Getting Fit: Targeted Training

Raise your game

Love a sport? Get better with targeted training

By Roy Coleman Jr., WAC Personal Trainer; and Eric Chen, WAC Nutritionist
Photos by John Bang

Optimal performance. It’s what athletes seek no matter their chosen sport. To achieve your best performance, you must train hard and smart. After all, being at your best a few days before or after the big day isn’t what you want. You want your best performance when the moment counts most.

When we train for a specific sport we often call it sports performance training. Such training typically incorporates explosive movements and focuses on flexibility, reaction times, speed, agility, core strength, and balance. Although conventional training may involve many of the same exercises, it usually puts more emphasis on body transformation, weight loss, or muscular build. Sports performance training, on the other hand, focuses on building agility, power and endurance specific to a single sport.

A volleyball player, for example, will want to develop an exercise routine that puts her through movement patterns that mimic what she can expect on the court. As is typical in most sports, she will also want to work across planes of motion rather than in a single plane, which is common in conventional strength and conditioning programs. Using integrated movements that focus on functional strength and neuromuscular efficiency will help achieve this.

Good examples of these types of exercises include:

Barbell front squats

Getting Fit through functional training





The barbell front squat builds strength in the lower body by engaging the quads and core. Front squats are more forgiving on the back and knees than back squats, an important benefit for volleyball players, who often experience knee injuries.

Single arm deadlifts

Single arm deadlifts






The single arm deadlift strengthens hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. By lifting one foot off the ground while doing this exercise, you also add a balance component that engages the core. A stronger core increases a volleyball player’s stability and helps her achieve quick movements across the court.









Plyometrics (aka jump training) typically uses ropes or a box and is ideal for increasing power, stamina and strength. Plyometrics are especially useful for volleyball players, who rely on explosive vertical jumps.

Performance eating

Another key ingredient to achieve peak performance is proper nutrition and meal timing. Generally speaking, you should avoid eating right before a workout. If you need fuel to make it through, try a small piece of fruit, which will digest easily and provide quick energy. Beet juice provides a perfect pre-workout boost with high amounts of  nitric oxide, which helps increase blood and oxygen flow to your muscle groups.

Caffeine has been shown to cause major improvements for endurance athletes when taken before long workouts. Make sure you consider your sensitivity and don’t use caffeine if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition.

After a workout, optimize muscle recovery with a blend of carbs, fat, and protein, ideally within 20 minutes of stopping. String cheese, jerky, and fruit are all convenient options that travel well and can be eaten on the go. Nuts are also an ideal blend of protein and fat that aids in muscle recovery. In addition, watermelon makes an excellent post-workout snack as it contains antioxidants, which facilitate the removal of lactic acid. The high water level in watermelon also helps replenish lost fluids.

No matter your sport, a good diet and some sport-specific training can help you reach the next level.

—Posted September 12, 2016

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