As I’ve mentioned previously, there are more and more sports performance gyms popping up around the UK in recent times, or at least more gyms that cater for this kind of training.
There is also a greater opportunity for sports specific training, and people will get on board with this to give themselves the best chance of success in their chosen sport.
Something I have often found though is coaches and athletes trying to come up with strange new exercises in a bid to mimic the exact movement of their sport. The concept behind this makes sense – if you want to be better at your sport then practicing the exact movements and becoming stronger through them is smart. But sometimes things get a little too wacky and out of control.
Plus, by trying to get stronger in one particular move it may change the natural action you have for that movement within the sport itself.
Sports specificity is easier for some sports, such as powerlifting, strongman, Olympic lifting, gymnastics etc. as to get stronger for them you can simply do the same movements.
However doing a combination of a medicine ball slam, with a box jump, whilst also coordinating to catch it on the rebound looks like a recipe for disaster! Especially when it’s in a bid to improve a swimmers start!
For this particular case, why not do some work with heavy squats, box squats, trap bar deadlifts, box jumps (without the excessive add ons), med-ball throws etc? If you’re not confident on coaching an athlete to squat heavy – then why the hell are you confident enough to come up with some new exercise you don’t even know works?!
In my opinion it is better to get the body stronger through the movements with big heavy-duty movements that carryover. Such as squats, which will improve leg strength and power leading to improvements in speed and acceleration, the bench press, this will get some negativity because apart from powerlifting how often do you lie on a surface on your back and move something vertically, but in terms of upper body hypertrophy there aren’t a lot of exercises that will challenge it.
I feel that strength through basic human movements are some of the most important; picking heavy things up from the floor, lowering heavy things down and up, putting things above your head, moving with heavy objects, rotational exercise and bodyweight movements correlate well with the majority of sporting activities as most sports came about from our own basic movement patterns.
Outside of the realms of strength training, you can train specifically for your sport by mimicking the metabolic demands too. For instance why would you get a 300+lbs offensive lineman in American Football, who’s role is to push people around for 3-7 seconds, to run 5k? It is important to still have built up a strong aerobic base, as this can help us to recover quicker in between bouts of high intensity exercise, but by training in a way that replicates your needs allows the body to adapt to meet those specific demands. This is why you will often see teams falling off the pace in the final quarter of games early in the season, but 4-6 weeks in this will be a thing of the past. The body adapts to meet our needs – well, as best it can anyway.
So moving forward and applying this practically to your own program, think about the demands of your sport, and then decide how best to attack it to improve your physical ability.
Thanks for reading,
Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.