make them less severe.
And that’s exactly what strength training does. It makes the muscles and tendons more resilient to blunt stress and sudden impact common to athletic activities. The benefits aren’t exclusive to muscles, as the type of micro-stresses acquired in strength training helps make the bones stronger and more enduring.
It Increases Your Metabolism
Athletes needing to eat a lot is a common stereotype, but it has bearings in facts. Muscle is a very active and dynamic tissue; it requires a lot of calories—burning 30 to 40 calories a day simply for tissue maintenance even when the body is not doing anything. This is why athletes need to eat a lot- it takes food to keep those muscles strong and sturdy.
But this is, of course, a benefit. It lets the body burn calories even at rest, playing a factor in weight control and ultimately letting an athlete keep their body fat level controlled. Strength training might be a roundabout way of controlling fat percentage, but it is highly effective and brings many benefits to the table.
It Promotes Intermuscular and Intramuscular Coordination
We’ve already talked about how strength training can make the body stronger and less prone to injuries. But this also entails having better muscles overall, like having better muscles in terms of strength, flexibility, and explosive abilities. But perhaps one of the most important is the coordination being developed between different muscle groups.
We have many different muscle groups and regions that require full recruitment to make every muscle work. On our own, we might not utilize the full strength or capabilities of our muscles. But through strength training, we’re training our body to recruit every muscle fiber, ‘teaching’ the muscles to work together to produce better results with the same amount of effort.
It Helps You Become Flexible
In proper athletic performance-based strength training, your flexibility will actually increase rather than decrease. Don’t fall into the archaic notion that lifting weights will make you bulkier and stiff; it can be quite the opposite.
The range of motion required to accomplish many strength training exercises helps promote flexibility. Consciously achieving this full range of motion every repetition is a great way to develop reach and flexibility. Applying proper post-exercise stretches takes advantage of the contracted state of the muscles not only to help them recover faster but also to be more flexible after.