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Conditioning exercises are body movements that increase athletic skill and physical fitness while decreasing the likelihood of sports injuries. Programs may include weight training, aerobic exercise, plyometrics, calisthenics, and exercises based on real-life motions. Types of conditioning exercises may vary greatly depending on fitness goals and are adaptable to any level of fitness, from beginners to experienced athletes.
The basis for sports conditioning is that the body must be challenged in such a way that it adapts to the stress of exercise. To improve athletic performance, athletes use targeted, specific movements that mimic the moves used on the field or court. For example, a basketball player can practice shooting baskets repeatedly because these movements help body parts work with each other and increase body awareness until the athlete no longer has to concentrate on the action.
Aerobic conditioning is an important part of most conditioning programs, whether athletic or for general physical fitness, because it increases cardiovascular endurance and lung capacity. An exercise is considered aerobic when the body uses oxygen to produce energy. This happens with low-intensity, longer-duration exercises such as walking, long-distance running, or bicycling. It also includes any other activity that raises the heart rate and sustains it for a time period at a level that challenges the heart and lungs to become stronger.
Anaerobic conditioning is appropriate for sports that require intense, sudden bursts of strength or speed and are difficult to sustain for an extended period of time. An exercise is considered anaerobic when it does not use oxygen when producing energy. Weight training and sprinting are considered anaerobic exercises.
Weight training, or strength training, helps with physical conditioning by increasing strength in individual muscles and muscle groups. College sports conditioning programs include weight training with most sports conditioning programs. Stronger muscles can increase power in athletic performance and prevent injury and can be targeted to strengthen parts of the body that are more likely to be used during a sport. Core conditioning, or exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles, can increase overall body strength by stabilizing the core muscles.
One of the goals of sports conditioning exercises is increasing the amount of stress the body can endure before experiencing injury. Conditioning exercises have an important role in preventing injury because they get the body to become more tolerant of sustained effort. Increasing strength and flexibility are the most important components of preventing injury. Strength helps a muscle maintain control and keeps it from stretching to the injury point, while flexible muscles can accommodate more stretching before reaching its limits and tearing.