How Much Sport Specific Training Do You Need?

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Every so often, I will get an inquiry about training and someone will ask me if we do sport specific training.

The answer is yes, but it might not be what most people are looking for. That becomes my follow up question. Most of the time the person doesn’t actually know what they meant when they asked it but felt they should be doing it.

Sport specific training is all the rage. It is purely a marketing term that tries to make training sound better.

Sport specific training usually results in a terrible product. It does not get any more specific than playing your sport. Soccer players are better off playing soccer than trying to incorporate a soccer ball into ladder drills.

Specificity is not supposed to work like this. Specificity in training means that the methods meet the demands of the sport. This pertains to strength, power, biomechanics, and energy system demands. What is looks like is not training specificity.

So actually, turning a cable column into a golf club or using a soccer ball in ladder drills is the opposite of specific because that literally never happens in the sport.

But, again, it looks cool and makes good videos.

Instead, training should be individual specific. What sport does the athlete play? What are their strengths/weaknesses? What do they want to accomplish?

These questions may mean that two teammates need to train completely different. The goal is to both get them better at baseball, but individually have different needs.

Strength

What areas of strength does this athlete need? The sport they play matters into this equation. A basketball player with a weak upper body is going to struggle to get rebounds and probably get pushed around a bunch.

We can get good transfer with strength training as long as strategy helps to improve the needs of that athlete.

Power 

Power can be trained in a couple of different ways. We can look at rotational, vertical, and horizontal.

Baseball is a rotational sport, basketball is vertical biased, and hockey is rotational and horizontal.

A hockey player that does not produce force well horizontally is going to be lacking something on the ice. I also don’t know how to exactly produce more horizontal power with skates and a stick. It needs to happen off of the ice and its definitely not going to look like hockey.

Injury Concerns

We need to look at injury concerns in sports. Baseball pitchers have shoulder, back, and elbow demands like no other sport. Field hockey is played in spinal flexion, which is the exact opposite of soccer. Ice hockey goalie hips’ are often beat up pretty good.

Making an athlete more resistant to these things is done on an individual basis taking into account both sport and injury history.

This is one of the most important things that can be taken into a program yet is possibly the least flashy things we can do.

Energy System Needs

Conditioning is something that every athlete needs but this is way more individual than most people think. We have three energy systems that can be trained. Distance running is aerobic, most team sports are glycolytic, and powerlifting is heavy on the ATP system.

They all work in conjunction. A powerlifter with a garbage aerboic system is going to struggle to recover well. A runner that cannot produce any force is going to be slower even if they can run forever.

It all complements each other and it depends on what you need, not what everyone else does.