The top 5 benefits of strength training for the athlete

 In Exercise and Health

The top 5 benefits of strength training for the athlete

Strength training has always been linked to power sports such as Rugby League, Sprinting, and Basketball along with others but up until now it hasn’t been used a huge amount in endurance based sports. This is primarily because the benefits weren’t as clear. Now with more evidence clearing up the benefits in all arenas of sport, why wouldn’t you take advantage of something that can take you to the next level.

  1. For the Endurance Athlete

 Some of the biggest gains in endurance (aerobic) performance at a high level can be made by training the anaerobic system. The anaerobic energy system produces energy without the need for oxygen. During high intensity exercise there is a level where energy production is produced by the anaerobic system, this process leaves the byproduct of lactic acid. If you stay above this level for a long period of time the body will eventually have to cease exercise or decrease intensity. The level where this production begins is called the lactate or anaerobic threshold. If this level changes it directly relates to the intensity at which you can maintain exercise for a prolonged period of time. It has been proven that strength training can increase the lactate threshold and thus increase the highest intensity you are able to maintain during continuous exercise.

 2. Staying Injury Free

 One of the things we seem to always forget about when it comes to strength training is its ability to target movement dysfunction. A good strength program will not only improve the key movements of your sport but should also address any areas of weakness you may have. Neglecting these areas ends in one thing no athlete wants and that’s injury. Strengthening your weaknesses is a key to making sure your movements are fluid and that you aren’t overworking other muscles in your body. With repetitive training scenarios comes the ability for specific muscles to overwork causing imbalance in the musculoskeletal system, these imbalances usually result in pain. Counteracting this helps balance your body, improve your movement, decrease your chances of injury and enhance your power by activating muscles that were inactive/underactive. All in all, maintaining a strength program is so important for injury prevention especially in the athletic population.

3. Positioning the Body for Success

 Have you ever started playing a sport and had someone come up to you and move you into a different position to complete a task? From Soccer to Golf body position is everything when it comes to achieving success. For example if you have a poor setup stance in golf your ball usually doesn’t travel the desired distance or direction but if you have someone simply watch you and adjust your position it helps enhance your performance. What if your strength exercises where specialised for this body positioning and improving your strength in this position to start off with? You got it, increased performance. Most exercise physiologists know how to achieve strength gains in these particular movement patterns/planes. Strengthening movement patterns in desired body positioning is really what strength training is all about.

4. Mobility

 Having a strength and conditioning program tailored to your needs allows for more specific exercise prescription. Sometimes the strength exercises you need aren’t all about building power and improving the energy economy of muscles, in most cases it allows us to take a step back and focus on the things that improve overall function. Take mobility for example; if we incorporate specific mobility based strength exercises into a program this can vastly alter the performance of athletes. Maintaining mobility in high-level athletes is sometimes very hard with so much focus on strength and stability, strength can often be the straw that breaks the camels back. In other words it’s one thing to be strong and powerful but without adequate movement, injury or poor performance can occur. Through mobility based strength exercises this can be avoided and you as an athlete can progress to higher levels.

5. Mind over Matter

 An amazing benefit of strength training is its ability to change the signals running from the brain to the muscle. Strength training has been proven to alter muscle fibre recruitment along with muscle firing patterns. Generally in untrained individuals you will see increases in lifting capacity within the first 2-4 weeks of training. This gain is usually caused by an improvement in the neural signal sent to activating muscles. Training muscles allows them to activate more fully, in isolation to other muscles and also in correct sequence. These neural benefits are huge contributors in performance and injury prevention in athletes of all levels.

Physio Gold Coast POGO Physio

Cody Waldon 

Accredited Exercise Physiologist


  1. Sale, D. G. (1988). Neural adaptation to resistance training.Medicine and science in sports and exercise20(5 Suppl), S135-45.
  1. Mandelbaum, B. R., et al. (2005). Effectiveness of a Neuromuscular and Proprioceptive Training Program in Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Female Athletes 2-Year Follow-up.The American Journal of Sports Medicine33(7), 1003-1010.
  1. Hartley-O’Brien, Sandra J. “Six mobilization exercises for active range of hip flexion.”Research Quarterly for exercise and Sport 4 (1980): 625-635.

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