How important is general concentric strength and power work for improving throwing speed? When you look at the coordinative aspects, these movements are very different from each other. Throwing is a highly coordinated movement with transfer of kinetic energy between the lower and upper extremity through elastic tissues, while the bench press and loaded throws are highly concentric (muscle driven) movements. However, should we care about that difference? Yes and no.
*Table from Transfer of training in sports by Bondarchuk
I think it is interesting to look at the famous Bondarchuk correlation tables and take a moment to try to understand what we see. There are a couple of trends there, one of which is that what correlates with performance early in your career, might not correlate later on. Does this mean that if you want to reach elite performance, you should not do those exercises that don’t correlate? Or does it mean that the better you get, the less likely it is that what you are training there is going to be a limiting factor?
Another one is that generally speaking, the further away you get from the main movement, the less correlation you see. So, if you want to get better at the movement, you should stay as close to the specific movement as possible, right? The Bondarchuk tables and some studies as well show that the correlation between general work and elite performance is not that high, even for a throwing movement where the projectile is relatively heavy. What does this mean for training, is there little to no value in doing general work? Not so fast. The more factors there are that determine performance, the fuzzier the correlations become. When we break down any movement in to smaller and smaller parts, the list of factors grows rapidly. By doing this, you are going further and further away from the main movement. More importantly, because the number of factors is increasing the correlations between performance in the smaller parts and performance in the large whole inherently become less and less.
Let’s illustrate that with an example from handball: Is high throwing speed beneficial for handball scoring performance? Yes, probably so. However, would you expect a strong correlation between throwing speed and handball scoring performance (let’s say number of goals scored)? You would probably not, because there are many, many more variables at play here. How is your aim? Can you jump fast and high enough to shoot over the defense? Can you use misdirection to throw off the goal keeper? Can you do that within the parameters of the offensive system of your current team? Can you do that against different defensive systems and tactics? Can you also get past your opponent when they realize they should not let you shoot and aggressively step out towards you? So, is throwing velocity important? Still probably yes, but only IF you meet the other prerequisites to get a shot off in the first place. Even these are not static, as they can very between playing styles, levels of competition and so on.
We have now covered that performance consists of many factors that all influence each other and that there is less correlation the further you fragment. Check out part 2 for practical implications and conclusion.