Skills vs Conditioning
We're often asked where training for sport-specific skills ends and sports conditioning begins. This is where the biomechanics assessment comes in to play. We utilize an electronic force plate to understand where the athlete’s center of mass has gravitated over their feet. Combining that knowledge with a static posture assessment and a dynamic gait analysis will provide tremendous insight on their biomechanics and where their stress areas are. This allows us to better design an conditioning program to improve the sequential action of force production throughout the body and in so doing improve an athlete’s overall sports performance.
We will find out where an athlete's functional level is, what their skill level is, what their strength and flexibility levels are. So for example with an ice-hockey player, we'll gain the information to determine such things as whether they're top-heavy, which can affect their skating. Are they a great skater but don't have the endurance on the ice? Are they strong speed skaters who can get down the ice in no time but their stick work is lacking? This would primarily be the coach's job, but we might have carryover into skill areas if it's physiologically based. If it's a conditioning aspect where they don't have speed, we can train that. If it's strength and power – explosiveness down the ice — we can train that. It's not about how strong you are; it's about how fast you can move. If you're strong AND fast, then you're more powerful. These are the things we can incorporate into a conditioning program.
We can also do reflexive training — read and react — incorporating a lot of speed work, eye-hand, and eye-foot coordination. We use speed/agility ladders or throw cards at the athlete (to catch) when they're completely fatigued. We use reaction balls that are similar to tennis balls but have bumps on them so when you drop them they bounce in a chaotic pattern requiring the athlete to react to that. Much of this reactive training can help improve skills, but again, it's the coach's job to teach sport-specific skills.
Another example where our work can overlap with a skill might be when a coach comes in and says a player is just not getting full reach with their jump shot. We can look at that and see what the shoulder and upper body flexibility and mobility is, and then design a program around any deficiencies we find to improve their reach and thus their jump shot.