Sport Specific training is a term this is used very often in fitness to promote programs, market and try to connect with a specific audience, but what does it really mean? Does sport specific training belong in fitness? Are fitness professionals equipped to handle this task?
Say I offer a “sport specific” training program for golfers. All my marketing materials claim that through physical training I can improve your golf game.A participant signs up, goes through the program does very well and hits the links after the program has ended.His game shows no improvement, worst case scenario he plays worse. I did not fulfill the marketing claims of my program and have created a negative experience for this golfer who more than likely is now turned off to the idea of fitness and will tell other golfers in the area that my training and programs are ineffective.
How can I avoid this situation? Let’s go back to the very beginning and look at my message. I claimed that my training program could make him a better golfer because it was“sport specific” training. From the word go I set unrealistic expectations that I would never be able to fulfill because I offered something I can’t do.
I promised sport specific training when in reality the only TRUE sport specific training is PLAYING YOUR SPORT. It is unrealistic to believe that training alone without rigorous practice of the skill involved in sport with a qualified coach will yield positive performance results.
There is no doubt however that improved physical conditioning, strength and increased mobility can LEAD TO increased sports performance when paired with practice and coaching on field. That is where our expertise as fitness professionals comes in. I cannot directly make you a better golfer but what I can do is help you move better, increase your power in your swing, make sure your body remains in balance and minimize your risk for injury so you can play more often at a high level and for a very long time.
Let’s look at a couple common examples of how we can but this info into practice;
The Lifetime Athlete
Back to our golfer; knowing what my skill set and value is to this lifetime sport athlete helps me set realistic expectations and goals in our training program. He knows going in that movement efficiency, a balanced body and injury prevention or our primary goals to help his golf game out.Understanding my role helps me to have a conversation with him about what to expect, as we improve his ability to move it will no doubt alter how he swings his club. Even though in the long run this a good thing short term he might see his swing skills decrease. He will have to re-learn parts of his swing because his body is re-learning how to move properly. Paired up with a great golf instructor he will make the necessary changes and the end result will be increased performance.
The Power Athlete
A young football player is very driven to increase his bench press because it is a “good lift for football”.Regardless of what are viewed as good exercises for a sport I have to look at an athlete’s physical abilities to determine the right exercises for them, that will always trump what lifts he“should” be doing. If I see on field that he is not able to transfer power from his legs to upper body because this spine is moving all over the place I need to increase his core stability before anything else. The program I would take him through would nothing like a traditional football lifting program but in the long run it is what he needs to be a better athlete. While we are on the subject be careful what we label as good or sport specific exercises.We all see the benefits of pushing strength in the game of football but when it happens on the field are the athletes lying on their back (core & legs disengaged) moving a resistance slowly?The game happens fast and to be fast you have to train fast, there are a thousand exercises beyond the bench press that better simulate the on field demands of football.
The Endurance Athlete
When working with Runners, Cyclists or other endurance athletes focusing too much on training movements they need to be strong when on the road can create massive imbalances and lead to serious and long term injury. My goal is to keep them running into old age which means that we training everything they DON’T use on the road. Lateral and rotational movement, strength and power (fast twitch fibers) and recovery help keep their body in balance from the repetitive activity of running or biking. A balanced body will always perform better. Same can be true for other sports, if you train MMA or other fighters that are doing intense striking and conditioning 4-7 days a week do you really need to spend lots of time on cardio and power training?Balance, core stability, mobility, recovery, movement skills are all areas that will greatly benefit a fighter that they are not getting from their other coaches.