The term “sport-specific training” has been thrown around A LOT over the years. While the idea in concept makes sense, many top fitness professionals have gone on the record saying this type of training can be bad for the athlete (due to muscular imbalances, negative effect on movement quality, injury, etc.). In their opinion (and ours) we simply need to improve movement, strength, and power and MOST of the sport-specific work should take place when practicing specific skills for the athlete’s given sport. While this can and will be debated for years to come, it IS fair to say that matching the right intensity and volume of conditioning work to a sport is critical for athletes to be successful. This statement is pretty hard to argue. Dr. Stearne, a colleague of ours who teaches in the Exercise Science Department at West Chester University, calls this concept metabolic matching. Metabolic matching is exactly what it sounds like… matching the metabolic demands of a sport with the appropriate intensity and duration of training.
Being from the Philadelphia an easy way to approach this topic is talking Philadelphia Eagles Football. While at the moment there is a lot of controversy surrounding the Eagles personnel moves we’ll focus on the strength and conditioning and leave the other “stuff” for another day. When Coach Chip Kelly came to town there was a huge shift in the way the Eagles ran its offense. Former coach, Andy Reid, used a traditional offensive scheme that used nearly the entire play clock (40 seconds) between plays… some would argue even longer given his reputation as a poor clock manager. Chip Kelly’s approach is quite different — his goal is to run as many plays as possible during the course of the game. Due to Chip’s offensive philosophy, his team uses the least amount of time between plays in the entire NFL, roughly 20 seconds between plays. Now we are not NFL Strength and Conditioning coaches, but you can guarantee there had to be a change in how the team prepared for the season in regards to their anaerobic conditioning. This situation is one of the nuances of metabolic matching. The training must fit the goal. Even though the sport is the same, the way in which the coach runs their team is very different. If Chip’s players trained like they were still running an Andy Reid Offense, they would be much less likely to be able to keep up with the pace. Since there can be such significant variability in each sport based upon coaching philosophy it’s important to get as much information from your athletes as possible. For example, if working with a basketball player you need to know if is the coach running a “grinding” offense, traditional offense, or a fast break style. Does the coach like to do mass substitutions so the players are fresh so they can press the opposing offense? If you really dig deep you’ll be able to program just the right work to rest ratios, volume, and intensity.
Our discussion on Andy versus Chip highlights the importance of strength coaches and trainers understanding the demands of the athlete’s sports, position, AND their coach’s philosophy. It’s so so so critical to develop an understanding of the coach’s philosophy because this will give the fitness professional the insight they need to program… in other words create a metabolic match. For more specific information on metabolic conditioning, kettlebell training, or other fitness topics consider attending one of our upcoming seminars.