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The Four Basic Laws Of Strength Training

The application of these basic laws is essential, especially for junior players and beginners since all four regulations are meant to ensure the anatomical adaptation of a young body before it is exposed to the strain of strength training. As such, these four basic laws are important in producing an injury-free athlete.

England's Steve Borthwick goes through some stretching excersises during training

Photo: Getty Images

  • Law 1:  Before developing muscle strength, develop joint flexibility. Most strength training exercises, especially those employing free weights, utilise the whole range of motion of major joints, especially knees, ankles and hips. Consequently, flexibility development is important not only for its own merits, but also for its injury-prevention qualities. Flexibility development should start during pre-pubescence so that in the latter stages of athletic development it just has to be maintained.
  • Law 2:  Before developing muscle strength, develop the muscles’ attachments to the bone (tendons). Muscle strength always improves faster than the ability of tendons to withstand tension, and faster than the resistance of ligaments, which preserve the integrity of the bones forming the joints. The strengthening of tendons and ligaments is achieved through a programme designed to attain anatomical adaptation. Without the base of proper anatomical adaptation of tendons and ligaments, vigorous strength training can result in injuries of the muscle attachments and joints. [Link to RFU Strength Training Programmes]
  • Law 3:  Before developing the limbs, develop the core of the body. Strength training programmes should first focus on strengthening the abdominals, the lower back and the spinal column musculature. Consequently, training programmes for young athletes should start from the core section of the body and work towards the extremities. In other words, before strengthening the legs and arms, concentrate on developing the link between them, the muscle groups of the trunk.
  • Law 4:  Before developing the prime movers, develop the stabilisers. Prime movers – the muscles primarily responsible for performing a technical move – work more efficiently when the stabilisers – the fixator muscles – are stronger. The fixators play an important role, since a weak stabiliser inhibits the contracting capacity of the prime movers. The smaller stabiliser muscles are vital in helping the body resist injury.
 

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