Adding Vertical Integration to Your Training

Here at Precision Athletica, we value our athlete’s time and dedication to train with us to improve their performance. There are many ways to skin a cat when it comes to designing and implementing a Strength & Conditioning (S&C) program that gives the athletes the most bang for their buck.

This is reflected in the chaotic nature of sport itself.

Take field & court sports (i.e. Rugby/Football & Basketball/Tennis, respectively) as an example – athletes are exposed to many different athletic movements throughout the entire season.

If we look at a sport like Rugby, athletes need to be fast and agile, but also have the physical build to absorb contact during tackles and scrummages. These types of sports place differing amounts of emphasis on multiple physical qualities at once.

In order to target all the various qualities, Strength & Conditioning coaches would design a program based off what’s known as Vertical Integration.

But, before we delve in deeper, let’s look into one of the simplest ways to periodise training – block periodisation. Word of warning, sometimes the simplest method is not always the most effective.

Vertical Integration

Block Periodisation

Follows the simple notion that set out blocks of training (collection of weeks) emphasise specific physical qualities (refer to Figure 1 below).

Whilst this style of programming may assist in developing the chosen quality (i.e. Hypertrophy, Strength or Power), the other qualities tend to be neglected and therefore become deconditioned.

If we focus on Figure 1 for example, following this type of programming will be difficult for a Rugby athlete as the subsequent blocks from block 1 shift focus and therefore the maintenance of previous blocks is neglected.

The principle of reversibility can be highlighted here; if you don’t use it, you lose it.

For a sport such as Rugby, these athletes must remain well conditioned for all their sport-specific qualities throughout the entirety of the season. So, you can now see why Block Periodisation is probably not the most advantageous when it comes to building an all-round athlete. Let’s now see why Vertical Integration is the way to go.

Figure 1. Example of Block Periodisation Model

Vertical Integration

Figure 2. Detraining effect – If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Vertical Integration

Vertical Integration

Is the simultaneous application of multiple physical qualities in a S&C program, however each block would place greater focus on a specific quality over others.

The reasoning behind adopting this type of programming is to be the ‘Jack of all Trades’ (so to speak), or simply put, to help maintain developed qualities whilst others are being put under the spotlight.

This can also be brought back to what is known as micro-dosing – including small volumes of multiple bio-motor qualities in your program to maintain an appropriate amount of exposure.

If we continue with the Rugby example, in pre-season the athletes will undergo a general and specific preparation phase, whereby the S&C coach would place emphasis in accumulating volume (Volume Load = Sets x Reps x Weight lifted [kg]) in their lifts (Figure 3. Block 1).

This will enable the athletes to optimise their muscle mass development which inevitably will help with absorbing contact during tackles etc. However, whilst this is happening, speed, power and strength qualities will still have their place in the program.

This will then lead nicely into block 2 whereby the focus shifts to more maximum strength development.

Other physical qualities like speed, change of direction/agility and power will be included with less emphasis placed on them. As the season shifts closer to competition, the emphasis of these qualities will change to the desired capacity.

This inevitably aids in optimising peaking strategies for athletes. A season may look like this:

Figure 3. Example of Vertical Integration Model

Vertical Integration and Training

Not all athletes will need to target all bio-motor qualities as their chosen sport will dictate which factors need more attention than others. For example, football/soccer is a multi-faceted sport that incorporates linear speed, change of direction, reactive power and endurance, whereas competitive weightlifting would mainly focus on developing maximal strength & loaded power.

Below is another comparison between two sports, Basketball & Golf:

Vertical Integration in Sport

Here’s a hypothetical periodised plan for a Basketball Team:

Vertical Integration training blocks

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to get the most out of your training, you need a program that is designed specifically for you, your physical state, the sport you play and the goals that you have set.

It’s rarely a one size fits all situation when you’re looking to elevate your performance and for that reason it’s better to work alongside a coach that id knowledgeable, focused and dedicated to the same outcomes as yourself.

If you found this article interesting, would like to know more or potentially look at training with us at Precision Athletica, please get in touch with our team including the author of this article Strength Coach – Jackson Williams.

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