Why ‘sports specific’ training shouldn’t have a place in the gym

Working within an area where improving physical and athletic performance is key, we frequently get asked ‘how does this relate to my sport?’ (Among a number of other similar variations).

This is a question that also comes frequently from parents, who are ultimately asking ‘when will you start doing *insert sport here* specific training?’ – Often followed with – ‘because I saw Lebron doing *insert weird exercise* on YouTube’.

Most are referring to fancy exercises performed with bands or on unstable surfaces, while replicating a specific movement that occurs often within their chosen sport.


But I’ll give you a little hint: This is not sport specific training


Those in competition get the opportunity to improve and develop sport specific skills during skill based training. For most, this is the training they undertake multiple times per week on the court (or field), where they practice structures, skills, and competitive work.


This is sport specific training.


In fact, trying to replicate these skills under load can alter movement mechanics and loading patterns, which may actually be to the athlete’s detriment. A fine example of this would be training throwing movements under heavy load (in a poor attempt to improve ‘throwing strength’) compared to throwing using a normal match ball – I would expect to see vast differences in movement mechanics between the two, and as such training one could actually impair the development of the other.

As a result, athletes do not need to undertake ‘sport specific’ training in the gym.


(I can guarantee that this ‘sport specific training’ is not doing ANYTHING of value)

So what is the role of gym based training?

The role of gym based training is to develop the physical qualities that underpin successful performance – and as such there is no need to try and replicate sport specific movements in the gym.

In short, this means developing muscular strength and power using large compound movements, performed in both the frontal and sagittal planes. In doing so, we can greatly improve our ability to accelerate, jump, and change direction rapidly – all of which are integral to successful sport performance.

Throw in bit of core work and you have a well-rounded program that will contribute to vast improvements in physical performance.

While it may not be fancy, and won’t get a heap of views on YouTube, I can guarantee that it will work.

As a strength and conditioning professional, it is important to understand your individual role in improving performance. Skill based and sport specific training is best left on the field – where it is our role to improve an individual’s physical capacity for performance.


For those athletes out there, this is where we come in!


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