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  • Sport-specific Training

    Hi,


    The article above summarizes Rippetoe's points in why strength training should not be sport-specific but rather of general gestalt. To clarify his standpoint he makes a distinction between the concepts of training and practise. Knowing that you are familiar with this ideas, I am interested in your opinion on

    - the conterproductivity of sport-specific strength training
    - the adequacy of distinguishing between training and practise, in general.

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Jordan Feigenbaum; 03-09-2021, 03:23 PM. Reason: Removed link to idiocy

  • #2
    As far as I'm aware, there isn't any counter-productivity of sport-specific training outside of early specialization, which is a different topic and actually applies more to SS programming than training for a sport- the program being very specialized when needing to be more general. This is the pot calling the kettle black.

    I think definitions matter re: training and practice, but does anyone really think that training in the gym should be completely different or non-applicable to the outcome someone is trying to achieve? Sure, there are ways to take any idea too far, but to the extent someone is training for something, the programming should support that with specific considerations such as exercise selection, modes, intensities, etc.
    Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
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    • #3
      Thanks Jordan for the answer and for teaching a foreigner a funny proverb :-)

      By saying "the programming should support that with specific considerations such as exercise selection, modes, intensities, etc." do you imply that a table tennis player should use other exercises or rep ranges than a football player when both have the aim to become stronger? I would think that a table tennis player also benefits from Squats, Deadlifts and Presses the same way as a football player does and why would he perfrom other rep ranges when his aim is also just to become stronger?

      I do understand that an armwrestler, e.g., has to also incorporate grip strength training but for overall strength doing Squats and Deadlifts for about 5 reps would be the right strategy?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
        do you imply that a table tennis player should use other exercises or rep ranges than a football player when both have the aim to become stronger?
        Yes. But definitions matter and strength IS NOT force production against an external resistance. Rather, strength is force production measured in a specific context, e.g ROM, velocity, etc. So making nearly any athlete stronger improves their potential for performance, but there are a number of different types of strength that have varying amounts of transference to the sport or task.

        I would think that a table tennis player also benefits from Squats, Deadlifts and Presses the same way as a football player does and why would he perfrom other rep ranges when his aim is also just to become stronger?
        I don't know that either needs to do the squat, bench press, deadlift, or press, but both certainly could incorporate them into their program in different ways.

        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
        I do understand that an armwrestler, e.g., has to also incorporate grip strength training but for overall strength doing Squats and Deadlifts for about 5 reps would be the right strategy?
        No, and I would challenge someone to define "overall strength".
        Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
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        • #5
          Thanks Jordan for coping with my thoughts.

          I am just wondering how you know what exercises and rep ranges would be ideal for each sport or even player type? How do I know if my table tennis play benefits more from Squats, Front Squats or Split Squats or from sets of 5, 10 or 15 reps? I wonder if it is at all possible to write a sport-specific plan? So, I assume it should be a viable strategy to use some sort of strength training plan from which you know works generally well?

          I admit that I am be able to strictly define "overall strength" but I will give an example from my own experince which might only apply to me: When I improve my Back Squat whithout training my Front Squat I don't lose much (if at all) strength in the Front Squat. But when I train and improve my Front Squat without training my Back Squat my strength for the Back Squat goes down significently. So -at least for me- I would define the Back Squat as a better builder of "overall (leg) strength".

          So, when I don't know which exercise best suits the kind of force production of my sport (and I dount anybody exactly knows) I chose my best "overall strength" builder.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Torsten View Post
            Thanks Jordan for coping with my thoughts.
            A lot of these questions are going to be unable to be answered to your satisfaction in a forum response, as you're probably looking for a long form reply and I don't think my time is best spent doing that in this medium. I'll try my best.

            I am just wondering how you know what exercises and rep ranges would be ideal for each sport or even player type?
            If the specific requirements for a task are known, we can pick exercises and programming that select for the adaptations that best match those requirements. We have pretty good evidence on what types of adaptations are selected by certain types of exercises, rep ranges, and intensities, so we can use that as a starting point and assess individual response from there.

            Yes, you can develop a sport-specific plan. That's the whole point of this thread.

            I admit that I am be able to strictly define "overall strength" but I will give an example from my own experince which might only apply to me: When I improve my Back Squat whithout training my Front Squat I don't lose much (if at all) strength in the Front Squat. But when I train and improve my Front Squat without training my Back Squat my strength for the Back Squat goes down significently. So -at least for me- I would define the Back Squat as a better builder of "overall (leg) strength".
            If you're suggesting that the back squat transfers to the front squat and vice versa, perhaps in differing amounts specific to the individual, I'd agree. If I had to play devil's advocate for your example, I'd guess your front squat is underdeveloped and undertrained compared to your back squat, thus the relationships you observe are not causal, but rather artifact.

            So, when I don't know which exercise best suits the kind of force production of my sport (and I dount anybody exactly knows) I chose my best "overall strength" builder.

            Strength is specific to the context in which it is tested, so yes, this can be predicted with some accuracy.
            Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
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            • #7
              Thanks for taking the time Jordan, I appreciate it very much.

              If I had to play devil's advocate for your example, I'd guess your front squat is underdeveloped and undertrained compared to your back squat, thus the relationships you observe are not causal, but rather artifact.
              That assumption is probably true and it could indeed be a significant contributor to my personal observation.

              Originally posted by Jordan Feigenbaum View Post
              We have pretty good evidence on what types of adaptations are selected by certain types of exercises, rep ranges, and intensities, so we can use that as a starting point
              I honestly wasn't aware of this. Is there any literature you could refer me to or is this knowledge that stems more from your accumulated experience?






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              • #8
                Lots of literature on this. A good entry point if you're looking to know more would be Strength is Specific by Beardsley
                Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
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                • #9
                  Is it cool to jump in on this discussion?

                  Jordan, I'd be interested to know your thoughts on improvements in sports by not doing sports specific training but specifically training for strength.

                  I play golf and improvements in distance have correlated with strength training with no attempt at doing movements specifically to improve club head speed, ball striking, etc. Do you think this correlation is something uniquely beneficial to resistance training or just being more active, fitter and healthier or none of the above and just improvements in the specific task of swinging a golf club (timing, lag, etc)?

                  If there is a correlation could I have made similar improvements training specifically for hypertrophy, CrossFit or even running or cycling? Do you think your yardages would be different if you hadn't taken up resistance training and had 30lbs less muscle mass?


                  ​​​​​

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                  • #10
                    Thank you very much Jordan for pointing me to Chris Beardsley’s very interesting material about sport specific training.


                    Having gone through the first couple of chapters I don’t think that the author's ideas fundamentally contradict the article you dismissed as idiocy. While he explains in a very understandable way how the ability to produce force depends on the relevant muscle length, speed, and contraction type he also states several times that in some occasions strength increases are quite similar when tested in many different ways and thus do not strictly follow the guideline of sport specificity. The most prominent example he uses several times is the possibility to increase muscle size which “indiscriminately improves the ability to produce force for most velocities, lengths, and contraction types.” He proceeds by explaining that beginners benefit from a general hypertrophy training plan because during the novice phase muscle gains are rather easily achievable and large increases in muscle mass are very transferable to almost any other context. He then concludes that when a more advanced athlete is not able to efficiently gain a significant amount of additional muscle mass, sport specific training is the most effective path because the "adaptability of the neuromuscular system remains highly adaptable despite the inability to add muscle size… Such adaptations occur in response to specific types of strength training and increase our ability to produce force only in certain situations."


                    Going back to the real world, I don’t know many non-strength sport athletes who have exhausted their potential to easily gain more muscular size by utilizing general, barbell based, strength training. I certainly don’t want to argue whether Low Bar Squats are more effective than Front Squats (very interesting article by you about that topic, by the way) in building muscle mass. But one problem many trainees have is that they don’t know how to train to effectively increase muscle mass and thus accumulate generally applicable strength to a significant degree. As a result, they turn to sport specific training before they even remotely have exhausted their potential for accumulating generally applicable strength. I am not arguing the timing of how early you apply sport specific training per se but the fact that it is much harder to do that effectively than to put a general strength training program to work. You, with all your experience in this field, are probably able to develop such a program but most strength coaches are not even able to program an effective barbell program let alone something sport specific which is, per definition, much more “nuanced”.


                    To give an example, a couple years ago an article went through the media describing how incredibly strong Steph Curry was as he was able to (Trap bar) deadlift 400 lbs which was as much or more than anybody else on his championship team. Wouldn’t he benefit more easily from getting his Deadlift up by 50 lbs than from keep on doing hours and hours of more sport specific training a week? Also, if a strength coach is not able to generate a 400+ lbs Deadlifter in a whole team of top 1% athletes (when even you said in an interview 5 years ago that every male should be able to deadlift 200kg) how can be trust him to generate a sport specific program which incredibly more difficult to do?


                    Nevertheless, I see how the article needs some more clarification in that regard. So thank you for your time and help!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Rooble View Post
                      Is it cool to jump in on this discussion?

                      Jordan, I'd be interested to know your thoughts on improvements in sports by not doing sports specific training but specifically training for strength.

                      I play golf and improvements in distance have correlated with strength training with no attempt at doing movements specifically to improve club head speed, ball striking, etc. Do you think this correlation is something uniquely beneficial to resistance training or just being more active, fitter and healthier or none of the above and just improvements in the specific task of swinging a golf club (timing, lag, etc)?

                      If there is a correlation could I have made similar improvements training specifically for hypertrophy, CrossFit or even running or cycling? Do you think your yardages would be different if you hadn't taken up resistance training and had 30lbs less muscle mass?


                      ​​​​​
                      I also play golf and one of the staples reliably shown to improve club head speed and ball speed is speed training with swing sticks. I haven't seen reliable data on resistance training and ball striking, though I do think that improving strength and conditioning is likely to improve golf performance in general, as most individuals are severely undertrained.
                      Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
                      ///Website /// Instagram /// Peri™ Rx /// Whey Rx /// Barbell Medicine Podcast/// Newsletter /// Seminars ///

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post

                        Having gone through the first couple of chapters I don’t think that the author's ideas fundamentally contradict the article you dismissed as idiocy.
                        I disagree.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        While he explains in a very understandable way how the ability to produce force depends on the relevant muscle length, speed, and contraction type he also states several times that in some occasions strength increases are quite similar when tested in many different ways and thus do not strictly follow the guideline of sport specificity.
                        This is a misunderstanding of the presented material and describes transference and its individualized nature.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        The most prominent example he uses several times is the possibility to increase muscle size which “indiscriminately improves the ability to produce force for most velocities, lengths, and contraction types.
                        This is a somewhat controversial claim and I wouldn't necessarily hang my had on this argument.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        He proceeds by explaining that beginners benefit from a general hypertrophy training plan because during the novice phase muscle gains are rather easily achievable and large increases in muscle mass are very transferable to almost any other context.
                        This is not very well supported in the literature in addition to being correlation.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        He then concludes that when a more advanced athlete is not able to efficiently gain a significant amount of additional muscle mass, sport specific training is the most effective path because the "adaptability of the neuromuscular system remains highly adaptable despite the inability to add muscle size… Such adaptations occur in response to specific types of strength training and increase our ability to produce force only in certain situations."
                        Again, this is not really well-supported by the current literature.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        [B]Going back to the real world, I don’t know many non-strength sport athletes who have exhausted their potential to easily gain more muscular size by utilizing general, barbell based, strength training.
                        This assumes that barbell strength training improves muscle size the most rapidly, which is not true- particularly when fatigue profiles are taken into consideration.



                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        I certainly don’t want to argue whether Low Bar Squats are more effective than Front Squats (very interesting article by you about that topic, by the way) in building muscle mass.
                        They're not, so, no argument there.

                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        But one problem many trainees have is that they don’t know how to train to effectively increase muscle mass and thus accumulate generally applicable strength to a significant degree. As a result, they turn to sport specific training before they even remotely have exhausted their potential for accumulating generally applicable strength.

                        I don't know what this means, which is what I said in an earlier reply.

                        If you're suggesting that new trainees' programming will look different than advanced athletes, yes of course, though programming elements for a beginner's program can be tailored to the specific task's demands.

                        Ideally, this should take place earlier on in an athlete's development, but that doesn't always happen.


                        Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                        [B]To give an example, a couple years ago an article went through the media describing how incredibly strong Steph Curry was as he was able to (Trap bar) deadlift 400 lbs which was as much or more than anybody else on his championship team. Wouldn’t he benefit more easily from getting his Deadlift up by 50 lbs than from keep on doing hours and hours of more sport specific training a week?

                        Probably not given the demands of his sport, costs associated with training for this particular goal compared to skill development and training other qualities....but maybe This is essentially the same argument Rip made on a podcast we did a few years ago. I don't think we could confidently say adding 50lbs to his trap bar deadlift would do anything and if I'm forced to choose, I'd predict it wouldn't do anything.

                        Last edited by Jordan Feigenbaum; 03-13-2021, 04:42 PM.
                        Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
                        ///Website /// Instagram /// Peri™ Rx /// Whey Rx /// Barbell Medicine Podcast/// Newsletter /// Seminars ///

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jordan Feigenbaum View Post

                          I also play golf and one of the staples reliably shown to improve club head speed and ball speed is speed training with swing sticks. I haven't seen reliable data on resistance training and ball striking, though I do think that improving strength and conditioning is likely to improve golf performance in general, as most individuals are severely undertrained.
                          Thanks Jordan. Have you tried swing sticks yourself? Do you think strength training would have an effect on things like fatigue as the swinging the club is less stressful to someone trained? This makes sense to me in theory but then I know some 70+ year old, overweight, undertrained guys who would happily play 36 holes every day, a feat I couldn't manage at half their age.

                          I'm very aware you're a golfer, your Instagram feed has been torture to those of us who live in the wind swept, frozen tundra that is the UK .

                          Out of of curiosity would you programme different for someone who told you they were a golfer?

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                          • #14
                            Since my knowledge of sport specific training is limited to the literature you pointed me at and you dismissed my arguments which I took from this very literature as either a misunderstanding, controversial or not really well-supported by the current literature, I believe I am not well-enough educated in this subject to lead a discussion on equal footing. But this is fine with me and I am thankful that you took the time to educate me and most importantly making me aware of all the things I don’t know.

                            With all the reading and typing on your side due to my lengthy posts, I hope I am not the only one who gets something out of this thread.

                            Thanks again, Jordan, for engaging in the discussion and there will be no further questions asked - at least not for now

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Torsten View Post
                              Since my knowledge of sport specific training is limited to the literature you pointed me at and you dismissed my arguments which I took from this very literature as either a misunderstanding, controversial or not really well-supported by the current literature, I believe I am not well-enough educated in this subject to lead a discussion on equal footing. But this is fine with me and I am thankful that you took the time to educate me and most importantly making me aware of all the things I don’t know.

                              With all the reading and typing on your side due to my lengthy posts, I hope I am not the only one who gets something out of this thread.

                              Thanks again, Jordan, for engaging in the discussion and there will be no further questions asked - at least not for now
                              I think it's just a misunderstanding due to limited context of the first few chapters. Also, admittedly Beardsley feels differently on the size-strength connection than I do and this is an area of active research. See Loenneke et al 2019 for more here. That said, I do think the totality of the book is useful for sports-specific training applications.

                              Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
                              ///Website /// Instagram /// Peri™ Rx /// Whey Rx /// Barbell Medicine Podcast/// Newsletter /// Seminars ///

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