Sports Conditioning – Improving Skills or Preventing Injury?


Sport is your thing. You love it, you’re dedicated to it, you want to get the best from your sporting performance every time. It ruins your week when you play badly, it ruins your month when you get a niggling injury, it ruins your year when you ignore it and it develops into a major injury.

People often hit the gym without really knowing how to effectively train for their sport. Some believe that they need to go to the gym and recreate movements made on the field to strengthen those movements. In high contact sports like rugby the trend is to lift heavy weights to strengthen the body so that it can stand up to the impact of the game. More often than not, deadlifts cleans and squats will be performed with poor range, poor technique and excessive load, in the name of sport specific conditioning. While these are all great exercises, they need to be implemented with good technique, when the individual is ready for them.

Common misconceptions in strength and conditioning see people head to the gym and train themselves in such a way that will cause more damage than good. Strength and conditioning in sport is not just about Improving game skills and technique, much of these areas are improved in your sport specific coaching drills and practice sessions. Performing Russian twists with a medicine ball does not necessarily improve how far you will hit a golf ball. Working on timing and technique with skills coaches improves how far you hit a ball.

 So what is strength and conditioning in sport actually about?

Excellence in sport comes from skill, dedication and preparation. It is our job in strength and conditioning to ensure the body is prepared for the demands of the sport.  Although it is important to understand the demands of our sport and the movement patterns we use in the field, it is imperative that we don’t solely focus on recreating these movements in the gym. Our job is to achieve balance and strengthen the body and all of its movements, creating a stable functional platform, so we can then perform the skills of our sport at the highest possible level and reduce our risk of injury.

For example, if a golfer plays a round of golf four times a week and then hits the driving range every evening, when he comes to the gym the last thing I want him to do is start mimicking his swing on a cable machine. My first worry is how this constant rotation to one side will be affecting his spinal alignment and what muscular imbalances are being created within the body. The focus at strength in motion not just how do we make the golfer’s swing pattern stronger, but also how do we  minimise the degenerating effects on the body, of the constant repetitive movements and strains, of our chosen sport.


For this we need to establish a baseline for the human body. A set of screens that give us a good overall view of the way we are moving and where potential issues may arise from.  Any strength and conditioning program needs to start with movement screens and postural analysis, so as to highlight the weaknesses within the body.

At Strength in Motion we use a variety of assessments depending on our client. But one of the main assessment tool we use is the Functional Movement Screen system.  Click to read more about the FMS system here.


In conclusion, our strength and conditioning goals need to be tailored towards our weaknesses primarily so that those weak areas have little impact on how we perform our strengths. When we have achieved a satisfactory level of balance and symmetry within the body, we can work on developing strength and power for the specific movements of our sport.  Far too many people gloss over the weak areas and just train to their strengths.



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