ISSA SN Chapter 21: Putting It All Together: Athletic Performance Improvement Approach

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Chapter Goals:

  • Discuss and define the main terms of the chapter.
  • Know the factors for improving athletic performance.
  • Have an understanding of periodized training programs. 
  • Be able to discuss the issues that relate to banned substances and methods.


Whether it is the goal of the athlete to win the Olympics or to improve their level of fitness, there are going to be several factors to improve their personal performance. The main factors will be the nutritional practices, the use of supplements in the diet, warming up the body, cooling down after workouts, strength training, skill, training flexibility, psychological techniques, medical support, therapeutic modalities, anti-doping, and periodization of training.

The ISSA trainers will benefit from diversified experience and training coming from many areas. The stages of program development, the drawing-in phase, are:

  • Establish yourself as a professional
  • Collect data
  • Guided discovery
  • Feel the water before jumping in
  • Establish an integrated fitness lifestyle.

You should utilize this approach when you work with your athletic clients, including the associated professionals of the athlete. 

Nutritional Practices and Coaching

This whole nutrition coach has emphasized the importance of proper nutrition for the best performance. Athletes need to eat to excel in their sport of choice. The diet should help the athletes achieve specific performance and training goals. There can be day to day differences, or even differences within the day, for our nutrition plans. Some examples of inadequacies we see with athletes during their season that we have gone over through the book on how to combat are:

  • Caloric intakes that are too low
  • Protein intakes that are too low
  • Carbohydrate intakes that are too low
  • Fat intakes that are too low
  • Hydration that is way too low
  • Low intake of the minerals and vitamins that are essential to us.

Dietary Supplements

At a minimum, athletes should be using multivitamins and mineral supplements. These are used to fill the gaps in nutrition that may exist, and they do not usually exceed the upper intake limits of vitamins and minerals. So, they are relatively safe. There is also a use of supplementation of macronutrients in some form for athletes. Sports drinks and protein supplements help us fill other existing gaps. 

Some of the main purposes of supplements will be:

  • Improved overall health and fitness
  • Building muscle mass more easily
  • Losing body fat
  • Improving the anaerobic energy
  • Improving the aerobic energy
  • Reductions in the level of fatigue experienced
  • Improvements in stamina levels
  • Reduction in the pain felt and the inflammation that occurs due to exercise
  • Improvements in the repair of our tissues
  • Improved time to recover from training
  • The improved mental state of mind, arousal, and focus
  • Improvements in our strength levels
  • The immune system functions better
  • Sleep quality improves
  • Maintenance of the intake of essential nutrients

Each of these will likely be included in an athlete’s career at some point. So, a multivitamin supplementation of at least the bare minimum is recommended.

Training Program Considerations

These items will review the elements that factor into the performance improvement training programs of the athletes. 

Warming up and cooling down

Warming up is usually done with some calisthenic movements and stretching for the general warm up. Then the specific and more targeted warm up should include some sports movements or maybe the basic movements that will be in the training session.

The warmups work to raise the temperature of the body, increase circulation, and limber up the muscles and other tissues in the body. It depends on the sport and the athlete, but warmups can be from a few minutes all the way to more than 20 minutes in total. Along with static stretches, we may see dynamic, active stretching included. 

Cooling down is going to be after the activity, and this is when the athlete gets the body back to the level before exercising. This is more beneficial than just stopping the activity together. The purpose is to ease breathing and get the heart rate back to levels of rest. This when usually take several minutes. 

Flexibility Training

The first major rule of training flexibility is not to overstretch yourself. When the joints stretch beyond their limit, they become loose and more prone to injuries. 

Athletes should not be compared to other people in terms of their flexibility, as everyone is different in terms of their makeup.

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Simply doing some stretching in the warmup and after the training may not be enough for most people. Ideal flexibility includes factors like proper diet, strength training, skill training, and therapeutic modalities. 

Strength Training

Strength is usually defined as the applied force. This is in activities like throwing a ball, running, and lifting barbells. When most people think of strength, we look at anaerobic or near max strength force output not using oxygen. But this is only one form of strength. There is aerobic strength also. We have linear strength movements, which occur repetitively without interruption, like running. And then non-linear strength comes in burst movements, as we see in football. 

Another component to consider in strength is power. This is the force times the distance divided by the time. It is strength added with speed. If you think about sprinting, you see a ton of power needed to propel the body as they do for short distances. 

Here are the different strength training devices that have been made to develop these forms of strength:

  • Constant resistance devices: these resistance tools have the same weight throughout the move. These are barbells, dumbbells, and some pulley machines. 
  • Variable resistance devices: these obviously will be the devices that give some form of variance throughout the range of motion for their movements. Some examples are nautilus and Cybex machines. 
  • Accommodating resistance devices: These devices are changed to allow max force through the range of motion, but they will keep the motion fixed. These are like the com II and com III machines we see.
  • Static resistance devices: these are the resistance devices that we cannot move or are fixed and designed to be pushed or pulled. They cause contractions without any movement. These are the exercise machines locked in one position. 
  • Another form of strength training is simply the exercise where the body is the only resistance force. This is seen in activities like running, swimming, calisthenics, and other things. 

Periodization Approach for Skill training and Conditioning 

Periodization means changes that occur throughout training in the sets, reps, and other training variables. We have 4 main macrocycles we will discuss:

  • The first macrocycle is the developmental phase. This is usually four months long. The focus in training here is developing skills, defining the parameters of physical performance, adjusting to the body composition changes, and improving any of the strengths and weaknesses. The intensity of training should be moderate. The use of certain foods and supplements should be looked at here. 
  • The second macrocycle is the preparation phase. This is usually three months of time. This macrocycle is right before the competitive season. The training focus should be on the final adjustments to be made in the body composition and honing the skills of the sport. The training intensity should be a moderate level and just not too high. 
  • The third macrocycle is known as the competition phase. This is going to be four months of time. The payoff occurs here from the hard work in training and nutrition. There is a focus in training on the improvement of skills and any physical performance factors that were lacking in the first few competitions. 
  • The fourth and final macrocycle is the recovery phase. This is usually only one month of time. The goal here will be to work on maintaining a level of fitness and flexibility. There is a focus on training for athletes to heal their injuries with therapy and nutrition. 

Psychological Techniques

Until now, society has not looked at the powers of the human mind so much. Some cultures put limits on people and restrict their potential mentally. We should use some techniques to perfect the mind and its ability to affect performance. 


This has been practiced since the beginning of history. It is a technique to elevate your mental state above the conscious and to the unconscious. Meditation allows the athlete to open up and develop powerful mental techniques like visualization for helping to improve performance and health. 

Here are some of the general guidelines for meditation:

  • Plan meditation when you can relax and do not have any influence of stimulants like alcohol, some medication, or a meal recently. 
  • Find a place to stay that is quiet and away from distractions. Turn your phone off and make a comfortable and relaxing environment.
  • Turn the lights down and sit down in your most comfortable position. If you want, meditate in the dark when you are lying down. 
  • You should clear your thoughts first, and then if you have trouble, try to repeat a word to yourself or focus on an object or picture in your mind. You want to be between consciousness and unconsciousness.
  • Work up your session times of 30 minutes or more for the most benefits. 


This technique uses mental imagery to picture yourself accomplishing some purpose. It is similar to that daydreaming, but it is more intense. Athletes should start by practicing in a meditation session. 

You should begin your session of visualization by stating your purpose. After that, you must establish the setting and point of view before bringing on the players. Then, envision yourself accomplishing the thing you want to do. 

Anchoring and Future Pacing

These are mental techniques relating to both meditation and visualization. Most people have this when they have the sensation of having a memory triggered through sight, sound, smell, or other stimuli.

Make sure to look through the banned substances and have a general idea of the rules enforced based on those. 

ISSA SN Chapter 21: Putting It All Together: Athletic Performance Improvement Approach 3
ISSA SN Chapter 21: Putting It All Together: Athletic Performance Improvement Approach 4

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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