Strength and conditioning training has become a vital part of almost any college athlete’s sporting experience, no matter what sport it is they play in. The advantage and boost that weight training gives these players is a large variable that can vastly improve player production, both in sheer strength and stamina as well.
But if done incorrectly, working with these large amounts of weight can have the potential to seriously injure a player, possibly messing up an entire player’s career. Appalachian State Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning, Brad Bielaniec, believes that there is nothing more important than making sure the players are safe during these activities.
“Any athlete that we teach and spend time with is a scholarship athlete. If somebody gets hurt on our watch it’s costing everybody, so its probably the most important thing we do,” said Bielaniec.
Some of the more common injuries that occur in the weight room are slipped discs, ACL and MCL injuries and shoulder injuries including labrum tears. Injuries in the Appalachian State weight room have been extremely minimal to non-existent because Bielaniec and the rest of the weight training staff are always on top of their safety guidelines and know the proper way to teach these athletes how to use the equipment effectively.
Bielaniec believes that one knowing their own progression and body limits is the most effective way to prevent injury while lifting or weight training.
“Not following the right progression, just going in there doing whatever they want, however they want just to show off and things like that,” Bielaniec said, regarding how players may hurt themselves. “Just knowing your body and going too far and too fast. Whether if it’s too much weight or too advanced of an exercise you’re not ready for,” Bielaniec said.
This is the exact mistake that Appalachian State sophomore, Zach Gravis, made when he first started working out.
“The day after working out one night, I realized I couldn’t lift my shoulder at all or put any weight on it. I went to the doctor and he told me I need to chill out. He said that I had strained almost every ligament in my shoulder and I was lucky I didn’t tear anything,” Gravis said.
Since this injury occurred, Gravis now understands how dangerous these types of exercises can be when one tries to go outside of their comfortable limits and progressions.
The other major components of weight lifting safety would be the importance of hydration and rest.
Athletic Training Director, John Mitchell, believes that hydration is key, in terms of overall athlete health. “Try to educate [the athletes] on hydration, try to educate them with sleep, I’m not big on Gatorade…I go with water, I’m pushing water,” Mitchell said.
In addition to hydration, Bielaniec believes in rest periods for his athletes.
“Everything we do here is definitely on a work to rest ratio, so basically the time of rest is based on the goal you’re trying to achieve, Bielaniec said. “Rest periods are definitely a factor into what kind of stimulus you’re trying to train.”
Bielaniec uses different rest periods depending on what that particular player is training for. Muscle building has a more limited rest period, while strength and power type exercises require a much longer rest period between sessions.
“I think the best way to get the most out of your players is first and foremost, showing them you’re a human being, create a relationship with those guys. Once the relationship is created, the trust begins to develop and if they know you’re in it for the right reasons and you’re just there to get them better, that you want the best for them, then they’ll give you all that they want,” said Bielaniec.