The Importance of Sports Specific Training

Sports Specific Training Everyone’s bodies are completely different and what works for you may not work for someone else. Everyone has a different body type, with different strengths and weaknesses and participate in different sports. So why does everyone follow the same generic workout plan that fitness magazines say will give you ’18 inch arms in 2 weeks’, or ‘a six pack in 6 weeks’. Not only is this highly unrealistic but very generic and most probably not suit your needs. As a society we are all guilty of falling into the mindset of ‘person x is ripped and massive, so I’ll follow his exercise plan and/or diet plan’. There are numerous possibilities behind this, and again what works for him may not work for you, but as a person who plays sport your training should not be structured like this and this article will show you how to tailor your training to meet your needs and current training level. First off we need to conduct a movement analysis and physiological analysis of the sport we play. This may sound tasking, but I assure you its not. If we look at team sports they all share the same movement patterns, which are usually sprinting, jumping, changing direction, jogging and kicking/tackling. These movements all require a great deal of power and strength, which is often lacking in your average gym program which focuses upon hypertrophy. These movements are all triple extension movements (hips, knees, and ankles extending at the same time), which is not possible from using machines in the gym. Physiologically, the sports will be intermittent in nature, with periods of sprinting, running, jogging and walking. Something, which is lacking in cardio training, with the emphasis on long, plodding running around the pitch. This type of training is not realistic to the sport at all and will not enable us to increase fitness levels. Once we have highlighted our movements and physiological analysis we can begin to design our training program. Depending on the time of year our training will be different and focus on different things. During the off season we will focus upon developing our weaknesses and building up a good level of strength, size and fitness for the upcoming season, whereas during the season we will be peaking for different competitions and maintaining strength and power. Exercise selection When selecting exercises it is important that we included big compound movements that will work numerous muscles groups, which I’m sorry to say will eliminate bicep curls! We should also ensure that we include exercises that will work our body unilaterally, to develop strength and power equally and this will help to replicate real sporting movements such as jumping. Exercise selection should include: squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows; pull ups and for the advanced trainer cleans. When structuring the program we will begin with the power movements first whilst we are still fresh and not fatigued, before progressing into compound strength work and then into unilateral movements e.g. jump squats, squats, one legged squats. During each session we will focus upon between five to seven exercises. Research suggests that when developing strength and power we should perform four sessions a week, over five days, split between two upper body and two lower body days. deadliftRep ranges and weight selection For power movements the weight should be between 30-60% of our one rep max for upper body and 0-60% of our one rep max for lower body. The reps should be between 3 and 6, for 3-6 sets. Rest should be between 1-2 minutes per set. For strength based exercises we should use 80-100% of our 1 rep max for between 1-5 reps and sets depending on the percentage of our 1 rep max used, with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. Fitness work For our fitness work we need to develop a program that replicates our sport. This could be in the development of either, speed work, conditioning work or high intensity work. We need to stay clear of long, slow running, as this will not offer us the appropriate intensities or overload to increase our fitness levels. Shuttle runs, with multiple changes of directions and at different paces, working through a range of heart rate ranges will be the best for this, in order to replicate sport. The most ideal scenario for team sports is to use a small-sided game for fitness levels as this will create an unpredictable environment with a variety of different speed zones, but the shuttle runs are perfect if you cannot do this. We should work at these high levels for 5-6 minutes before having an active rest; such as walking for 2 minutes or until our heart rate is around 120 BPM. Here is an example of a pre-season weeks training for a team sport.


The most important part of designing a training plan is making it specific and appropriate to you. If you have weaknesses, improve them. This will enable you to become better for the following season, with excellent fitness levels and will allow you to just focus upon your technical and tactical side of your game. Remember to train smarter and not just follow the latest article in a magazine, without any real reason behind doing it apart from the tagline ‘get ripped in 20 days’, training is much more individualized than that. Scott Freeman