Numerous athletes train hard every day; there is no doubt they are thirsty to be better. They reach that point where they want to better so severely that they would eat dirt if they knew it would help them. The problem with the sport specific training is that just because you spend plenty of time on it, it, it do not mean it will translate over to your sport. This mistake is made so often with athletes and coaches. Things are done with a goal in mind of being more robust, or because there is no sense that the training is not improving the athletic ability for the specific sport in any way.
What is Wrong With The Sports Specific Training?
When training for anything you must ask yourself this one question? Why am I doing this training I am doing and will it translate into my sport? That is the Central question of sport specific training. For example, as a track athlete, I could practice my hockey slap shot all day and get pretty good at it; but will this make me a better sprinter. No chance of it.
There can be confusion with training sometimes as people get caught in this world of what people use to do back in the 60s to train. Back then everything was about trying to make you tough as nails. You never got water; everything you did was to cause pain, and the more you did, the better. Now in the 21st century, we know the way well then all this. Just because you are training and you are dead tired, or because you do more and more and more it does not mean it will make you better for your sport.
I discovered this concept of athletes being off in their training when a particular female soccer player came into my life. Forced to watch a lot more soccer and began to enjoy and study the sport a bit. I went to the discovery that soccer players training can sometimes be so off what they need and do on the field. My dad taped her playing soccer, and when we watched the tape as the camera was just on her, there was a lot of the training I learned from this.
No Structure for Sport Specific Training
I realized that the way many athletes are trained makes no sense. I started to look at traditional methods that athletes trained for most sports and began to see inconsistencies in training, to the way the athletes play. Keep in mind, we prepare and practice to become more adequate come game time. If these two aspects are not matching up something was wrong.
Soccer players traditionally do a lot of endurance work. They preach that you have to be able to run hard for 90 minutes of a soccer game. They run gassers, they go on long jogs, and they do seemingly never-ending fitness lines. None of this translates over to what I saw on the tape. I saw standing around, followed by a short burst of speed to get to the ball, a couple of touches on the ball than it was gone, then a job back to the position than the cycle began over again. This is a very vague description, but I never understood what part of running 5km translated over to being ready for a soccer game.
This is not to say that the endurance based runs should never be incorporated into the training. It just means the amount of emphasis put on them needs to be removed. I have seen so many cases of girls who can jog forever and not get tired, but when they play soccer, but 60 minutes their hands are on their hips. How does that work?
Endurance vs. Speed
Distance runners train high volume, but they do not go as fast as a sprinter; while sprinters train faster, but they do not go as far. This is obvious, but people never realize why sprinters can’t do what distance runners do and vice versa. The energy systems being trained are at exact opposite ends of the spectrum of training. Sprinters train for anaerobic gains while distance runners are going for aerobic benefits. Athletes and coaches never truly understand how hard and sometimes unrealistic it is to train both these systems. It is not easy to have incredible endurance and yet maintain God-given speed.
With Sport Specific Training -What you train for is what you get
This explains why it is not easy for track athletes to move up and or down events. This will make perfect sense to you. A 100m runner is loaded with fast twitch muscle fibers but if they can run 100m so fast why can they not do that four times over and run a 400m fast. Or why can an 800 meter run not just take a lap of their race and run around the track fast one time?
I will never forget my freshman year of college we had this tremendous 800m runner on our team. She got asked to step up for the team and run the 4×400 relay, and when she was done she said: “I was dead at the end of the race, 400m races always kill me”. At that point, I began to understand that how you train is what you get.
Back to the Soccer story
Soccer is a sport where you need to have excellent speed so you can reach the ball quickly and get there faster than your opponent. It is also a sport that requires quick recovery, and the ability to do it over and over again. In the time that the ball is on the other side of the field, soccer plays need to be able to recover quickly so that when the ball comes, they can go hard again.
Running a 5k does not accomplish what a soccer player needs. It is way too slow, and it does not encourage recovery. If a soccer game consisted of jogging slow nonstop for 90 minutes though I would say it is the best training possible. There are examples of this in the way every sport trains its athletes.
Why Speed and Agility Kill
Many athletes rest on the fact that they have been blessed with the ability to run fast or the agility to change direction on a dime. No matter how blessed, there is always room for improvement. Speed is deadly in any sport where running is required. Think about it, if you are faster than everyone you compete against you can operate at a lower intensity most of the time. Let’s say you are running someone down to make a tackle in football you can perform at 80 percent of your speed which might be another guy 100%. He will be busting his buns to do what you are doing much more comfortable, and the best part is you have the option to go a bit faster if you so choose.
Anytime you move up in level in any sport, the difference athletes always notice is the speed of the game is faster. That means you better get faster with. If you are going to train speed, you need the agility to go with it.
Agility is a limiting factor in speed in most cases. If you can run at blazing speeds but do not have the quickness to stop and change direction it can be useless. This is why track athletes do not always turn into amazing athletes in all sports. None the less unless a track athlete speed and agility is just as important as weight training. The same way weight training is not everything it is just a part of making you complete; speed training should be seen the same way.
What about Injuries and Sport Specific Training?
I always say “the best way to rehab an injury is to prevent getting injured at all.” Will injuries happen no matter what, yes, can they be prevented or not be as severe… same answer. Too many athletes train with no common injuries in mind. There are two types of common injury. The first is familiar with the sport; this one is easy because you need to look at what most people in general hurt in that sport. The second is common to you as everyone is made different and some peoples bodies were just made with weak points that tend to get injured a lot.
Once these things are evaluated, they need to be a part of everyday training. Too many athletes wait to get injured before doing anything about it. Why go through all the hassle when rehab is so tricky physically and mentally. Everything possible needs to be done to prevent these injuries from happening.
In sports half of the battle is just staying healthy. On this one, I have spent much time injured and the time spent injured is when all the people who are healthy are training and getting better. This is why much more time needs to be put into athletes efforts of staying healthy.
Weight Training Myths and Sport Specific Training
Many athletes do not even realize that there is a way to lift that can fit almost every sport. It is clear every sport has different demands; a track guy needs a different program than a football player, compared to a basketball player, to a hockey player. It all needs to be different to fit what that sports demand requires. The most important thing to know is that it can be done.
Too often are people scared to take weightlifting severe for the dumbest reasons. Lifting has many advantages including aiding in injury prevention. Lifting weights is another form of discipline and mental toughness.
Common purposes to lift with Sport Specific Training in mind
Weight Gain and strength gain
- Size can be added to hypertrophy lifting
- Consists of doing higher reps around the 12-15 rep range
- Can get a lot more muscle mass but not necessarily stronger
- Increases blood flow to muscle
Strength with minimal weight gains( getting more significant can be a result of getting stronger)
- Consists of doing reps around the 6-8 range
- Power is essential injury prevention and overall durability
- Is a base for explosive work
- Style of lifting that does not have to produce vast amounts of bulk
- Being explosive is your speed and strength put together
- The core of explosiveness is strength training
- Need a mental understanding that all weight you move needs to be moved fast
- Olympic lifts are great for explosiveness
- Consists of low rep training in the 3-5 rep range
- Weight can be substantial when coming out of the strength phase
- As peak faze comes closer lighter weight, and it is all about moving the weight fast
It is not just about the Primary Muscles with Sport Specific Training
Once many athletes discover and fall in love with what weight training can do for them. They fall into what I call the death trap. The death trap is when an athlete only works what they think is the one or two muscles that will benefit them most in their sport. This is great at first because your skills seem to be so much better, but there is a catch. An injury will be knocking down the door like police with a warrant to arrest.
Let’s use soccer as an example again. If a soccer player works there quads often and does not spend too much time working on other things. There will become a booming monster that no one wants to get in the way of. Over time the leg will lose its balance as the quad muscles will be dominating, and groin and hamstring problems will come rushing through.
Head To Toe With Sport Specific Training
I like to call the solution to this the head to toe approach. Work everything in your body from your head to toe that does any movement while competing. A track athlete, for example, would not need to work their neck it is not needed, but a soccer player and a football player on the other hand should.
Do not be confused between what gets used or not, especially when it comes to a sport where any running is taking place. When running, it activates so much of the body, including the upper body. Take that approach to training act as if you need EVERYTHING to be strong. Say you spend the time to make something strong that did not need to be for your sport, so what. It is better to be safe than sorry right. It is easier to take something out of your program that is not helping you than to wish you had been doing it all year.
Evaluate Your Sport Specific Training
Till this day I sit down and evaluate my training every month or two. I look back and see mistakes and things that could be so much more productive to make me better. If any athlete sits down and looks at what they are doing, they will see things that make no sense. They may not fully know what to do, but realizing there is room for improvement is always the first step.
If you keep in mind that your goal is that all your time spent training is going towards making you a better athlete you will be alright. You may not be able to control what a coach has you do entirely. It is always possible to talk with a coach or spend time training on your own if you can. The good athletes still do what they are told, but the great ones seek out how to be the best. They know that their sport specific training helps them.