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What is Sport Specific Training?

What is sport specific training?

Mark Keil, CSCS

May 10, 2022

In the roughly 10 years I’ve been in and around Strength and Conditioning, I’ve noticed that people are either adamant about Sport Specific Training or they think it’s hog wash. 

Having worked with several collegiate and professional sports teams, I’ll share some of my thoughts. Let me start with what the term Sport Specific Training means. 

 

My definition is: training in a way that will improve the athlete’s performance in sport while reducing the likelihood of sport-related injuries. 

 

Makes sense, right? I think so. 


I believe, for many, there are two issues with this approach. First is the degree to which people take ‘Sport Specific’.
For example, Strength Training Programs should not have a baseball athlete attach a band to a bat (to practice resisted swinging) or have the athlete throw a weighted baseball. Are they bad approaches to training? Honestly, I don’t know. 

Why? Because it’s not my place. 


Strength Coaches are not Skill Coaches. And I think, for those opposed to Sport Specific Training, that is where the real issue lies – when Strength Coaches cross the line to be Skill Coaches. That should not happen.


The second issue I believe some have with Sport Specific Training is that in an effort to focus on the muscle groups ‘that matter’, the other muscles (or muscle groups) are left neglected. Using baseball as an example – baseball players need a strong back. However, having them complete a half a dozen back exercises and zero chest exercises is going to create a muscular imbalance. 


So how do you correctly implement Sport Specific Training?


You take a big picture approach and run an analysis on the goals of Strength Training and its relation to the sport. For example, here are few things we did in professional baseball: 

 

  1. We didn’t do overhead lifts (e.g. – shoulder press; these movements place too much stress on the shoulders and the likelihood of injury outweigh any potentialbenefit). 
  2. Core strength was key (to transfer power between lower and upper body).
  3. Hip mobility was a must (to produce maximum pitching velocity).

 

Looking at the sport of baseball and realizing we need to protect the shoulders (no overhead lifting), increase the strength of the core, and incorporate hip flexibility movements just makes sense. And to me, that is Sport Specific Training – analyzing the sport, determining the needs of the athlete, and building the Strength Training Program around those needs.

That said, I am in support of Sport Specific Training as long as 1) the Strength Coach does not cross the line to become the Skill Coach and 2) the Strength Coach does not neglect those muscles that are not the ‘primary focus’. 

In case you’re wondering- SportStrength takes a Sport Specific approach to creating Team Workouts. We analyze each sport and create a workout program based on the Strength and Mobility needs of that sport.