Functional Training and Sport Specific Training – Overrated?


Anyone starting to get tired of preaching on the need to be sport specific or why things are not functional? I would argue that sport specific training and functional training craze in the 1990s have cause the most problems. I am a big fan of Vern’s effort to push single leg training and get away from machines, but some stuff I have seen is just silly. Gary Gray DB Matrix was not very popular at the 2000 NSCA conference because doing multiplanar lunges with dumbbells measured in ounces is just not going to reduce forces that overload the ACL. Athletes are playing more and more games, so simulating the sport is just weighted pattern overload. General works. General is hard for people to see connections, as if it looks like the sport it must work right? The reality is nobody wants to admit that training is sometimes a little too vanilla. It’s much more fun talk about rib cages then to ensure athletes who are overweight get light conditioning to address body composition.

When Frans Bosch talked about the technique of Powell and pushed his exercises as the solution, many people in the audience asked if Powell got there by the drills and exercises Frans talked about. If the Dutch were producing other sprinters besides Henk’s athletes, I would be experimenting more. I don’t care who endorses what, evidence is proof in the pudding. So what to do differently? I think the key is to keep it vanilla and straightforward. No need to be cool, just do the most obvious like if the athletes are weak, try lifting weights. Start with sandbags and lunge like activities and keep driving force production. Contractile strength supports the brain, so if you are not strong enough to do what your mind says, get stronger. Functional legs is just making sure the foot hits the ground and the the exercises are multi-joint. Let’s not complicate with matrix stuff or get talking about synchronization. If it’s not measurable it’s opinion or guess work. When measurement is attacked, think Galileo and science being vehemently suspect of heresy because he was being logical and following smart science. We often want to believe something is happening because it suits our feelings.

Sport Specific and Functional rehab should be the focus. Many sports have unique demands that are enough for people in the medical field to support such as pitchers in baseball or running backs in football. Soccer hamstring injuries are often do to lack of lifting, so while it’s good to do gait analysis or nordics, perhaps we should get a attendance log beyond Bosu Balls and TRX stuff. Are you doing leg training? If so how is it creating more power? What has the athlete done over the last three years to get better? Are we buying time and looking busy or driving development? Lots to think about.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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