Sport Specific Training. What is it, and Should it Exist?

We hear it all throughout the industry, sport specific training. But what exactly is sport specific training? Also, should we be doing it for youth athletic development, or even with the professionals?

When most of us think of sport specific training, we think of taking some type of resistance to the motion of a sport. For example, they make take a donut and put it on a baseball bat. They may have their athletes shoot with a heavier basketball. Coaches may take a piece of resistance tubing and tie it onto the athletes lacrosse stick, and then have them perform 100 shots with the resisted stick. Does this work? Well give this a try. Take 10 foul shots with a regular basketball. How many did you make in? Now take 10 foul shots with a weighted basketball. Then go right back to another 10 foul shots with a regular basketball. I bet you overshot and missed the first few shots. Why? When you put extra resistance to your sports equipment, your biomechanics of the shot, kick, throw, etc. get altered. So, in the end it actually hurts the athlete.



Take a look at the above image. This golfer is supposed to be receiving sport specific training. But really what’s happening is they are adding extra resistance to the motion, creating a change in biomechanical patterns, thus ultimately hurting the regular swing of golf, causing a decrease in performance.

What would be a better option for that golfer? Or that lacrosse player that is doing a weighted swing on a cable pulley machine. What we have to do instead is take a look at the demands of the sport. What does it require? Does it require lower body strength, lower body power, rotational power, core stability, thoracic mobility, etc.? After that, focus on those areas using specific exercises. If they are trying to develop lower body strength, how about trying a safety squat bar squat to box. If rotational power is the goal, you will see a lot more benefit from medicine ball work, then you will a resisted swing.

When it comes time to program design of an athlete don’t just add resistance to the motion they do every day in their sport. Take a look at the needs of the sport, and train them in a structured periodized way. A way in such that during the in-season you are working on mobility, general strength, and really just trying to maintain what you have worked on. The post-season you are doing any rehab needed, and then trying to get a little hypertrophy or muscle size, and carry that over to the off-season where you would develop strength. Finally, in the preseason as you approach your sport, you are looking to develop power.

Take a step back and look at your training, or the training you’re having your clients do. Is it sport specific? In reality, it shouldn’t be. Yes, you want to enhance the skills of an athlete so that they will increase their performance in the sport. However, that does not mean taking a bungee cord, band, or pulley system, and strapping it to their body will help them. Because, ultimately in the end you are hurting them. We all know in the youth developmental process, we are trying to create a well-rounded individual. How many sports require lower body strength, lower body power, rotational power, and core stability? Um, a lot. So even though you want your kid to be the next Tom Brady, train them smart in their youth developmental days, and the work will pay off more. The same applies to the professionals. How many on deck circles had donuts for the bats for their baseball players 10 years ago? Probably all of them. Today, you would have to search high and dry for a donut in the on deck circle. Because the coaches are educated that adding that extra resistance actually alters the mechanics of the motion such that of a baseball swing. So this not only applies to the youth, but carries all the way up to the professionals.

What do you think? Should athletes be performing sport specific motions in the weight room? Feel free to comment in the section below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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About Spurling Training Systems

At Spurling Training Systems, our focus is on providing a superior athletic conditioning experience. The combination of expert training, time spent understanding your specific goals and customized program development is what makes Spurling Training Systems a unique and effective training experience for athletes of all ages, levels and abilities. Doug is the founder and owner of Spurling Training Systems. He graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Exercise Science. He has several years of experience as both a personal trainer for general fitness and a strength and conditioning coach for athletes. His certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).
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