Stewart Athletic Development

what is S&C

What is strength and conditioning (And why you might consider hiring a coach)

Some of you have maybe stumbled upon my social media platforms by chance, some of you may have sought them out because you know what it is I do as a Strength & Conditioning (S&C) coach. Regardless of your knowledge of what S&C is, the purpose of this article is to clear up any confusion & leave you with a better understanding of this discipline.

S&C is the integration of a training programme to elicit specific adaptations in a specific cohort. Laymans terms? It is training designed to improve certain physical qualities (E.g speed, strength, Aerobic fitness etc) in specific populations. Many assume that S&C is only for athlete’s and it doesn’t apply nor benefit them, however this is not the case. S&C can (and has) been successfully implemented with youth populations to help develop key movement patterns and aid with growth maturation and development and reduce the risk of injury when they begin to participate in sport, particularly when they begin to specify in a particular sport.

S&C has been used in general populations to help improve quality of life and improved well being & health markers (such has resting heart rate, blood pressure etc) as well as the reduction in injuries from workplaces, day to day life and any recreational activities they take part in.

S&C has also been used in ageing populations to help reduce the negative effects of muscle atrophy (Wastage) and sarcopenia, both of which have been linked to causing injuries in ageing populations from trips, slips and falls. Improving their strength, stability and balance can help reduce the risk of this occurring, which is huge for improving quality of life as a trip or fall in an aged person can be devastating and unfortunately can have negative impact on them for the rest of their lives.

And of course, S&C is used within athletic populations. Simply, the purpose of S&C is to 1) improve the physical qualities required for their sport and 2) reduce the risk of injury. Noticing a pattern here in the purpose of what S&C is? You may come across some interesting descriptions of what S&C is, but that’s it summed up in a nutshell. The purpose is pretty simple, the implementation of it becomes more complex, however these complexities will be discussed in coming articles.
The majority of professional athlete’s and sports teams employ S&C specialists to help give their athletes the edge when performing. Looking at Rugby union as a prime example, a sport where physical strength and power is hugely important for the collision areas such as rucks & scrums. Bigger, stronger more powerful athletes are more likely to dominate these areas than weaker counterparts, assuming their technical ability is also adequate. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an endurance cyclist requires cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance that may seem beyond comprehension. Improving their performance becomes a more complex process due to the physiological demands of strength / power training vs aerobic training (which will be discussed in a later article) therefore requires specialist knowledge to achieve this.

You may be thinking “but I am not an elite level athlete, so it wouldn’t benefit me” however, you would be wrong. S&C is implemented across all levels, however the cost of hiring specialists is one of the main reasons why amateur level sports rarely have S&C support. Occasionally, clubs and athletes will go to the gym or have a group session together. This is one of those occasions where “something is better than nothing, but that something might be slowing you down”. Often people (through no fault of their own) haven’t got the first idea about integrating a training programme in line with their sport demands or personal needs. Unfortunately, this is often coupled with the “more is better, go hard or go home” bullshit that is often found in gyms.

“ If you aren’t dead and can’t walk by the time you leave the gym, you ain’t worked out brah!” – The zyzz brah dude in the string vest who does Chest & biceps every other day and has night terrors thinking of a squat rack.

“If you haven’t run 50 miles each week you won’t get fitter” – the “long distance runner” who is constantly fatigued, has chronic shin splints and the cognitive function of a walnut

These are extreme examples, but we have all come across them. Chances are the majority of them have 0 malicious intent with their advice. However, it’s pretty useless advice. At best, you’ll make marginal improvements that likely have 0 carry over to your sport. At worst, you are looking at a repetitive strain injury or heading toward non-functional overreaching (Definitely don’t want that, it fucking sucks).

At this stage, you are perhaps more uncertain of what to or how to help improve your athletic performance and gain that physical edge. If this is something you definitely want to do, and something you are willing to commit to, then it might be time to hire an S&C coach.

Hiring an S&C coach may seem like a daunting task. How do you know who is good? How do you know they are worthwhile or reliable? Do they know what they are doing, or just good at spouting fancy words and using the ”baffle them with bullshit” method. I feel your pain, I personally went through the same issue when looking to hire a coach, but it is a process that is worth diligent thought. I will be covering “how to pick a coach” in a separate article, however in the meantime I will highlight the benefits of having an S&C coach in your corner (assuming they are the right one for you).

Firstly, they will take any guesswork out of the programme. They know what they are doing and will create a tailored programme based on your individual needs as an athlete. These adaptations will help to improve the physical qualities you specifically need for your sport and position if required.

Secondly, they can look at your programme objectively, you cannot. Anyone (Myself included) who has written programmes for themselves finds it all too tempting to make changes. For example, you have one bad week of a specific exercise? Nah screw it that’s getting replaced with something else it clearly doesn’t work, when in reality the poor session is due to having a shitty day at work causing excess stress. We justify these changes our heads saying, “we are different”, however we aren’t, sorry to break it to you. Having a coach ensures that any changes are made objectively, not subjectively.

Thirdly, it frees up your time. Even if you have a fairly good understanding of what you need / require from an S&C programme, it is a fairly time-consuming task. Particularly if looking ahead at a full years’ worth of planning based around competition schedules. Hiring a coach takes that work away from you, allowing you to do whatever you want to do.

Hopefully this article has helped you understand what Strenght and Conditioning is, and what benefits you can gain from having S&C coaching for. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or slide up in the social media DM’s and as always, stay strong


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