6 Steps to Creating a Customized Sport-Specific Training Plan
Posted: Oct 27 2015
Now that we’ve established some core principles you need to be aware of to get started with respect to creating a sport-specific training program from home, we now need to identify the factors you need to keep in mind when creating a fitness plan. We’ve identified 6 steps you need to do create a fitness plan tailored to your fitness or competitive sporting goals.
These steps are necessary regardless of whether you are trying to simply get leaner, or if you are looking to improve your competitive performance in your sport of choice, be it Crossfit, Spartan racing, basketball, football, or anything else.
Of course, we need to make clear that what we are not insinuating that you shouldn’t procure a personal trainer to help guide you along your way. However, understanding the process will help you work with this person to tweak and adjust your program as needed depending on how close you are to sporting season/competition, or what you find you need at that particular point.
So without further delay, here are the 6 steps you need to take in creating a customized sport-specific training program.
Step 1: Do An Overall Self-Assessment: With this you simply want to identify your existing fitness level, your reasons for wanting to improve your fitness or athletic performance, what sport(s) you practice as well as your weakpoints in terms of your current fitness levels and training regimens. As well you want to take stock of what sports facilities and equipment (at home or elsewhere) that you have access to and what you might need.
Step 2: Identify the Fitness Areas of Improvement: Once you’ve done an assessment, you need to determine what components of fitness you need to improve. Of course much of that depends on what your fitness goals are. Obviously, your needs or focus are different depending on whether you’re just trying to lose bodyfat, or if you’re looking to complete a Warrior Dash. In order to identify what areas of improvement you need for your fitness, the following represent each of the nine elements that comprise the definition of fitness.
- Strength - the extent to which muscles can exert force by pushing against resistance (holding or restraining an object or person)
- Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in explosive burst of movements (Jumping or sprint starting)
- Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (ZigZag running or cutting movements)
- Balance - the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
- Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (splits, crab yoga pose)
- Local Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (Rowing or cycling)
- Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (Running long distances)
- Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contracture time after time (Continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
- Coordination - the ability to integrate the above listed components so that effective movements are achieved
Step 3: Identify Appropriate Tests to Monitor Fitness Status: The next stage is to identify appropriate tests to evaluate where you stand with respect to areas that you need work on, or any area for that matter. Examples of such tests include the sit and reach test for flexibility, the ruler drop test for reaction time and the 40 yard dash test for speed and power. These tests should thus be identified, and the results recorded.
Step 4: Establishing the Extent of Your Fitness Gaps: Now that we know your background, objectives and current fitness levels, we now need to conduct a gap analysis of one’s current fitness levels (stage 3) and target fitness levels (step 2). This will go a long way to determining the elements of the training program to allow each element of one’s fitness to be targeted, and ultimately improved upon to the desired level..
Step 5: Compile and Create Your Custom Functional Fitness Program: The next stage is to prepare a training program using the results of the gap analysis and FITT principles. For the uninitiated, FITT stands for:
- F - frequency - how often can/should the: individual exercise?
- I - intensity - how hard should the individual exercise in every session?
- T - time - how long should each session last?
- T - training activity - what exercise or training activity will help achieve the individual's fitness goals
It’s ideal to plan the program in four week cycles where the workload in the first three weeks increase each week (easy, medium, hard) and the fourth week comprises of active recovery and tests to monitor training progress. The aim of the four week cycles is to build up your initial fitness level for the first 3 weeks, and use the 4th week to recover, but also monitor and test and adjust your training program depending on your progress and your needs. It also serves as a good bellwether to determine if there’s anything with your program that maybe isn’t convenient, or if you would be better off doing an exercise for someone’s purpose. Ideally the program should last anywhere from 3-4 months to see any significant gains.
One’s initial level of fitness should be planned into week 4 of the program in order to monitor progress and effectiveness of the program. The test results can be used to adjust the program accordingly.
The program needs to last 12 to 16 weeks in order to see any real benefits and the planning (initial & subsequent adjustments) should be conducted with the individual so that they feel they own the program. This will ensure the program is enjoyable and convenient to do.
Step 6: Monitor and Adjust as Needed: As we touched upon in the previous step. This not only allows you to monitor, but little changes in your program allow you to keep the essence of the program, but also ensure that your body is kept guessing just a little bit.
With all this, you can get started on a creating a program to help you achieve your fitness or sport-specific goals. With that, we need to understand the difference between designing a program for in-season and off-season fitness goals, as well as the importance of periodization. We will touch on this next.