Various Types of Strength in Training

There are various types of strength which the coach has to be aware of in order to conduct more effective training.

For instance, the ratio between body weight and strength has an important consequence to the extent that it allows comparison between individual athletes, and indicates whether or not an athlete has the ability to perform certain skills. Therefore, the following types of strength should have important meaning to a coach:

  1. GENERAL STRENGTH refers to the strength of the whole muscular system. As this aspect is the foundation of the whole strength program, it must be highly developed, with a concentrated effort during the preparatory phase, or during the first few years of training beginner athletes. A low level of general strength may be a limiting factor for the overall progress of an athlete.
  2. SPECIFIC STRENGTH is considered to be the strength of only those muscles that are particular to the movement of the selected sport (concerns the prime movers). As the term suggests, this type of strength is characteristic for each sport, therefore any comparison between the strength level of athletes involved in different sports is invalid. Specific strength, which has to be developed to the maximum possible level should be progressively incorporated towaid the end of the preparatory phase for alt elite class athletes.
  3. MAXIMUM STRENGTH refers to the highest force that can be performed by the neuromuscular system during a maximum voluntary contraction. This is demonstrated by the highest load that an athlete can lift in one attempt.
  4. MUSCULAR ENDURANCE is usually defined as the muscle’s ability to sustain work for a prolonged period of time it represents the product of stressing in training both strength and endurance.
  5. POWER is the product of two abilities, strength and speed, and is considered to be the ability to perform maximum force in the shortest period of time.
  6. ABSOLUTE STRENGTH (AS) refers to the ability of an athlete to exert maximum force regardless of own body weight (BW). In order to be successful in some sports (shot put, heaviest weight categories in weight tilling and wrestling) absolute strength is required to reach very high levels. Although it may be measured by using dynamometers, in training it is very significant to know the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted in one attempt, on which basis the load in training may be calculated. Considering that an athlete follows a systematic training, absolute strength increases parallel with gains in body weight.
  7. RELATIVE STRENGTH (RS) represents the ratio between an athlete’s absolute strength and his/her body weight. Thus:

    Relative strength is very important in sports where the athletes travel during per-formance, or are divided into weight categories (i.e., wrestling, boxing).
    For instance a gymnast may not be able to perform the iron cross on the rings unless the. relative strength of the muscles involved is at least 1.0 which means that the absolute strength must be at least sufficient to offset the athlete’s body weight Table A illustrates a comparison of the relative strength of two record holders in weight lifting.
    Table A. The relative strength of the weight lifting record holders (clean and jerk) from the lightest and heaviest weight categories. 
    Weight Category/Kg
    World Record/Kg
    Relative Strength (Kg Forcerer Kg Body Weight)

    Table B.   A comparison of relative strength of some of the two Soviet high jumpers (from Zatsyorski, 1968).

    Standing Vertical Jump/cm
    Absolute Strength/Kg (Full Squats)
    Relative Strength/Kg
    From table 21, it is evident that as the body weight increases relative strength decreases. This reality is of high significance for sports where power is the dominant ability. According to the data provided by Zatsyorski (1968) the former world record holder in high jump, Valeri Brumel, had the highest relative strength among Soviet jumpers (table B). From the data provided above, the conclusion that may be drawn is that the increment of relative strength is a function of weight loss. However, if weight loss is a requirement for performance improvement it has to be done under the supervision of a physician and the guidance of a nutritionist. Above all, the coach should not forget that a systematic training is the ideal means of increasing relative strength. 
  8. STRENGTH RESERVE. Although at this point in time it is inadequately investigated, strength reserve is regarded as the difference between absolute strength of an athlete and the amount of strength required to perform a skill under competitive conditions (Bompa, 1978). For instance, strength gauge techniques used to measure rowers maximum strength per stroke unit revealed values of up to 106 kg while the mean strength per race was found to be 56 kg (Bompa et al, 1978). The same subjects were found to have an absolute strength in power clean lifts of 90 kg. Subtracting the mean strength per race (x= 56 kg) from absolute strength (90 kg) one will find the strength reserve which in our example is 34 kg. The ratio of mean: absolute strength is f:1.6. Similarly, other subjects were found to have a higher strength reserve with a ratio of 1:1.85. Needless to say, the latter subjects were capable of achieving higher performances in rowing races, thus allowing one to conclude that an athlete with a higher strength reserve is capable of reaching higher performance. Although the concept of strength reserve may not be meaningful to all sports it is hypothesized to be significant in sports such as swimming, canoeing, rowing, jumping, and throwing events in athletics.
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