1. Circuit training
At Leeds University, Morgan and Adamson (1959) developed a fitness and training method which proved to be successful for many decades. Because all stations of the program were arranged in a circle this method was called circuit training. A similar concept was used in training prior to World War II, where the main merit was the alternation of muscle groups. This concept was also employed in circuit training. During the following years several other publications on this topic were printed. However, the books written by Jonath (1961) and especially by Scholich (1974) managed to further the scientific knowledge of this method.
Although circuit training was initially used to develop general fitness, progressively it was improved and became a very complex method. Thus, by considering various strength training methodical parameters a circuit training programs may be designed to develop strength, speed and co-ordination as well as combinations of abilities like power and muscular endurance. In developing a circuit training program the following characteristics may be considered:
- a circuit may be short (6 exercises), normal (9 exercises), or long (12 exercises), therefore its total duration may vary between 10-30 minutes. Usually, a circuit may be repeated three times. However, its duration, the number of repetitions and the rest interval depend on the athlete’s background and the ability sought.
- the physical demand has to be elevated progressively and individually.
- because there are set stations, arranged prior to training, many athletes may be involved simultaneously. Thus, this method has an organizational advantage.
- the circuit has to be arranged to alternate muscle groups, thus body segments may be exercised as follows: leg, arms, abdomen, and back.
- the training demand can be precisely managed by indicating the precise time or number of repetitions to be performed. However, variations of circuit training exist where:
- one can perform a circuit without having rest intervals or time limits.
- one must perform all exercises without rest intervals but with a time standard for one or three circuits.
According to the needs of the sport Scholich (1974) suggests two variants of strict circuit training:
- Circuit training intensive with interval. This may be used to develop acyclic muscular endurance. As the term suggests the rhythm of repeating an exercise is dynamic, with a load between 50-30% of maximum and between 10-30 repetitions. The rest interval is 2-3 times higher than the execution time. This variant may be used for sprinting events (athletics, swimming, speed skating), wrestling, boxing, football and other team sports.
- In contrast, circuit training extensive with interval employs a lower load (20-50%). but an extensive number of repetitions (up to one’s limits). The rhythm of performance is medium to slow, with a rest interval shorter than in the intensive variant. Such a program is indicated for sports requiring cyclic muscular endurance, distance running, swimming, cross-country skiing, rowing, etc.
2. Specificity Vs. a Methodical Approach
By attempting to develop an optimal strength training program some coaches, based on their experience, suggest that the program has to be specific. This concept was then developed by some physiologists (i.e, Matthews and Fox, 1976) into a principle of training. By strictly following this principle, throughout an athletic career one has to simulate the movement pattern used while performing a skill and develop to perfection only that type of strength which is dominant in the selected sport.
This concept is correct if applied only to elite athletes and during the competitive phase. If the same rule is followed by children and beginners from their first day of training throughout their entire athletic career and throughout all training phases then the principles of training are misunderstood and violated.
An optimal strength program has to be developed in conjunction with the determinant and prevalent biomotor abilities of the selected sport. Furthermore, the selected exercises ought to simulate the plane, direction, and specific angle in which the skill is performed. Strength development exercises have to involve the prime. movers. However, these realities are to be considered for elite athletes and during the conversion and maintenance phases of an annual plan regarding strength training. Consequently, periodization is the leading concept in planning a strength training program. On the other hand, children’s strength training program has two main phases:
- General and multilateral strength training, during which the coach develops all the muscle groups of a child, ligaments and tendons, thus strengthening and developing the base for future heavy loads and specific training. Such an approach is not only desirable from the methodology of training point of view but would also be more likely to lead to an injury free athletic career. The duration of mis phase may be between 2-4 years, depending on the athlete’s age and abilities. Throughout this phase the coach’s patience is a desirable attribute. To look for a quick return in training is an unhealthy approach.
- The specific phase. Following the development of the foundations of strength training the coach may start the specific phase which will be considered for the rest of the athlete’s career. However, this does not mean that a strength training program specific to the needs of the sport will be followed throughout all phases of an annual training plan. It rather has to consider the concept of periodization of strength train¬ing, which always starts with a build-up, or general strength development phase.