Proper training in the offseason of your sport will not only make you a better athlete in many ways, but one particular goal should be to develop Structural Integrity. “Structural Integrity refers to the synergistic capacity of musculoskeletal (MSK) chains to operate in balance for effective force transfer and movement efficiency.” –Altis Foundation
I feel this is the biggest benefit to a multidisciplinary training and strength training program. We like to use the weight room and programming to help fix the imbalances caused by sport. This is why I am not a fan of playing one particular sport year round. Even playing other sports will cause different movements and call on other coordination that will help build integrity within the human muscular chain.
How we can use the weight room to help build structural integrity?
Strength training is not the sole way to train for this, but it can be a huge contributor. Proper loading in your strength protocol can increase quality muscular tissue and tendon capacity and hypertrophy that is functional to the particular sport. We can do this by time under tension techniques such as eccentric work (slowly lengthening the muscle), higher volume, and lower intensity.
The best way to focus on structural integrity is through the use of assistance lifts in your program. After you perform your main strength movement of the day, you can use your secondary assistance lifts to help build capacity and functional mass. The key is to monitor the mass gains because this will be more prevalent with this type of strength training. Depending on the preferred sport of the particular athlete, there can be such a thing as non-functional hypertrophy. We see this a lot when athletes get on body build type programs: they get too big and it becomes an interference of their sport. Therefore, training in this manner needs to be phased and monitored to give the athlete the true purpose of it.
We always hear, “lift slow, become slow.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement; however, we like to use these methods to build resiliency to help reduce the risk of injury or if there is an injury, the return time is much faster. At MADE Strength, we use these methods in the beginning phases of an athlete’s training, especially those just coming out of season. We may also use it during in-season in single joint movements to aid in recovery.
I do think max strength is very important to athletes, some more than others, but building a structurally sound athlete will give us the most bang for our buck.