There are many different theories on strength training. Most have their place, but one key is knowing why you are really lifting weights. Yes, to get stronger seems to be the commonsense answer, but in what way? Is your goal to lift the most weight, gain bodyweight, get more powerful, improve speed, or prevent injuries? Your goal may be a mixture of the aforementioned. The hard part is to decide what your goals are prior to starting a strength training program. It’s also important that the strength coach you are working with understands the demands of your sport and the common injuries that are related.

A well-rounded program will change throughout the year, taking into consideration the pre-season, in season, travel schedule and off season as different phases of your year. The off season will be broken down as well with different phases. There are times to focus on bilateral exercises which is using both sides at the same time. These exercises include the squat and bench press. At other times, unilateral exercises may be more prevalent. Examples could be rear foot elevated split squats or single arm dumbbell rows. The bilateral exercises allow for more weight to be lifted and can maximize strength gains, but they can come at a risk such as developing low back or shoulder pain. Unilateral exercises will improve strength and stability. The strength gains may be less, but the stability that comes along with it can improve performance and prevent injuries more effectively.

There is a time and place for most training programs. The important part is knowing what will fit your needs the best to improve performance while reducing injuries. Utilizing a professional who has experience in your sport to develop a proper program is another key. Do your homework when choosing the right coach or program. Don’t get enamored with the bells and whistles. Machines and cool tools can be beneficial and fun, but are you at the level that you need them? Look for progress in your strength training program. Ask yourself these questions: Are you lifting more weight than before? Are you obtaining your goals of running or skating faster? Do you feel better when you play? A proper program will leave you answering these questions with a solid “Yes!”

Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over 20 years experience in professional hockey, football and soccer. Chris is the owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, CA.