In part 1 we covered how performance is made out of many aspects and every one of those is a small part of the whole. What does this tell us? Well, it’s kind of important to think about that for a second when deciding what to focus on during physical training. When considering all of those aspects that you should be training, the ones that are most specific to the sport (contextual, integrated etc.) are the ones that yield the highest potential for transfer. So, that is what we should focus on, right? Make sure to that drills provide context and that all different factors are integrated, there is no strength without coordination and context! I would again say, not so fast.
What if you are already doing plenty of that and then some during sports practice? Should you then still do more during physical training? I think this is a critical question to ask. When we consider there are many, many factors that influence performance and we know that some are being addressed (in abundance) during sports training, should we spend even more time on those during physical training? Or should we invest time on what is not addressed: general quality, function and resilience of the tissue that needs to be able to do the work? Daniel Back did a great post on this recently, showing that when the specific bucket is already full, your best bet is probably to fill the holes that are not being addressed: general physical development. I would say that taking a big picture view here is looking at what are the holes that are left by sport’s practice and trying to fill those up. When you are doing nothing, you will get the most improvement from practicing the specific skill. When you are already doing plenty of that, doing more can be detrimental in terms of overuse injuries. When you are already doing a lot, most good often comes from that which you are doing the least. Fill in the holes that are left unfilled in your specific situation while being careful to not cause overuse injuries, which in team sports usually comes down to general physical development.
The main takeaway here is that correlations don’t really tell you that much when there are so many factors at play, so we can’t be that quick to conclude that something has little value when there is no direct correlation with the main movement. Specifically, the more elite you are the more aspects of the movement probably need to be perfected, of which general strength is one, but only one of many. It is important to note that tactical and technical execution are king in sport’s mastery, without those your general qualities don’t matter. However, when those are not lacking, general qualities can add plenty gas and resilience.
Having said all that, there are multiple studies showing the benefits of general training means (either through correlation or RCTs) for throwing in elite athletes (see below this article). How can that be when it’s so different in terms of coordination? I could think of plenty potential reasons:
- Developing output potential of structures that contribute to execution of the skill through greater muscle cross sectional area, higher motor unit recruitment or higher rate coding
- Increasing loading capacity/resilience of structures that contribute to execution of the skill, potentially allowing for a higher quality and quantity of specific work
- Increasing total body/segment mass which can create a stronger whip effect (see here)
I would like to clarify that I’m not saying that you should only do either whole sport’s practice or general strength training, of course there is a gap in between. I am also not saying that general strength training is the most important part of the process and is the only thing we need to do, definitely not. Due to the large number of factors and the complex interplay of those factors with each other, you can’t state that a certain training method will work for everyone or even that it will keep working for the same athlete. It depends on a lot of those other factors. My main point is that you can’t judge everything solely based on direct correlations or if it meets certain coordination/motor transfer criteria, especially in team sports. Doing so would be, wait for it, reductionist.