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by Thomas Kurz
Athletes of different sports can’t develop sport-specific strength using the same strength exercises regardless of sport. (For a definition of sport-specific strength please refer to Science of Sports Training: How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance.)
Strength exercises cause morphological changes that occur mainly in muscles, including increases in the amount of muscle glycogen, the number of mitochondria, the number of capillaries, the size of muscle fibers, the structure of connective tissue, and the density of bones associated with the exercised muscles. Strength exercises also cause functional changes that occur mainly in the nervous system.
You need sport-specific exercises because both the morphological and functional changes caused by strength exercises are specific for each type of exercise. Only beginners can use one type of exercise to cause improvement in all forms of strength.
Strength training for each sport is different. The repertoire of exercises, the type and amount of resistance, the number of repetitions and sets, the frequency of workouts in a week all differ depending on the objectives of the training. Strength training of weightlifters has different objectives than that of wrestlers, track and field jumpers, or karateka.
Jumpers do their sport-specific strength exercises differently than weightlifters, and wrestlers do theirs differently yet. If athletes of different sports did the same strength training with the same exercises, the same percentages of their 1RM (repetition maximum), and so on, they would all develop the same type of strength. If wrestlers were using a weightlifters’ program, they would end up with insufficient muscle endurance of short and medium duration (up to 5 minutes). If high jumpers were using it, they would lack take-off power (even though weightlifters can jump high with both legs) and lose some flexibility of the lower back.
Sports skills are not practiced independently of strength training. Sport-specific strength training includes skill practice because sport-specific strength exercises are skill exercises. For example, judoka must learn the skill of applying force both explosively and continuously, meaning that although the pull during a throw must be explosive, it cannot be jerky and its force must increase until the end of the throw. All this takes a split second and requires a specialized form of strength that is different from that of jumpers or boxers. These various types of strength are developed by sport-specific strength exercises that are also skill drills.
This article is based on the book Science of Sports Training: How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance. Get the book now and have all of the info—not just the crumbs! Order now!
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum