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opinion, strength training, training methods

Defining Sport Specific Training

I was asked the other day about Sport Specific Training. I don’t think I’ve seen a good definition of what Sport Specific Training is, and I was asked the other day so I’ll have a little go at defining it here.

Sport Specific Training is any training that results in a performance improvement in a given sport.

If that sounds very broad it’s because I meant it that way. I think there are 2 issues with programming for a sport. The first is trying to make the training too close to the sport in question. Examples of this would be weighting sports movements or trying to over-replicate movements in the weight room. The most prominent example of this is punching with light dumbbells for boxers. This for me is the equivalent of using a weighted football. The second is being too general. Many people use powerlifting templates to get footballers stronger, without reference to how strong a guy actually has to be to play football. I was told a tale of a Gaelic Footballer who went away for the off season and came back with a 150kg squat and who is now “a beast”. Now will being stronger help him play? Maybe. But then what if he divided the time it took to get his new leg strength in 2, and used half of that time to get less strong (but still improve his strength), and the other half to practice his accuracy in free kick situations? If you’re a coach and reading this, which guy is more useful to you? The guy who has spent his time squatting or the guy who has spent his time kicking from 15 metres, 20 metres and so on. One guy might give you an extra 3 or 5 points a game this year, but it’s less easy to quantify what the stronger guy gives you.

Now of course this is all a balancing act, and there’s no really good answer to this question since it’s extremely difficult to quantify the results of either of these training methods The correct answer is probably somewhere in the middle. My answer to GAA and Soccer managers who ask me to get their guys stronger is usually “how strong do they need to be?”. Yes, I’m one of those annoying guys who answers questions with a question. Of course additional strength will help them, but it can’t come at the cost of less pitch time, at being sore for practice matches or skill sessions, and while Gaelic Sports have some collision element, they are not rugby. None of these players require the natural armour that Rugby players require, and Rugby seems to be the template for Strength and Conditioning plans from Tennis and Golf to Football and Hurling these days.

Just some thoughts on that. I think my definition is pretty good actually, possibly because it doesn’t really define anything!


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