I have met many trainers and coaches in my field, but none with the knowledge and skills that Ozzy Kirdar possesses. – Cem Eren
Sport-specific training is simply fitness and performance training designed specifically for athletic performance enhancement. Training programs for athletic performance enhancement could include such areas as strength, speed, power, endurance, flexibility, mobility, agility, mental preparedness (including goal setting), sleep, recovery/regeneration techniques and strategies, nutrition, rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, and injury risk reduction.
A general program should include all of these components and a more specific program may only include a few, depending upon the athlete’s specific needs (based on strengths, weaknesses and/or imbalances) and the demands of the sport they participate in.
Specific Training vs. Specific Skills
While there may be some sense of specificity to a program designed for an athlete of a specific sport, the truth is that there is a limit to the amount of application/carryover of a sports performance exercise to a sports skill. The most sports specific training that can be done is the sport itself. Sport-specific skills practiced for the sport are as specific as one can get.
Take Ice Hockey, for example: there are no exercises that can be performed in the weight room that are more specific to hockey than skating on the ice. The same is true for shooting the puck. However, while there are sport-specific skills necessary for each sport, there are also physical skills necessary for each sport. Sports preparation is necessary for the sport-specific skills (shooting a basketball, pitching a baseball, etc.) and physical preparation is needed for specific performance enhancement such as foot speed, strength, power, etc.
Training Specificity: Metabolic Conditioning
One area where a strength and conditioning coach can get very sport-specific is metabolic conditioning or energy system training. Here, the coach can train the athlete to be conditioned not only specifically to his/her sport but also to his/her specific position, based on the specific energy systems used during the sporting event. Conditioning can be designed to train the muscle tissues and anaerobic or aerobic energy systems specifically for the time frame (shifts, play drives, etc) of the athlete’s sport. A good strength coach will always have his team(s) fully prepared for their next season.
Training Specificity: Injury Risk Reduction
Another area where the performance enhancement program can be very sport-specific is in the area of injury risk prevention. Statistics about the most prevalent injuries for a particular sport, position, gender, and age group can be used to specifically address areas that are most susceptible to injury in that sport. The strength and conditioning coach can then design effective programs for reducing the risk of athletes getting injured from non-contact related injuries.
Sport-Specific Training: Balanced Programs
There are mixed opinions among strength and conditioning coaches about designing “sport-specific training programs”. I think that there needs to be a balance between the general and specific exercises, and the athlete must first develop the proper foundation with performance fundamentals. Some coaches suggest that athlete’s should be trained to be stronger and more explosive, with no regard to specificity, while other suggest that general strength and power needs some specificity in the weight room to best carryover to the sport.
Again, I think there needs to be a balance between sport-specific training and athlete specific training. Each athlete should be training to get stronger and more explosive and this new strength and power needs to be trained to be applied to his/her sport. I don’t think that heavy back squats, box squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are the end-all, nor do I think that totally functional bodyweight movements are the end-all. I think there needs to be a delicate balance specific to the sport, the individual, and the time of year. It doesn’t matter if an athlete can squat 1000lbs if he can’t use that strength to his advantage in his sport, or better yet, if he can’t do 90 bodyweight squat in 90 seconds, or his vertical jump is less than 20″. All strength and functionality needs to be relative to his/her sport.
It Shouldn’t Be All Sport-Specfic Training
A successful program needs to be designed with this balance and the goal in mind. A program that is too general will not properly prepare the athlete, and a program that is too specific (or attempts to be too specific) will also not properly prepare the athlete (an additionally runs the risk of overtraining certain movement patterns which increases the risk of injury). If you are not doing a balanced program, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing. If you need help, find a strength coach that believes in using balanced programs to achieve the best results.