Richard Pollock

Sports Specific

To be successful at any sport and see dividends on the playing field, ice, or court, generally some time must be spent in the weight room. An athlete in a specific sport has different training needs than a bodybuilder or those in another sport. Athletes must train to improve their muscle coordination, skills, strength and/ or speed.

An athlete’s body will adapt to the specific type of training it is exposed to. As a result, the body’s metabolic and physiological systems adapt to the activities chosen for training.

Principle of Specificity

To be effective and achieve greater adaptation, training must be designed to develop sport-specific strength. A strength training program and the selected training methods should consider the dominant energy system of the sport, the specific muscle groups involved, and the movement patterns characteristic of the sport.

An exercise or type of training that is specific to the skills of the sport results in a faster adaptation and yields faster performance improvement. Specificity should be applied only to advanced athletes during the competitive phase.

Overemphasizing specificity can result in a narrow development of the muscles, and one-sided, specialized muscle function Compensation strength exercises should always be used in training. Sport specific resistance training usually focuses on increasing strength and endurance. While all-out strength is important, an athlete needs to be effective for the entire duration of the activity to be successful. While an athlete needs to build optimum strength and stamina, they also have to prepare for the specifics of their sport. Because of practices, games, etc., the athlete needs to select a group of activities which will address all of these components. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Concentration (isolation) exercises are out. Multi-joint movements (also called compound exercises) with some variations will increase your body’s balance and coordination, while increasing strength. Keep your isolation exercises to a minimum and last on your list.
  2. Don’t waste time. Keep a workout pace that simulates the activity of your sport, otherwise you will not be able to perform at game pace when the time comes. Take no more than 90 seconds and don’t be afraid to superset exercises.
  3. Use different programs for off- and in-season. During the off-season focus on developing strength and mass. During the season, maintenance and injury prevention are key. Off-season training allows for more exercise variation, while in-season activity should be decreased and exercises should be multi-joint and sport-specific.
  4. Seek help in your chosen sport. Find mentors in your sport or seek help from a personal trainer. Many athletes spend too much time on activities that aren’t sport-specific.

The Yearly Training Program: Periodization of Strength

A primary objective of training is to reach peak performance at a specific time, usually for the main competition for the year. To achieve this high level of performance, the entire training program must be properly periodized and planned so that the development of skills and motor abilities proceed logically and methodically throughout the year.

In most sports, the annual training cycle is divided into three main phases of training preparatory

Periodization of Strength: Phases

Phase One: Anatomical Adaptation Phase
The main objectives of this phase are to involve most muscle groups and to prepare the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints to endure the subsequent lengthy and strenuous training phases. Focus is on all sections of the body.

Phase Two: Maximum Strength Phase
The main objective of this phase is to develop the highest level of force possible. The duration of this phase is usually 1 to 3 months.

Phase Three: Conversion Phase
The main purpose of this phase is to convert gains in strength into competitive, sport-specific combinations of strength. Depending on the characteristics of the sport, maximum strength must be converted to a type of power or muscular endurance, or both. Duration of this phase lasts between 4-8 weeks.

Phase Four: Maintenance Phase
The main objective of this phase is to maintain the standards achieved during the previous phases. The program followed during this phase is a function of the specific requirements of the sport. Strength training should not be eliminated once the competitive season starts otherwise athletes will be exposed to the effects of detraining.

Phase Five: Transition Phase
The main goal of this phase is to remove the fatigue acquired during the training year and replenish the exhausted energy stores by decreasing volume and especially intensity. The transition phase or “off-season” represents a transition from one annual plan to another. For serious athletes, the duration of this phase should be no longer than 4 to 6 weeks.

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