Training Styles: How do we Build an Athlete?

By: Dr. Jordan Mackner, DC

Leaving The Past Behind Us:

Previous thoughts on exercise routines for sports performance in athletes have mainly been based on the gradual increase in weight and max output, aesthetics of the athlete, and the hypertrophy of muscle mass. Much of this training took place on benches either lying down or sitting with support of a bench and the machinery would provide a set range of motion and a set plane of motion. Unfortunately, when we think about how this applies to the sports we are training for it’s difficult to find a correlation.  There are not many sports that are played lying down or sitting down were the athlete is not forced to support themselves. Furthermore, there is not a sport I can think of off-hand that only utilizes one plane of motion. A large number of our traditional exercises were too focused on only sagittal plane training with most of our athletic movements taking place in all 3 planes of motion (ie: throwing athlete, golf, soccer, football, bowling, etc). The Functional Movement: A large movement has been taking place to push for more functional exercises that correlate over to our sports we are training for. Stuart McGill is a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada).  He is one of the leading researchers on biomechanics and how it plays a role in injury and also sports performance. He routinely says, “Break down what your athlete is doing into chunks and train accordingly.” When you step back to think about this it makes it seem even sillier to get on a bench and put out max effort on a bench press or curl bar for 6-8 reps. Athletes incorporate speed, power, balance, proprioception, and agility into their movements. We need to start training the same way. In the simplest form, functional training teaches athletes how to handle their own body weight in all planes of movement. Below you will see a picture of traditional training for the upper body and an alternative for this exercise. Benefits of Functional Training:

  • Increases muscular power in all planes of movement.
  • Improved brain signal efficiency (Sensory-Motor training)
  • Improved body spatial awareness.
  • Improved motor skills
  • Increased reaction time.

(All of this will equate to a lower risk of injury) I hope in reading this short post on traditional versus functional training styles it may have provoked some thoughts about your  current training regime. If you have any questions about the article or would like to contact Dr. Mackner you can reach him at .