Athletic Performance defined


Athletic Performance defined and dissected-What is it…really?

BY: Dr. Bret Hoffer


This isn’t referring to the person on that ride or race who keeps overlapping your wheel or crossing your line, no it’s about you.  You train, eat, sleep, and recover (hopefully), but is it the best you can be?  Is your body getting every ounce and calorie of nutrition, training, muscle contraction it can possibly process?  Do your muscles fire maximally? Is the food you eat absorbed to its potential?
Maybe, maybe not.
What’s my point? I’m talking about your physiology, nervous system and optimal point of performance. The stuff you don’t see or have any control of its function.  If you were asked, “hey is your spinal cord working well today?”  You may not know how to answer that.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine definition of Athletic Performance.
  1. Athletic Performance

Carrying out of specific physical routines or procedures by one who is trained or skilled in physical activity. Performance is influenced by a combination of physiological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors.

I will dissect and hopefully shed some light on each of these factors.

Let’s talk physiology this week. Not the artificial kind that is prevalent in our most recent cycling news but the kind that is available to you daily, without being labeled a doper or a cheat.

Turn now to focusing on the control center of all human function…The brain and its companion nervous system.  Connecting these two together by stimulating the relationship is vital and proven to enhance performance.

In a section of an article below taken from

Functional Training:

Unlocking the key to performance enhancement

By: Dr. Andreo A. Spina,

How to include functional training in your routine

An elaborate description of how to train functionally is out of the scope of this article. The following tips are meant to guide the interested reader as to what types of exercises should be included in a good functional program.

Replace Open Kinetic Chain with Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises: Closed kinetic chain means that the distal segment, be it the arm or leg, is ‘fixed’ to the non-movable surface (usually the floor). Open chain means that the distal segment is moving. For example, where a squat is a closed kinetic movement (because the feet are fixed to the ground), a leg curl, or leg extension is an open chain movement because the feet and lower legs are moving while the torso remains still. Closed kinetic movements challenge the bodies proprioceptive system, involve various muscle groups, require contraction of joint stabilizing muscles, and closely relate to movements utilized during various athletic situations.

Add Core/Physio Ball exercises to the mix: Using the core ball challenges the functions of the nervous system by providing an unstable working surface. This in turn trains the nervous system to activate stabilizing muscles (for example the multifidus in the lower back) while simultaneously activating effector muscles of the limbs. For example, try placing your back on the core ball and your feet at 90 degrees planted on the floor while doing dumbbell chest presses. Many people develop strength, power, neuromuscular control and endurance in their prime movers, but few individuals have developed adequate core stabilization to allow optimum performance and injury prevention.

Utilize Plyometric exercises: Plyometric refers to exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximal strength in as short a time as possible. Such exercises usually involve some form of jumping, but can involve other types of movements. Plyometric exercises utilize the force of gravity (e.g., you step off a box) to store energy in the muscles (potential energy). This energy is then utilized immediately in an opposite reaction (e.g., you immediately jump up upon landing), so the natural elastic properties of the muscle will produce kinetic energy. Studies have shown that plyometric exercises can increase the kinesthetic awareness of the joints in the body.

Balance Training: Balance training is an essential component to athletic training. When done properly, balance training can help to develop stability of joints and increase proprioceptive awareness of the bodies’ tissues. Try adding simple initiatives to your routine such as one leg balancing with eyes open, and then progressing to eyes closed. Balance boards (rocker or wobble boards) can be utilized by the advanced athlete, in conjunction with more difficult movements such as single leg stance with a knee to chest motion.

The article above explains some of the key ideas in Functional training.

To summarize, the major muscle groups used in cycling are single plane movements and functional training places load and work on the body in different angles and planes of movement.  These techniques are proven to build and support the athletes’ muscular system.

In the “off” season or the time of year where you are not cycling 5-7 days per week, I suggest you incorporate some of these exercises 2-3 times per week and only about 30 minutes per session.  During your competitive season, this type of work can be done but at lower intensities 1-2 times per week medium effort days on the bike or to jump start your system on a period after a taper and 2 weeks before a big race.  This helps get the muscles firing and prepped for the work load ahead.

Keep in mind you will not be using heavy loads so it will not “slow” your muscles down as is commonly thought with weight training.  Functional training is different than weight training in that you are merely adding some resistance to the movements of the prime cycling muscles and stimulating the supporting areas of muscle activation.  Cyclists need to add some resistance training during off times to avoid joint problems and damage which can occur because of the no impact nature of the sport.

Functional training is a complimentary method of enhancing performance which is used with great success in many athletes.

The second part to this refers back to how to know when and if your system is working at 100% along with some examples of exercises to use for functional training.

This will be covered in Part 2 of “Get On Your Nerves”

Stay tuned







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