How do I make sure my training is specific to my sport?
Whether you’re a recreational or elite athlete, training is something you take pretty seriously. It’s important for you to improve your performance. You want to get stronger, fitter and more skilful, so that you can perform to your optimum.
When training, an important concept to consider is the Specific Adaptation of Imposed Demand (SAID) Principle. This basically means that in order to get better at the activities and skills you are trying to improve, the exercises and drills you perform in training, should be specific to the outcome that you’re trying to improve.
A Problem with SAID
It seems that we’re not going far enough with the SAID Principle. We’re simply looking at attributes. We’re not being specific enough.
For example, some sports require you to be powerful and explosive. Let’s take Rugby, where you have to accelerate, break through tackles and get up off the floor quickly and change direction rapidly. All of these movements require some form of strength and power. So coaches believe that powerlifting or Olympic lifting will help improve your power and speed in these pursuits.
If we look to Rugby, however, speed and power are usually performed in a horizontal direction. Olympic lifting, for example, requires the management of forces and load in a vertical direction. Not only this, bilateral movements aren’t too common in these sports. That’s to say, limbs usually move in opposition to one another. Again, these aren’t movements that are catered for in powerlifting and Olympic lifting. If we look at the speed component of sprinting, it requires the feet to strike and leave the ground as quickly as possible. Will squatting a heavy weight improve this? Probably not as effective as if we created a drill that encourages the foot to strike and leave the ground as quickly as possible.
What we should do
Given that we want to condition skills and movements from our sports, we must try and ensure that exercises look like the movements we’re conditioning. It’s then a case of playing around with forces and seeing how the individual athlete moves when performing a skill.
We must train movements and not muscles. Training muscles involved in movements do not go far enough in improving performance. Muscles do so much more than we think. They react to movement as well as cause movement. Let’s not unnecessarily bring a muscle under tension, to make it grow, when it may not experience high levels of tension in an activity. This usually causes muscles to develop in movements that are too dissimilar to the movements an athlete is trying to improve at.
This study took 8 recreational golfers and trained golf specific movements over an 8 week period. They were also instructed not to play golf during the training period. What happened? The strength, flexibility and balance components needed to improve their performance were all improved. To the point that when retested, their swing power and driving distance improved. Bear in mind, this happened without them playing any golf in the period. They were also all fairly proficient golfers who played 2-3 times a week, so we can assume that their skill level wasn’t undeveloped.
To conclude, the SAID Principle is something we should go further within training athletes. Let’s look at the movements involved and how we can tweak the forces of gravity, ground reaction and momentum to get the athletes used to sustaining movements needed for a prolonged period of time. The result will be a stronger, fitter and injury resilient athlete.
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