Integrated training is superior to isolated strength training in performance enhancement.

DiStefano, L., DiStefano, M., Frank, B., Clark, M., and Padua, D. (2013).  Comparison of integrated and isolated training on performance measures and neuromuscular control. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength & Conditioning Association. 27(4), 1083-1090. ABSTRACT

Evidence: Level 2B


This is a randomized control trial study. It provides strong evidence to support the use of an integrated training program. The author took sample size of 30. The authors took special care to minimize interference between the two groups by blinding the individual responsible for pre/post test assessments. The authors describe the methodology in detail. The authors standardized the testing and training protocols.

This article is not without limitations. There is variation in citation regarding LESS and Assessment. The validation of LESS was cited by one article whereas there is no citations for validation of the other assessments.  

Although commonly used, it would be interesting to see the available research validating the use of sit-up & push-up tests, and the author’s commentary on the selection of these assessments. The homogeneous sample included young, healthy, active, individuals free of injury, so transference of results to other populations may be assumed but is not evident at this time.

Indeed, this article is a great first step in demonstrating the need to treat the whole person with an integrated approach rather than treating individual muscle.

Why is this study important?

This study provides high level evidence to support that integrated training programme. The training improves measures of performance and neuromuscular control. It is very interesting that the integrated training group performed better on the strength endurance assessments as compare to the isolated strengthening group.Which indicates that there is more to developing strength than simply lifting heavy weights.

In essence, without neuromuscular control, compensation leads to inefficiency and a reduction in force output. The benefit of Integrated training is intended to increase both intra-muscular control and inter-muscular control. On the other side isolated strength training is typically limited to intra-muscular control.

Additionally, it is important to consider balance, stability, coordination and endurance to improve performance rather than just focused on maximal strength and power.

How does it help in practice?

Injury affects strength, flexibility, and power and functional lost. Exercises must be further tailored made to the individuals’ needs and abilities. This will be in an effort to target any specific cardinal plane weakness, movement impairment, compensation and/or risk of injury. Specific movements, such as landing with limited sagittal plane motion and excessive frontal or tramsverse plane motion throughout the lower extremity. 

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