Lifting for your sport specific weight training is VERY important, but what does ‘sport specific’ really mean?
Many athletes and coaches are constantly searching for sport specific weight training tips that involve the design of weight training programs and sport specific weight training. Far too often, athletes and coaches fall into the trap of performing sport specific training without first laying a foundation through sport specific weight training. In particular, sport specific weight training has a unique place in the design of a weight training program and deriving maximal benefit from future sport specific training.
For starters, any type of sport specific training immediately implies there is a need to take into account several variables unique to the sport. Sport specific weight training, in particular, involves dissecting the forces involved with a given movement that may be performed within a sport. Alternatively, sport specific training refers more to movements and highly dynamic activities that mimic gameplay. A true understanding of physics and dynamics is essential to train all the subtle yet overlooked forces as part of a complete sport specific weight training program. But before delving any further into sport specific weight training programs, it important to first remain aware of and define which exercises may truly be considered weight training exercises.
Weight training involves overloading of the skeletal structures in a very unique way. Almost all activities during sports will overload the muscles of the body, but not all these actions may be considered as part of a weight training program. To begin, weight training exercises must consist of two essential components: (1) a concentric, or lifting phase under resistance, and (2) an eccentric, or lowering phase under resistance. In addition, the weights must allow for overloading of target muscles without being overly complex and/or requiring high degrees of balance. In this regard, it is crucial to not perform highly dynamic sport specific training before sport specific weight training to lay the proper foundation. This is tantamount to learning to crawl before walking.
Sports specific weight training example:
Take the sport of football, for instance. With football weight training, every position has unique demands. Furthermore, football weight training involves many components unique to game-play and situations that must be taken into account while designing sport specific weight training workouts. For example, an offensive lineman must begin from a low squat stance and remain low throughout the play while moving his feet and absorbing contact through the upper body and effectively transferring it to the legs and feet.
To begin, sport specific weight training must be performed before sport specific training. Sprinting and footwork drills may be considered sport specific training but may not provide maximal benefit if the athlete’s weight training hasn’t been implemented correctly first.
Furthermore, when choosing weight training exercises, the force pattern of the activity must be taken into account. If incorrect weight training exercises are chosen as part of the sport specific weight training program, the athlete’s improvements in the weight room may not transfer over to the field of play, and may even hinder performance while increasing the risk of injury. In the case of a lineman, a leg press exercise, albeit a weight training exercise that involves the major muscles of the legs, can incorrectly train the lineman’s neuromuscular system under a completely different force pattern where the athlete is laying with the hips initially at 90 degrees. A more sport specific weight training exercise is clearly the barbell squat in the case of football weight training for the offensive lineman.
Nonetheless, what if one simply performs all the movements that occur in the transverse (i.e. horizontal) plane under resistance (e.g. with a sled and harness)? Would this qualify as sport specific weight training? Not quite. Although these are sport specific exercises and are being performed under resistance, the eccentric phase is missing. This is due to the fact that the resistance is from a non-conservative force, namely friction. Gravity, alternatively, is a conservative force and always involves an eccentric component for weight training exercises. Realizing that many transverse plane movements still involve triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles, the barbell squat is still the best choice for a sport specific weight training program.
Thus, design of sport specific weight training programs first involves analyzing the movements of the athlete’s sport. Next is the selection and design of true weight training exercises that cater to sport specific weight training and allow for true overloading of the musculoskeletal structures. This is the purpose of sport specific weight training and ultimately will set the foundation for future sport specific training under more dynamic scenarios and higher speeds for complete athletic development.