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Acadia Performance Training

How specific does training need to be?

Saturday, April 16, 2016, 11:54AM by Elliott

A common question brought up in sports performance training is around the specificity of training.  It was brought up again in a recent survey where a few people asked directly, or indirectly about if our programs would benefit certain sports.  The next couple paragraphs explain how specific training needs to be, and how we adapt our model to fit those athletes. 

When we watch sports, or athletes compete, we see a really diverse set of skills that they use to be great at those sports.  These skills are no doubt very specific and very unique to each sport.  There is certainly very little if any transfer from swinging a baseball bat to skating and if you're good at one doesn't mean you'll be good at the other. So it's easy to think that every athlete needs to be trained very differently. 

However, there are a few common pieces that are common with every athlete.  First, they all have to create movement from the ground up.  Whether it is sprinting, jumping, cutting, throwing, swinging a bat/club, tackling, completing turns in swimming, or racing down the slopes, all the athletes complete their skills from the ground. The more power they have in their legs, the more power they can express in their specific sport skill. This is why we put such a big emphasis on leg strength, power, and explosiveness for all of our athletes. The fastest sprinters produce the most force into the ground when they sprint, the hardest throwers put the most force into the ground when they push of their back leg, the hardest kicks in soccer are matched with the highest forces in the plant leg so having strong and powerful legs help every athlete.  The transfer to their specific sport skills happen when they go from their training to their sport practice.

Second, in almost every sport, being a better athlete helps.  Nearly every coach would want an athlete to is faster, stronger and better conditioned. If an athlete has these traits then it makes their specific skills even harder to match. Our goal is to make sure that the weakest link in their game is never athleticism. Even in golf we are seeing the likes of Rory McIlroy take their training seriously because they understand the benefits of being a better athlete. We can't teach an athlete to be better at their skills, but we can train the physical pieces that improve those skills!

Third, reducing injuries help an athlete become better by allowing them to participate more in their sport. Injuries derail practice time, playing time and enjoyment.  Training has shown to be capable of significantly reducing both acute (tears,sprains,strains) and overuse (soreness, inflamations) injuries.  Part of the injury epidemic is because of how much our athletes are playing one sport. By completing sport specific movements all the time, they start to wear down the muscles and joints for those, as well as lose movement patterns.  Our approach to training focuses on reducing these factors by strengthening the common areas that get under utilized in sports, as well as give the athletes more movement capability. Finally we work on strengthening the areas that are normally weak in all athletes (hips, hamstrings, core) that are significant contributor to major injuries.  By developing a more robust and injury resistant body athletes can train harder and longer at their sport. 

With all that being said, we don't take a one size fits all approach to our athletes.  We have variations of our athletic development model that help athletes get specific pieces of training that might help them. With rotational athletes (athletes that swing, shoot, kick) we incorporate a lot of medicine ball work to teach them how to effectively transfer leg power into the ability to express that power in their sport skill.  We also take exercises out for athletes who may have issues, such as a baseball or volleyballs players don't do certain pressing movement, in order to keep their shoulders healthy.  

To sum it up, we can't, or don't have the expertise to improve the specific skill of all the sports.  However, part of being a great strength and conditioning coach is being able to know enough about each sport to classify sport skills and address them differently.  Fortunately, one thing that simplifies this is the fact that all sport skills start from producing force from the ground. So for as much force an athlete can put into the ground, the ground puts that force back into the athlete to allow them to sprint, jump, throw, swing with mor power.