Sport Specific Training

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Right now there is a plethora of “sport specific” training tools out on the market. All of which have had some middling success. These devices and contraptions prey on the same people the fitness industry preys upon, the quick/easy fix population. Make no mistake though; there is no quick and easy way to get better at sports. Every aspect of getting better at sport is very specific and time consuming. So let’s cover a couple topics today, strength in sport and energy demand in sport.

Many attempt to train for a sport mimicking the patterns used in sport. Here’s an example: swinging a weighted golf club on a Bosu ball. The thought process being, training this way will make you better with a lighter club and on a stable surface. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Sport skills are very specific, and therefore so is their training. What really happens is that swinging a regular golf club on a normal surface a few thousand times will get you better at that particular skill. Now I play golf so by no means am I bashing it but in all the years I have been playing I have never seen any golfer swing a heavier club than normal at a ball while on an unstable surface…

On the flip side of this approach is strength training. Strength in sport is a very general adaptation, yet extremely useful. With the golfer mentioned above I can improve his hip and chest strength, via say squats and bench press, I know he will now be able to increase his club head speed potentially hitting the ball farther. Strength is not a sport skill it IS a general adaptation that can then be applied to sport. Your time in the gym and time practicing the sport are two different things. The gym is there to get stronger and quicker, and the practice time is for the skills of the sport. To end this point I will ask one question. If we had two athletes of exactly equal sport talent/skill but one was stronger than the other, who would win in a match? Of course the stronger one. Why? He could jump higher, swing faster, run faster/longer. Point being, train the skill of the sport in practice and train for strength or power in the gym. Do not make the mistake of trying to bring the skill of a sport into the weight room, it is a waste of everyone’s time.

Lastly, we have the topic of energy demand in sport. This is where we can get some “sport specific training” in order to stress the energy pathway used in a particular sport. When training the conditioning portion of a sport we need to think about the demands of the sport. For instance, if a coach tells his baseball team to run a mile for conditioning, how is that helping their performance? What is the farthest a player in baseball will have to sprint? Likely from home to home, an inside the park homerun. So what does that mean to me as a trainer? Well, there is no place for long distance runs. However, there is a place for up to a 120yard sprints and there is definitely reason to be doing 20-40yard sprints. This is because these are the distances that are being run in the sport more frequently. See, if I run a mile sprint I simply cannot run at a pace I could for the first 100yards throughout the entirety of the mile. Why? Because you have to switch energy pathways and running a mile is aerobic and running 40 yards is anaerobic. Run more 40 yard sprints and you will get better at running 40 yards. Hopefully you get where I’m heading here.

In general, if you are putting on contraptions and feel/look real silly while training for sport, you are probably not doing something right. My advice would be to find a good strength coach and a good skills coach because both matter!