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The Misconceptions and Flaws of Sport Specific Sports Training

By Mark Wine CSCS – B.A.

Society’s craving for athletic performance training has changed with the rise of direct marketing platforms (I.E., social media). As more and more athletes seek out the aid of quality performance coaches to help enhance their skills, the industry has seen a boom. The ease of availability in reaching additional coaches, athletes and parents through social media has created a shift in what is falsely considered as a more “functional” form of performance training. 

The purpose of this article is to briefly explain how making up movements to look exactly like a professional athlete is inherently flawed; furthermore, I will briefly highlight the importance of more “traditional” forms of training, which are functional. My brief analysis will highlight three major factors: 1. I will analyze the sport by the muscle required to perform it, rather than identical “sport-specific” patterns. 2. I will introduce an understanding of how overuse can be accelerated by this new age “sport-specific” model; and 3. Knowing how to implement and program is not cultured by merely learning exercises from YouTube, Instagram, E-Books, Facebook or Twitter.

1. Sport Analysis

As coaches, we must analyze the characteristics of the sport from a metabolic and physiological perspective. Here are a few questions that go into my breakdown:

1. Is the sport classified as a loaded or unloaded sport?

2. What joints are the most susceptible to load and impact?

3. What and how so are muscle groups mainly used? 

4. What kind of thresholds need to be met?

5. How does one categorize the energy systems?

6. What do the performance enhancements result from?

7. What are the Range-of-Motion (ROM) requirements?

8. How can we train to avoid overuse injuries?

As we do our analysis, we discover what is vital for each athlete to be able to train. However, before beginning sport-specific training, we must first evaluate the athlete to determine their training level.

2. Train the athlete first and the sport second

One of the biggest things to understand is that overall athletic performance is extremely important. Joint stabilization, powerful hip extension, core, hip mobility, postural strength and a healthy understanding of nutritional requirements are focus areas for both regular people and athletes. The body must be taken care of prior to engaging in sport-specific training. 

Once an athlete has reached an age to begin more sport tailored training, the sport analysis should guide you. Certain exercises and movement patterns are universal across all sport arenas; examples are Olympic lifts, squats, pull-ups, deadlifts, etc… These movements can be programmed into all sports while factoring in sport-specific characteristics.

3. Go beyond the exercise

A major portion of successful performance training is not merely understanding exercises but developing their purpose for implementation; knowing the requirements from a mobility and muscular standpoint while being able to factor in the metabolic requirements. 

Point three is where most ex-athletes now turned performance coaches go wrong. Having a base education platform, which is rooted in what that individual has done in their playing career (performance-wise), is simply not enough to begin training athletes. For these ex-athlete-coaches, they must dive deeper into the Strength & Conditioning field to better understand training age, volume fluctuations, muscular activations, progressions and mechanical drive components.

From a business and coach standpoint, I understand the marketability of high-level “cool” looking exercises. They get tons of likes and make athletes and parents want to train with you. Marketing these exercises by saying “train like the pros” or “train like this athlete” neglects the training age of the athlete and their specific limiters. Instead, we should be showcasing multiple movements while training all athletes to their level, advancing them from there. Teach first, advance second, perform third. Each athlete is untapped potential that needs to be cultivated in their own unique way.


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