Conditioning, Strength Workouts Are Good, But Not As Important As Skills Development
Some guys spend the whole summer just working out. They do conditioning and lifting plus they do a lot of skill work. I’m working this summer and I don’t have the money to join a gym and work with a trainer – so what’s more important? Getting stronger, or getting more skilled?
A lot depends on the sport, of course, but in general, conditioning (as opposed to strength development) isn’t really that important in the summer. What you do in July is going to have almost zero impact on your game in November or March, at least in terms of endurance. Sure, it’s nice to have a base of conditioning because it makes the first few days of practice easier, but very few 16-year-olds need more than a week to get into pretty good shape.
As far as strength goes, that’s where the sport (and position) comes into play. Obviously, it’s a lot more important to be strong in football than it is in volleyball, and in wrestling than in basketball, but adding strength in the summer will help if and only if those strength gains are maintained once school starts — and that takes time.
To build strength, it’s generally accepted that three days a week of quality weight work will do the job. Of course it doesn’t take as much time and effort to maintain the gains made with the three days a week of workouts, but just going to practice won’t be nearly enough. To keep that muscle mass, you’re going to have to devote at least an hour a week, maybe more, to just weight work, and given the hectic schedule of many teens, that hour is often hard to find.
But if you’re confident you can make that commitment in the fall, and your sport places a premium on strength, a summer in the weight room can do a lot. (And getting stronger also helps confidence, and everyone learns early that confidence is vital for success in sports, or anything for that matter.)
All that said, though, skill acquisition is really important as well. Every sport demands both technique and consistency — the first must be learned, and the second must be drilled. Both take time, and at the high school level, both are more valuable than raw strength. (At the collegiate and professional level, everyone is skilled, so additional strength is more of a difference-maker.)
Now the guys who don’t have to work in the summer, who belong to a nice gym and who can afford a trainer three nights a week, they can do both. But most high school athletes don’t have that kind of luxury. So given the choice between strength and skill development, for the vast majority of teens, focusing on technique and consistency will pay bigger dividends than pushing around a lot of iron — and will help your team win more games.
Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at email@example.com
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