Body Composition Training
Contrary to popular belief, body composition training is not always about 6 pack abs. That is especially true when it comes to sports performance training. This article is going to cover the who, what, where, when, why and how regarding body composition for performance training.
WHAT: Body Comp Training is strategically adding muscle mass and or losing body fat for a performance result. The three most common types of performance are aesthetic (look good in your bathing suit or a competitive figure show), sports performance, and lastly general health and well being (feel good with adequate energy to enjoy various life activities). These outcomes can happen all at the same time or they can actually be conflicting to each other depending on the methods used when training. There is not always a desired aesthetic result when achieving a performance goal (offhand example a Sumo wrestler that wants 6 pack abs). That man has to pick whether he wants to be a competitive sumo wrestler or have a super lean 6 pack. There is not always a performance result when achieving an aesthetic goal (The competitive body builder that also wants to be a competitive elite endurance runner). It is not always ideal to simultaneously have multiple performance goals. From a training perspective you ultimately need to pick to error on the side of simply losing mass or simply gaining mass until a goal is reached. Most people expect to go straight to their goal, which is possible, but often there is a lot of ‘fine tuning’ until satisfied with a healthy balance. Example a 6 week cut phase, followed by a 4 week gain phase, followed by another 6 week cut phase is a likely scenario for someone trying to stay strong and lean.
WHO: Body composition training is less important for younger kids still going through puberty, or someone with extreme health or nutritional issues. When you are younger the focus is primarily strength and coordination with an introduction to good nutrition habits. Most kids shouldn’t have issues with a sedentary lifestyle and won’t need excessive training to compensate for slight over-eating. At the younger ages when growth spurts occur predictably but somewhat randomly managing a “perfect” body composition is less than ideal and an overly aggressive attempt to stay lean could be detrimental to long term strength and performance. That being said aggressive overeating should also be discouraged as this can lead to excess body fat and poor habits into adulthood as well as cognitive and physical setbacks in performance. As a maturing late teenager and into young adulthood (my preferred age of body composition intro is 16 years or older) more precise body composition tactics may be appropriate to achieve a desired outcome. There is plenty of data out there suggesting a certain body fat percentage, height, and weight to benefit many different performances from different NFL, NHL positions, to PGA to even some more artistic performances like dance or body-building. There is an ideal body comp for whatever performance it is you are looking for.
WHY & WHEN: Being leaner is associated with speed, speed-endurance, and better overall consistency of performance. Being stronger is associated with increased force output which is beneficial for many sports positions like throwing a fast ball, increasing your hockey shot power, checking, tackling force, batting power, golf ball speed, tennis serve ect. The time to train for a body composition change matters if you are a competitive athlete. Off-season is the best time. If you are an athlete with a competitive schedule you should not attempt to get lean during your in season as this will likely be associated with a decrease in performance and possibly even an increased risk of injury. When trying to lean out, it’s important to error on the side of less calories which may have negative side effects including weakness and fatigue. Things you will not want to experience when competing. One of the reasons getting lean is so hard is because our bodies don’t perform well on stored fat. Unfortunately, that’s what we will have to live on in order to lean out. It’s truly not a desirable process. THAT BEING SAID, once you are at your optimal leanness it’s very important not to lose that progress in season. Otherwise you will have to repeat that energy zapping process in the offseason. The goal by the time the season rolls around is to just learn good healthy habits so you don’t have to be in a “cutting phase” or a “gaining phase” and more of a maintenance phase for the duration of the season, and realistically the rest of your career.
HOW & WHERE: To gain strength and power you need to do the proper activities associated with an increase in strength and power. These activities include lifting weights, plyometrics, and short sprinting. In season, there may be too much activity (i.e. not enough time for rest and recovery) between practices and games to practically gain strength and power.
To lose fat you need to do the proper activities associated with your sport to maintain strength & power. For example a sure way to lose fat mass is to run a marathon every other day. However if you are a baseball player that hits a long ball or needs to throw a fastball, running a marathon will dramatically reduce your force production. A more practical way of losing weight would be repetitive sprinting, therefore you are still maintaining speed while gradually increasing the amount of daily energy expended so that your body can burn more fat.
As you may have noticed this is something that needs to have attention around the clock, literally 24 hours a day 7 days per week. It is much more than just a workout, as your regular sleep habits and eating habits play a very important role in addition to your training. If you have to look at it in percentages: Training is your initial 33%, everything you eat and drink is your secondary 33%, and sleep is the final 34%. Without all 3 in that order, you will have suboptimal performance results.
Body composition training is the most sought after type of training because it can benefit almost everybody. You may be just an average Joe looking to increase your daily energy and vitality by leaning out, or looking to gain some strength and mobility to ease some aching joints. You may be looking for those 6 pack abs for your bathing suit this summer, or you may be an athlete wondering what body comp is going to be best for you and your performance. Come set up your assessment at Adapt Athletics today to look, feel and perform your best!
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