Program Design - The Needs Analysis

What factors do you consider when writing your athlete a training program? Energy systems, performance variables, common movement patterns and injury sites, and an athlete’s needs and background are all equally important, yet tricky parameters to balance. A needs analysis allows you to sift through these important variables and effectively structure a successful training program.

Needs Analysis- a thorough breakdown reflecting both a sport’s general demands and an athlete’s individualized needs for successful participation in that sport or activity. Needs analyses are used to design and write training programs. All of the following variables determine what and how you will program for your athlete. Throughout the following sections, I use Phoenix Jones, a real life crime fighting superhero from Seattle, as a programming model.

Demands of the Sport


1) Energy Systems- To what extent does your athlete use each of the three energy systems. Most sports utilize multiple energy systems, but to different extents. Pick a general ratio and move forward. This will primarily determine how you condition your athlete. 
Ex: Fighting is primarily anaerobic. Phoenix Jones largely utilizes stored ATP and the ATP-PCr energy system during upright, single-opponent fights. Phoenix Jones’ fast glycolytic system predominates during criminal chases, ground fights, and fights involving multiple opponents. 

2) Performance Variables- What training adaptations are important for your athlete’s success. Order them from most important to least important, and structure your training program accordingly. 
Ex: Fighting requires high levels of speed, agility, quickness, power, strength, and anaerobic conditioning. Phoenix Jones must accelerate, decelerate, and change directions quickly and efficiently to maximize both offensive and defensive fighting performance. Speed, power and strength are important for Phoenix to exploit his striking potential. Repeated anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity allow Phoenix to fight at high levels for longer time periods. 

3) High Skill or High Performance- Does your athlete’s sport require more skill or more performance for success. Most sports require a combination of both. Pick a general ratio and move forward. This will determine your ratio of physical training to skill training during practice. 
Ex: Fighting is both a high skill and a high performance sport. A kick, for example, requires skill to execute and power to execute effectively. If Felix is not skilled enough to kick, then his power is meaningless. Further, if Felix is not powerful, then his skilled kick loses its effectiveness. Both skill and performance are essential for Phoenix to optimize his fighting success. 

4) Movement Patterns- What movement patterns characterize your athlete’s sport. Your athlete’s program should reflect exercises that mimic or somewhat resemble these movements. 
Ex: Fighting is a highly dynamic sport that incorporates a lot of different movement patterns. Shoulder joint internal rotation and trunk rotation are common movement patterns associated with punching and other upper body offensive maneuvers. Hip joint flexion and internal rotation and knee joint extension are common during kicking and other lower body fighting tactics. Triple extension at the ankle, knee, and hip joints characterize running and jumping. 

5) Common Injury Sites- What are common injuries or injury sites in your athlete’s sport. Your training program should incorporate movements designed to strengthen and stabilize joints that are prone to taking a beating. 
Fighting injuries are both preventable and unpreventable. Lacerations and concussions accompany the sport by nature. Sound defensive fighting strategies are the only way to combat these injury types. Other fighting injuries, such as fractures, are partly technique dependent. A boxer’s fracture, for example, results from punching with improper technique. Learning proper technique and having the necessary skills to execute different fighting moves is essential to preventing these injury types. Among preventable fighting injuries are those at the repeatedly compromised knee, hip, and shoulder joints. Strengthening the muscles responsible for movement both concentrically and eccentrically in all planes of motion surrounding these joints is key to reducing potential preventable injury risks. 



Athlete Needs


1) Body Composition- Weight, body fat percentage, etc. Does your athlete currently have the body that he she needs to optimize performance within his or her sport? 
Ex: Body composition is not important for Phoenix Jones’s crime fighting success. Jones’s current body weight and body fat percentage is sufficient enough for him to perform at his highest level.


2) Aerobic fitness- Relative to VO2max, or the body’s maximal ability to utilize consumed oxygen. Characterized by continuous, “all out” activities lasting anywhere between 3 and 10ish minutes. Is your athlete aerobically conditioned enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s aerobic fitness demands will partially determine your athletes need for aerobic conditioning. 
Ex: Since fighting is primarily anaerobic, aerobic fitness is only mildly important for Phoenix Jones’s fighting success. Although the aerobic system does contribute towards the anaerobic system’s ability to recover, Jones’s limited training time makes training the aerobic system inefficient. Jones will improve his aerobic fitness through other training modes targeting anaerobic systems.


3) Anaerobic Fitness- Characterized by shorter duration, “all out” activities lasting under two minutes. Is your athlete anaerobically conditioned enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s anaerobic fitness demands will partially determine your athletes need for anaerobic conditioning. 
Ex: Anaerobic fitness is highly important for fighting success. Jones’s anaerobic fitness is not up to par and needs work. Jones’s ability to repeatedly produce maximal power for long time periods is average at best and nowhere near “superhero status”. A considerable time amount will reflect Phoenix Jones’s need for anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity improvement.

 

4) Muscular Strength- Is your athlete strong enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s strength demands will partially determine your athletes need for strength training. 
Ex: Muscular strength is highly important for fighting success. Force represents one-half of the power equation, and power improvement is a big, overall macrocycle goal. Jones’s current strength levels are slightly below average and need improvement. Upper body muscular strength will be assessed using a 1RM bench press test and lower body muscular strength will be assessed using a 1RM squat test.


5) Muscular Power- Is your athlete powerful (explosive) enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s power demands will partially determine your athletes need for power training. 
Ex: Muscular power is highly important for offensive fighting success (punching, kicking, etc.). Phoenix Jones’s current power levels are subpar from both a force and a velocity standpoint. Jones will spend a majority of his training time performing movements fast, heavy, and fast and heavy (weightlifting) to address his need for power improvement. Muscular power will be assessed and reassessed using a vertical jump test.


6) Speed- Is your athlete fast enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s speed demands will partially determine your athletes need for speed training. 
Ex: Speed is highly important for offensive and defensive crime fighting success. Speed enhances Jones’s ability to escape from harmful situations, defend himself and prevent injury, and inflict more offensive damage. Phoenix Jones’s speed is average to good, but not great. A smaller, yet considerable training block will address Jones’s need for speed improvement. Speed will be assessed and reassessed using a 40 yard dash test.


7) Agility- Is your athlete agile enough to optimize performance in his or her sport? The activity’s need for acceleration, deceleration, and directional change will determine your athletes need for agility training. 
Ex: Agility is highly important for fighting success for reasons similar to those noted for “speed”. Jones’s agility is good, but not great. Agility will reflect a small portion of Jones’s training. Agility will be assessed and reassessed using a pro agility test.


8) Muscular endurance- Does your athlete have enough muscular endurance to optimize performance in his or sport? The activities muscular endurance demands (repeated, submaximal movements) will determine your athletes need for muscular endurance training. 
Ex: Muscular endurance is moderately important for fighting success during fast-paced street fights and in situations involving multiple opponents. Most of Jones’s encounters do not reflect these situation types. Considering this, and knowing that Jones’s muscular endurance is already great, only maintenance level training is required.


9) Injury Prone- Is your athlete injury prone? Your athlete’s previous injury history and mobility will determine his or her need for injury prevention training. 
Ex: Due to multiple past injuries, Jones has several mobility restrictions that hinder his ability to train with maximal efficiency. Jones’s shoulder joint internal rotation is 10 degrees restricted, his shoulder joint external rotation ROM is 20 degrees restricted, his hip flexion ROM is 20 degrees restricted, and his knee flexion ROM is 20 degrees restricted.