#124 – Practice (Don’t Train) Like You Play: Sport Specific Training

12 Nov #124 – Practice (Don’t Train) Like You Play: Sport Specific Training

Matt and Scott tackle the question of sport specific training: how should athletes train for their sport? The simple answer is… just like anyone else! While athletes need to consider the demands of their practice when programming their training, their training advancement occurs no differently than a gen pop trainee.


Unfortunately, many sport coaches conflate practice and training, out of a misguided desire to make training look like the sport they are preparing their athletes for. Going back to the earliest episodes of Barbell Logic, one of the bedrock principles of programming in Starting Strength is the Stress/Adaptation/Recovery model first detailed by Hans Selye. Another important concept is the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to the Imposed Demand. In short the SAID principle states that if you want to get strong, you have to stress yourself with something that would make you strong, i.e. lift heavy weights. Running laps on the track won’t make you strong, as it is not specific to the desired adaptation. This is where the idea of making training look like the sport — doing high intensity circuits on the hammer strength machines, instead of lifting barbells — falls short. A good strength and conditioning coach needs to identify the adaptations needed for the sport, and organize programming to achieve those adaptations. For virtually all sports, strength is important, and should be prioritized first, for the reasons explicated in previous Barbell Logic episodes: strength improves all the other physical skills. Many sports training programs emphasize explosive movements instead, effectively demonstrating the athleticism of their athletes (which is genetically determined) rather than training their physical abilities.


Another issue with sport specific training is the lack of quality instruction and feedback. As Matt describes on his visit to a D1 football training camp, coaches yelled at their athletes constantly to train hard, but rarely gave them detailed feedback on how to improve what they were doing. Screaming “Do it right!” and “Up! Up! Up!” in the weight room are not effective coaching techniques, at best they are cheerleading.


The article Matt mentions in the episode is The Two-Factor Model of Sports Performance by Mark Rippetoe.


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