Sport Specific Conditioning – To Be or Not To Be

Huge topic here and you can count on me to skip most of the in depth strength & conditioning arguments and cut to the chase for my high schoolers… (we’ll be leaving metabolic conditioning out of this for now as well as a comparison between hockey and gymnastics)

SVG drawing representing a number of sports ic...But, generally speaking…

The simple (or not so simple) answer is Yes and No… and for the most part No.

I have seen different coaches from different teams suggest some crazy crap for their athletes this past year.  A repeating 300 workout for baseball players, a four months of same-same pyramid program for wrestlers, bodybuilding only and single set protocols (only) for football players, and a coaches favored crossfit workout for some soccer players.

All of this, to some extent, is better than nothing… and I witnessed more of that issue (doing nothing) with the high school athletes than anything else.

Any of those protocols can be fine for any sport for a given period of time during a planned training period.  Continual use of any one will eventually lead to an overuse issue and will never lead to optimal performance enhancement in any of the sports mentioned… But I digress.

I started with primarily NO as my response to if specificity is necessary (especially at the high school level).  While those examples are non specific to any of those sports they are also not the answer alone for any of those sports.

Yet, all can be implemented from time to time as a part of the program.

Iron Man armor

Iron Man armor (Photo credit: 1031)

Every sport has some component of Muscular Endurance, Body Armor (hypertrophy/muscle size building), Absolute Strength, and Power Development.  Each of these areas must be trained ‘generally’ over time as the emphasis of a program.  With the development of the these attributes  the athlete will naturally through practice repetition combine these with their specific athletic skill set.

Power production will be enhanced for jumping in basketball or volleyball, strike force potential will increase in football, sprint speed for stealing a base will improve in baseball, and explosive sprint and jumping power will increase in track…  These will all occur with the proper programming of olympic lifting techniques into each athletes program.

Similarly, the majority of exercises, benefit from flexibility training, foam rolling, basic plyometrics, unilateral exercises, rotational movements… all will cross over nicely to every athlete.

Adding specificity is called for at times as well, but is often over played by some coaches.  It’s almost as if these will be the magic bullet for sport athleticism similar to the magic pill most of america is looking for in fat loss.

A few things to be specific about:

Throwers, pitchers and quarterbacks, be careful on the intensity and quantity of over head resistance training.  Your shoulders get so much repetition from the sport we must be very careful with these joint movements.

Linemen & sprinters, your movements begin from a coiled position.  There is no counter movement or benefit from the stretch shortening cycle. You must be explosive from that position from the quarterbacks hut or the guns bang.  Hang cleans and explosive bottom up squats may be warranted as your roles are slightly different than in most sport.

Many basketball players and tall folk in general.  Cleans, snatches, deep squats are likely not your favorite.  Pull the first two from the hang position rather than from the floor and know that your limb length (lever length) is proportionally large compared to most making certain positions difficult to achieve.

Plyometrics can be beneficial for any sport, but remember more isn’t always better. This isn’t only true for the intensity level, but also when it comes to specificity for sport.  Just because a sport has a great deal of jumping involved doesn’t mean quantities of depth jump training is the key to improvement.

In fact too much quantity or intensity may not only fail to improve, but it may also quickly lead to injury.  For sports that in themselves produce large quantities of ‘plyometric’ type actions, think along the lines of stability, unilateral training, and ensuring that activities in the opposite direction or plane of movement are utilized for maintaining muscle balance.

There is your Yes and No answer.  It’s more important for every athlete to vary their program.  Work most often in general movement patterns.  And, build a stable healthy framework… Follow those steps first before you worry about mimicking the exact or near exact movements of your favored sport.


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