4 benefits of strength and conditioning that you never thought about

The primary reason athletes train is to enhance their sport performance. When people think of how that increase in performance takes place, their mind usually goes to topics of physical fitness, like being strong, fast, and well-conditioned. But training provides more than just changes to an athlete’s body.

Here are four less recognized benefits of training that stand out to me, and that you should consider if you’re an athlete, coach, or parent. Because in my opinion, these things are that really matter.

Confidence

There’s something about a 400 pound deadlift that makes you walk a little taller.

Confidence isn’t something that comes from positive self-talk or imagery—confidence grows from success—from working and achieving a result. For athletes, training provides the opportunity to experience success every time they step into the gym. Over time, those successes can add up to massive changes, both physically and psychologically.

Jumping higher, lifting more weight, going longer—seeing the work pay off—not only instills belief in a new set of physical abilities, but it teaches them the most powerful lesson any athlete can learn: they have the power to make themselves better.

In a sport culture that fosters blaming officials for missed calls, and tyrannical coaches who unjustly restrict playing time, this lesson is profoundly transformative. For many, it’s a powerful demonstration that through their own actions, they can affect a change in their abilities, and that they are the masters of their own destiny.

Countless times, I’ve witnessed timid weaklings be transformed into strong, confident athletes who can not only run faster and jump higher, but who carry themselves with a certain pride that they didn’t have before. I’m convinced that pride comes from the knowledge that they were the ones who made it happen.

A sense of calm

Putting off training for the last few weeks before the season leaves an athlete with two problems: being unprepared, and feeling unprepared. That feeling needles into their psyche and creates an anxious, distracted mind—not optimal for performance.

There’s something about a 400 pound deadlift that makes you walk a little taller.

After months of grinding through long training days, well-prepared athletes don’t have to panic. They can feel certain knowing they’ve done the work, and are ready to go. The certainty that comes from a well-executed training plan is incredibly calming. Instead of being haunted by thoughts of doubt and wasted opportunities, they can turn their attention to performance, and focus on displaying the fruits of their hard work.

They show up to the arena at peace with themselves, and assured that they’ve been outworking their opponents long before the opening minutes of play.

Body intelligence

Training is a practice in asking the body to do something, and then listening to it’s response. An athlete might ask it to squat ten more pounds, run one more mile, or do one more set—but the response isn’t always the same. Sometimes the body obeys, sometimes it pushes back.

After years of this back and forth exchange, the athlete becomes deeply connected with their body. They learn when it’s ready to go, and when it needs to rest. They understand which kinds of pain and discomfort to push past, and which to yield to. They learn to prepare their body and sharpen it for competition. They learn to care for it and keep it healthy.

This knowledge is extremely important, and can only be developed through years of pushing the body and then observing what happens. Over time, athletes become PhD’s in their own physiology and as a result can get the most out of it.

Robustness

12-14 year-old girls are among the most chronically injured athletes I work with. Most of them are so thin and frail, that anything more than a stiff breeze seems to buckle their knees and fold them up like a lawn chair.

Putting off training for the last few weeks before the season leaves an athlete with two problems: being unprepared, and feeling unprepared.

And they don’t even need to get hit to take a beating. Most injuries come from not having the strength to withstand basic running and jumping, which forces their poor joints to bear all of the burden of those activities.

People like to make training seem complicated. But essentially, training is about stress.

Athletes stress their body by lifting more weight, by going faster, or by enduring longer. Then their body—being the smart little devil that it is—responds by being able to tolerate that stress. Muscles grow. Tendons strengthen. Bones get more dense.

Then they do it all over again.

Over time athletes are able to handle more and more stress without breaking down. They see this not only in the gym, but also on the field of competition. Suddenly hits don’t hurt as much. Landing and cutting is more precise and controlled. They can go deep into a game while maintaining smooth, coordinated movements that usually get worn down by fatigue.

This tolerance to stress is just as important as getting stronger or faster.

Well-trained athletes are healthier and more resistant to injury. Their muscles and joints have been hardened through long hours in the gym, and are prepared to handle the rigors of their sport.

Read Next

Cheat meals are a bad, bad idea