Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What Are You Talking About…Specifically? (part 2)

Sport-Specific Training - Today

Sport-specific training in its current concept is a means of simulating a movement or exercise in the weight room with the intention of it transferring to the playing field – regardless of what that field is. It is also a protocol of lifting fast to become fast, using low repetitions to bulk and performing power cleans and snatches to make better football players. Of course these are not all of the perceived concepts attached to sport-specific specific training but enough to make one question what the hell someone is thinking when they argue these points. It’s beyond my comprehension why anyone would think performing, for example, a walking lunge would simulate running or how throwing a weighted object will somehow cross over to throwing a football or baseball. The term “sport-specific” in my definition of the term means “specific to ones sport” which means that an athlete should be doing what is specifically needed to perform their activity or sport. If someone wants to improve their golf swing then they should take golf lessons from a qualified coach and then practice, practice and practice some more. Swinging a weighted object of any kind in place of the golf club will not develop club head speed or improve your swing – what it will do is create new mechanics for your body to learn and then distort your regular swing. Plain and simple – there is no transference from one activity to another, which is why movement is SPECIFIC!

The same holds true for developing explosiveness and speed. These skills are developed by becoming stronger, practicing proper skills and techniques, understanding your sport, having acute auditory and visual skills, being perceptive and of course, let’s not forget genetics. I remember watching the great Dick Butkus when he played for the Chicago Bears. You could see him watch as plays evolved and then react with such tenacity and speed. Was it because he was doing power cleans or lifting fast? Hell no, the man knew his sport and his competition and put himself in the right place and the right time. He was strong, determined, understood how to read plays and was an animal on the field – that’s what made him great - and this was all without the benefit of strength training because at that time he didn’t believe in it.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed an individual avoid a car accident merely because they see the accident unfolding as it is about to occur and while observing their surroundings, react instantly? Is it because they work out on a balance board or maxed out on their squats? Nah, I doubt it. They used their auditory and visual skills, maybe even some experience and knowledge of how to handle a situation as this. So, my confusion lies with the idea of transfer - transfer of performing one movement or skill to another. If a power clean is identical to performing movements on the football field then I should be able to eat soup with a fork because it’s the same movement as if I were to use a spoon. If you believe that one needs to stand on an unstable surface to become stable then that leads me to reason that you wouldn’t mind a house built on sand. Why put someone on an unsecured surface to develop their stability? Why have someone risk falling, twisting a knee or ankle, or worse so they can develop balance – and when in hell was the last time you saw anyone play a sport on an unstable surface? Lift fast to be fast? Gotcha, so let’s use momentum and gravity to move the weight, not our muscles to develop speed – right. Think about that, does it make sense to unload the muscle to develop strength and speed? If you give it a moment’s thought you’d realize that the muscles need to do the work to become stronger and just throwing a weight around doesn’t mean you are becoming stronger or becoming faster – it just means you are throwing a weight around. - Fred Fornicola

Part 3 to follow...