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Athletic Performance or Sport Specific?
In the world of strength and conditioning there lingers a concept of “sport specific”. Sport specific training is a concept that all of an athlete’s training should mimic the sport that they are playing. All across the country, strength and conditioning coaches are trying to mimic sports that are being played inside the weight room. That’s a terrible idea!
Strength coaches have a job to make athletes a better athlete. They also have a job to limit injuries as much as possible. That should be their focus while the individual sport coaches focus on the specificity. I mean if you want sport specific, go play the sport. That is the most specific, so why try to abridge it?
A strength coach should focus on the following:
1. Absolute Strength- Their first job is to get the athletes strong. I recommend focusing on multi-joint movements like squats, deadlifts, cleans, and bench press. If mobility and relative strength remain the same, getting an athlete stronger will allow them to produce more force on the field. That equates to a faster and more powerful athlete.
2. Relative Strength- It is key to focus on an athlete’s ability to move their own bodyweight. Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, and sometimes pistol squats are great ways to monitor your athlete’s progression. Obviously nutrition will come into play in this category. If an athlete is getting fatter, then an improvement in absolute strength doesn’t transfer to the field.
3. Mobility- An athlete’s ability to move well is often overlooked. That’s a big mistake. An athlete should be able to move through a full range of motion with any movement and in any direction. Improved Mobility should be a goal daily. I recommend 10-15 minutes each day focused on mobility. Deep Squats, overhead squats, and full range of motion cleans are excellent for promoting proper movement patterns.
4. Muscular Balance- along with mobility this is the number one way to prevent injuries on the field. If you are an aspiring strength coach, I recommend learning to assess for muscular imbalances. You will also want to learn how to correct obviously.
5. Speed, jumping, and agility work- Let me first say that agility has nothing to do with cones and ladders. I am not going to say a lot more about this, but I will say that Zach Even-Esh, John Welbourn, and I are writing a book together to dispel a lot of common beliefs about strength and conditioning. You are going to want to read it.
A strength coach is to teach proper mechanics of sprinting, changing direction, and all types of jumping. Each should be practiced with drills that breakdown the mechanics. However, let me say right here, if you want to get faster at sprinting, you have to sprint. If you want to jump higher, you have to jump.
All of the things that I have talked about above will transfer nicely to the field. If a good athlete becomes a better athlete, then it is up to the sport coach to teach them how to use their newfound athleticism. I recommend that all of my athletes continue to practice their sports, while they are getting stronger and faster. That is the best way to make sure that added athleticism is transferred to the field.
All of this is not to say that some things in the weight room aren’t somewhat sport specific. I like to do rotational work with all of my athletes, but I focus on it more with baseball players and tennis players. I focus on mobility with all of my athletes, but I focus on it even more with pitchers and golfers specific to their needs. However, I am not taking a heavy golf club and telling a golfer to swing it 3 sets of 10 reps. What do I know about a golf swing?
Do you really want a strength and conditioning coach teaching your athletes about the individual sports? I know that I don’t. If my son is a pitcher someday, I want a pitching coach to focus on his pitching skills. I will ask the strength and conditioning coach to focus on hip mobility.
I want to write at least one article per week teaching all of you about true strength and conditioning. I have zero bias at this point, since most of my time is spent with my weightlifting and powerlifting team. This will be simple truth, so that you all can make better decisions in the future.
This series will also be for the existing or aspiring strength and conditioning coach. Zach, John, and I want to change the system here in America. We want to take the blindfolds off of the parents and athletes. We also want to talk about truths that no one talks about like mental toughness, a winning mindset, and genetics. My personal goal is that within a year you will all have enough information to make wise decisions.
Wish me luck! And pray that no one bombs my house for bringing out the truth. lol