High contact/impact male athletes are simply getting too heavy. There exists an ill-conceived notion that bigger is better, to a point where weight increases can no longer be considered functional.
As an avid student of strength & fitness applications for a period well in excess of four decades, especially in relation to techniques that determine sporting adaptations, it is more and more apparent that the modern male athlete involved in high contact (body-to-body)/impact (body-to-playing surface) sports is becoming too heavy. While it is of course vital to be stronger, it need not be reflected in an athlete's objectives toward deliberate and specific weight increases. An outcome most often determined by the strength training techniques employed by individual club, strength & conditioning departments.
Many male contact/impact athletes at the elite level are in excess of 100kgs, with a great many more within the high 80 to 90kg ranges. If strength training practices were employed that focused purely on functional principles that applied to that sport, and specifically targeted the core as the initiator of all movement and the centre from which all effective power is generated, then the benefits outlined below could be more realistically achieved. Provided of course this process is conducted in tandem with concepts that through simultaneous multi-planar neuromuscular techniques, strengthen, stabilise and positively mobilise key body structures (in some instances, efforts to increase flexibility ranges, actually destabilise target structures), thereby allowing athletes to achieve optimum weight ranges, as determined by individually unique genetic factors.
1. High speed body contact would not create as much potential for serious injury, especially when between an athlete over 100kgs, and another much less in weight.
2. VO2 max, and therefore overall aerobic capacities would be greatly enhanced, enabling athletes to perform to higher levels for longer, with corresponding positive effects to deal with/delay/overcome fatigue.
3. While there are many drills to seemingly foster increases in agility, it cannot be argued that reductions to overall body weight will further assist in this regard.
4. While balance training is commonly used to improve core strength (a facet of strength training far too complex to cover in detail in this discussion), in settings that still employ traditional strength training techniques, it does not go far enough. It is one dimensional, and due to this finite limiting factor it does not have the inclusive depth necessary to deliver the advanced adaptations high performance sports demand. Training practices must offer multi-planar profiles, that subject participants/athletes to simultaneously applied opposing forces. All while also deliberately engaging in progressive balance considerations. The purpose being to produce a more inherently developed capacity for the athlete to maintain their footing, and as a result not go to ground. A contention in this piece, that many instances where athletes slip and fall, only to be eliminated from the contest, are not entirely due to the use of inappropriate footwear, but may be more directly attributed to core strength/stability shortcomings. Imagine the reverse if contact/impact athletes were able to stay on their feet even in only 1% more of such cases. A turnaround that is undeniably beneficial, and could ultimately prove to be game changing.
5. An expectation exists in this opinion, that due to reduced loads brought about by a decrease in applied sporting resistance (body weight), combined with advanced proprioceptive/neuromuscular training techniques to mitigate irregular forces, those key structures most commonly susceptible to serious long-term injury/rehab, would be better protected. Outcomes similar to those in the design and manufacture of modern motor vehicles. There was a time when vehicle designers/manufacturers believed that the sturdiness implicitly built into motor vehicles went hand-in-hand with their commitment to delivering improved safety outcomes. However, research has proved this to be a misconception, and no longer are vehicles made from heavy steel components, but are constructed using much lighter alloys, containing in-built centres to more efficiently absorb energy (crumple zones). In this way the damage caused by collisions has been able to be minimised. There are many examples that can be used to illustrate this concept in a sporting sense, particularly in terms of its non-recognition/non-adherence/non-acceptance in the two male dominant Australian football codes, and extending beyond our shores to the gridiron competition in North America. In fact no sport has been immune, neither for men nor women, with the common trend in each as viewed by this commentary, being the unrestricted pursuit of enhanced, traditionally sought strength & conditioning outcomes.