Monday, June 28, 2010

Short Term Training Tactics & Specificity in Training

In the list of building the perfect athlete I talk about strategy and tactics. Strategy is the longer term road map or plan to get you from where you are now to where you would like to be as an athlete. This includes the establishment of goals, the timing and measurement of the progress. What are your strengths and weakness as an athlete? Are there any external factors effecting your performance and how are they addressed. It answers the why of a workout on any particular day. It is the architectural training plan so that that the outcome satisfies your goal as an athlete.

The tactics are many. What particular exercises? What is the volume and intensity of a particular training methodology? Does the exercise enhance the ability to perform the particular movements required in the sport? The answer to that question revolves around the idea of Specificity of Training. At Titan, we believe that winning in sport is derived from the development of power (moving your body through space) in a fashion that suits a particular sport. This is (power x X Factor) The X factor is the amount of times or level of absolute power required to perform a task. For example: Swinging a baseball bat is a much different X factor than throwing a punch for a boxer. The boxer has to produce a smaller amount of power numerous times in a fight than the hitter of a baseball. The mechanical requirements and metabolic requirements are much different and the training must be adjusted to accommodate the different requirements of the different sports.

This accommodation and differences in the trainings is defined as Specificity of Training. This accommodation ties directly into the concept of correlation and training that I discussed in a previous post. The focus of the training should be on exercises that modify the body’s complex neuromuscular systems to overcoming movements that apply directly to the particular sport.

This requires the analysis of a particular sports movement pattern. Looking at baseball again, the training must evaluate the movement patterns of hitting, throwing, and running bases. What are the biomechanical adaptations necessary? What type of movement pattern? What is the type of muscle contractions necessary? What are the metabolic requirements of the baseball? These requirements are just a small list with many more factors to be considered and addressed when training a baseball player.

So you get the idea of specificity. This is not to be confused with simulation. Many strength and conditioning programs are developed to try to simulate the sport and just add a level of resistance to the movements. This can be helpful in certain movements, however if done without foresight the training can actually confuse the neuromuscular patterns that have been developed and therefore result in a diminishment of sport performance especially of a very high level athlete. Simulating the sport with resistance does not take into account all the physics of movement like center of gravity, inertia etc., so be thoughtful and understand the difference between simulation and specificity.

Think about the X factor of your sport and train in a way that addresses the specific needs and requirements of that particular sport. Your tactics should be adjusted so that it addresses the specific requirements of the movements and metabolic requirements of your sport.

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail.


Friday, June 11, 2010


If one looks at our website you will see a video with one of our athletes doing jumping squats on a machine with a computer screen. This is an isokinetic machine which we call the Vert machine. We have utilized isokinetic machines in our training since our inception almost 8 years ago. There are a number of advantages that these machines provide in the development of power in an athlete. The machine that you see is multipurpose and can be used for both upper body exercises as well as lower body exercises.

Isokinetic machines have been around for some time and the resistance overcome in an exercise is a function of the force applied. In other words the faster you move the greater the amount of resistance the machine provides. The machine also measures the velocity of a movement and the force production of each individual repetition. It also allows us to have a ton of additional data to evaluate our entire training protocol to ensure that the athlete is progressing at the optimum pace.

There are a number of advantages to utilizing isokinetic training in sport.
• This method of training forces the muscles to work with maximal effort all the time and renders a larger, faster increase in strength. This accommodates the athlete’s capabilities throughout the range of motion. This training also lowers the risk of injury dramatically when training for power. (James Counsilman 1971,1972)
• In my previous post I spoke about overload and adaptation. Small incremental overloads on a regular basis increase the body’s ability to perform a particular movement with greater levels of performance. I indicated in earlier posts that the biggest enemy of an athlete is time. There is only so much time to devote to training, so wasted time carries a substantial cost to the career and performance of an athlete. In most instances when athletes have adaptations to particular training the strength and conditioning coach is unaware of these changes until time has passed and the athlete tells the trainer that the exercise regimen is too easy and is no longer overloading the athlete. The isokinetic machine eliminates the cost of lost time. The minute the athlete starts the exercise the machine recognizes the increase in performance and increases the overload immediately. There is no delay!!
• Isokinetic equipment eliminates training in “no man’s land” No man’s land training is the rut that most good athletes fall into. The training is too hard for recovery and not hard enough for an overload. The athlete is taxed and tired but is not improving performance. This is where a lot of good athletes stop progressing. They dig themselves into a hole, working harder and harder but see no improvement in performance. The isokinetic equipment provides us with data to see the force production, velocity, time to peak force, and a ton of other data that allow the trainer to see if the athlete is not training at optimal levels to elicit performance improvement.

At Titan we have utilized isokinetic training for a wide spectrum of athletes. If power is a necessary component of a sport, we have developed methods that are of great impact on the production of power.

One of the most interesting areas we have spent great time on is Maximum Sustained Power. (MSD) Most coaches are very focused on absolute power. Absolute power would be displayed when a volleyball player tests there vertical jump. A 40+ inch vertical jump would be very important to a volleyball player in a game. However, what wins a tournament is the ability to jump close to 40 inches in the last game of a tournament. Most athletes will train for absolute power to get their vertical jump as high as possible. Then they do endurance training separately. At Titan we have developed innovative training to not only maximize the absolute power of one jump, but to allow the athlete to produce maximum or close to maximum power for hundreds of jumps with the use of the isokinetic equipment. An absolute jump is great, but being able to continue to produce that type of power over a long period of time is what wins games.

This idea of maximum sustained power applies to all sports just at different levels of output. When organizing your training think about your ability to produce power not just once but for a sustained period of time.

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail.