The Electric Slide is NOT Performance Training

From your local “Y” to the community center down the street, the growing trend among gyms everywhere is to offer sports performance training. But, in their attempt to cash in on an athlete’s desire to improve, are these gyms doing their members—and the fitness community as a whole—a disservice?

I argue they are.

Everywhere I turn, I see personal training studios who specialize in boot camp and step classes now offering performance training. This is disconcerting for several reasons, not the least of which is the devaluing effect it has on the services and experience of legitimate sports performance training facilities.

Performance training differs from personal training in that you’re training athletes. However, the term “performance training” has been watered down. The phrase has become vague at its best and misleading at its worst.

“Performance based training is training designed to prepare an athlete for the rigors and skills of their specific sport.”

To be perfectly clear, a boot camp class is not performance training. Neither is a beach body workout nor a group dance class. To be fair, group classes can be fun, and participating in them on a regular basis can lead to improved health and wellness. They won’t, however, improve your performance on the playing field.

True performance training is designed to enhance an athlete’s performance in competition by using the latest advancements in sports training to develop a sport specific program that improves the athlete’s overall athleticism as it relates to the sport in which they compete.

For example, a hockey player involved in performance training will undertake exercises that mimic the movement patterns required on the ice. He or she will be focusing on reaction time, balance, explosiveness, speed, agility, and high-intensity interval training. By modeling his or her training around the demands of his sport, he or she will develop the specific abilities needed to excel on the ice.

I train athletes. I take this directive very seriously. And if you’re reading this, you should too. I don’t claim to improve an athlete’s skills. That’s their team coach’s purview. My job as a coach is to improve an athlete’s strength and conditioning, and to do so safely. Risky or ineffective training modalities are not allowed in my gym.

The pervasive “anyone can do it” attitude is lazy and dangerous.

A weekend course does not qualify someone to be a sports performance coach. Neither does hanging a banner outside a gym offering performance training. So be forewarned and forearmed. If you’re looking to improve in your sport during the off-season, do your homework. Be diligent. Investigate all the gyms in your area. Look beyond marketing tactics and seek out a gym that fits your specific needs. And be sure the gym you select has experience training athletes in your sport. To do anything less is to put not only yourself at risk for disappointment or injury, but to perpetuate the errant and growing acceptability of murky claims that will disappoint and injure others as well. See the big picture and respect the countless others who are in it with you.