Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts on Sport Specificity

"Sport Specific Training" is something that I've written about here before. It's something that coaches often use to try and sell their product to parents who just don't know any better. The idea is that these coaches know all the tricks to training athletes from one specific sport and are able to help you (the athlete) better than other coaches.

The reason that sport specific training is a myth is pretty simple; all athletes essentially move the same way. As athletes we all run, jump, twist, land, hit and cut; all while receiving and producing force. Athletes from different disciplines just do these things in different ratios. The most basic aspects of a sports training program should encompass the same things; get stronger, get faster, get more resilient. It's the next level that shows which coaches are better than others. When you train basketball players you have to deal with obscene limb lengths, when you train a pitcher you have to worry about shoulder stuff and

If a coach is teaching you "sport specific exercises" (aka holding a cable and swinging it like a baseball bat or mimicking throwing a dumbbell like a football) then chances are good that they won't be able to achieve a ton of success with their athletes. I like to think of sports training more in the context of positions the athletes put themselves in during competition.

NOTE: The above picture was taken from the Instagram account of the guy who did Lebron's off-season training in Miami. For what it's worth, thats a miserable looking 65-pound front squat with 3 bands attached to the athlete. What in the actual fuck is the training effect that is supposed to be achieved?

Again, despite the varied priorities of different sports, these positions and movements all end up being pretty much the same. Tennis players have to move laterally very quickly. So do football, basketball, baseball and rugby players. Weird, right? Softball players need to be able to sprint forward and put the brakes on in a do volleyball, basketball, badminton and hockey players. Golfers have to be able to keep their lower body pretty stationary while producing a ton of rotational force via their trunk and hips...wait, so do baseball, football, tennis players and every other athlete. So, basically, the demands of every sport (at the most basic level) are the same.

The basics of the programming for most athletes remains the same: heavy bi-lateral barbell lifts (the 5 basic human movements), heavy uni-lateral lifts requiring high body tension. A variety of anti- core exercises and a handful of corrective/prehabilitative exercises. Add in jumps, sprints and throw some things (tires, MB's, KB's, whatever) and you've got yourself a pretty solid "sport specific program".

The real magic happens when you deal with a coach who has a more intimate knowledge of your sport. They are able to manage your annual programming around the stress of your sport and have you feeling good every time you need to compete. Too, you get coaches like Eric Cressey who have a cyborg-like knowledge of the anatomy of the shoulder and are able to keep athletes healthier and training for a bigger percent of each year than other strength coaches. When I think "sport specific training" I think of guys like E.C. (baseball), Joe DeFranco (Football, specifically the combine), Mike Boyle (Hockey) and Tracy Anderson (MMA).

GTFO Tracy Anderson

Beware of any trainer or "system" claiming to have unlocked the secrets to your particular sport that no other coach or trainer knows. There aren't really any more secrets to be learned, just good solid programming applied at the right times in the fashion to the correct athletes. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

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