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From Training to Podium: The Power of Strength and Conditioning

The Strength and Conditioning Team is the largest of the sport science and sport medicine discipline groups at Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) with 12 full time staff. The primary role of an S&C coach is to increase the capacity and quality of physical and physiological traits such as strength, speed, endurance and power, in order to give an athlete the tools to achieve their goals.

The S&C coach collaborates with the other integrated support team members and uses the information gathered from physiology, biomechanics, mental skills, sports medicine/therapy, and nutrition to develop and deliver training programs that safely and effectively enhance the game day performance of every athlete. During this process the S&C coach educates athletes and coaches on proper techniques and training methods to mitigate injury risk and maximize outcome.

In addition, many S&C coaches are responsible for monitoring training load and tracking how much, and how hard athletes are training across all types of their preparations. This allows S&C coaches to help sport coaches adjust training plans to ensure that athletes are working hard enough to progress, but not so hard that they burn out. Working closely with the sport coach to identify and enhance the physical and technical skills that are most important to success in the sport, the S&C coach helps to create and administer a testing battery to measure improvements in key performance indicators related to performance.

This close to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the building part of an S&C coach’s job is done and the focus switches to maintaining physical qualities and translating them into field of play performance. This very often includes a decrease in the amount of time spent in the weight room and more of an emphasis on very sport specific speed, power, acceleration, and deceleration drills. With so many athletes on the road, often in places that don’t have access to world-class training facilities, an S&C coach needs to be creative in their approach.

Once the competitive season for winter sports is in full swing, the S&C coach will be working with athletes to fine tune their game day warm-up routine – designing a routine, observing, and measuring its effectiveness in competition and then refining, trying to find that last 1/10th of a percent that can mean the difference between a medal and finishing off the podium.


Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles are one of Canada’s top ice dance pairs who train at CSIO under the guidance of Associate Strength and Conditioning Coach Nick Robinson. Nick brings a wealth of experience and expertise in working with creative/aesthetic athletes. He has become well known for his work with the most elite dancers in Canada, allowing him to understand the demands of ice dance and create S&C programming that is unique to the needs of Paul and Piper.

In the years leading up to PyeongChang, Paul and Piper completed many training cycles, each with a different focus, but with the overall objective of preparing them for the 2018 Olympic Games. In an aesthetic sport such as ice dance, an athlete must be strong and powerful relative to their own body mass. Thus, care is taken to improve an athlete’s strength and power while maintaining an ideal mass. Luckily, our team of biomechanists, physiologists and nutritionists at CSIO administer testing and offer support to help ensure the athletes, coaches and fellow sport science and medicine practitioners, including S&C coaches, are on the right track.

From an S&C perspective, the training methods employed increase sport specific strength without causing excessive muscular development. A common belief regarding ice dance is that little upper body strength is required, especially for females. This is far from true. For example, a strong physical connection is required between the athletes throughout a program, and often times this connection is maintained through grip strength. Furthermore, during lifts, both athletes must use upper body and core strength in order to achieve the fluid and seamless aesthetic required.  Male ice dancers must also lift the female and therefore must be sufficiently strong to support both masses combined. Thus, S&C programming for Paul and Piper has been all encompassing – building strength, power and stability throughout the body to create a system that works together in all planes of movement…even while upside down!

In short, all of the aspects mentioned above, along with countless others, have been taken into account during Paul and Piper’s S&C preparation for the 2018 Olympic Games. The combination of sport science and sport medicine disciplines seamlessly integrated at CSIO has been crucial in forming S&C programming, and ultimately ensuring proper athlete development.

Currently, with PyeongChang 2018 less than a month away, Paul and Piper are ready to take on the Olympic Games. They are faster, stronger, more powerful and more physically able than ever. Over the next few weeks their athletic ability will reach a peak, at which point S&C programming will aim to keep them stable, strong and powerful without inducing lasting fatigue. All of the preparation is in the books – this team is coming into the Games ready to perform!

About Canadian Sport Institute Ontario

Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of excellence by providing world-class programs, services, and leadership to high performance athletes and coaches to enhance their ability to achieve international podium performances. CSIO offers athletes a range of sport science and sport medicine services including nutrition, physiology, biomechanics, strength & conditioning, mental performance, sport therapy and life services. CSIO also delivers programming and services to National and Provincial Sport Organizations and coaches to work towards building a stronger sport system in Ontario and Canada.

CSIO services approximately 700 high performance athletes and 250 coaches, at its main facility at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, its satellite location at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, and in daily training environments across Ontario. CSIO is part of a larger network of 4 institutes and 3 multi-sport centres across the country known as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee. CSIO is further supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Sport Canada, Own the Podium, and the Coaching Association of Canada, along with the National and Provincial Sport Organizations within the sector.


Written By:

Ed McNeely, Lead, Strength & Conditioning, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario

Nick Robinson, Associate Strength & Conditioning Coach, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario


Media Contact:

Laura Albright, Manager, Communications & Events

Canadian Sport Institute Ontario

Tel: 416.596.1240 Ext. 238

Email: [email protected]