The Role of Specific Strength Exercises in Team Sports

A question that comes up nearly every time I present on specific strength exercises is whether such work in the weight room is really necessary for team sports. Athletes from these sports spend large quantities of time on the field and little time training off of it. As a result many strength coaches feel a need to balance out their training and focus only on general exercises once the athletes enter the weight room. I must admit, it is a great question. In fact, I’ve been pondering it for a few months now.


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3 replies
  1. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Fantastic post Martin! Your point about on-field training is on the money for me; this is where “specificity” is found, not in the weightroom. If I were to apply the Bondarchuk exercise classification to my own sport (soccer) it would look something like:

    CE: Soccer
    SD: Small-sided games / drills with the ball where there are constraints but retain an “open” environment with high tactical/cognitive demand
    SP: Small-sided games / drills with a closed environment and/or less tactical/cognitive demand (e.g. a crossing & finishing drill requiring repeat sprints)
    G: Everything else

    As you rightly point out, this doesn’t mean the “general” is not important, and in fact it can be the most important element in team sports to promote robustness and keep players on the field to do the “specific” work. The challenge then becomes using that general training efficiently and in a manner that doesn’t overlap with, or compromise, the specific on-field work.

    Thanks again for a great post!!

  2. Henk Kraaijenhof
    Henk Kraaijenhof says:

    Martin, thanks for your excellent post! I would like to add a few words for thought. 1. when one enters a weightroom, forget “specific” unless you are weightlifter, powerlifter or bodybuilder. I know of an Olympic champion who has spent only 1% of his training time doing specific exercises and 99% doing general exercises. 2. the level of transfer might depend on the level of a specific athlete, at a lower level of performance a wider range of exercises can be used to induce improvement. While the same exercise might not bring an improvement for the same athlete at the elite level. Most of the time over the career of an athlete we see an increase in the percentage of specific exercises and a decrease in the percentage of general exercises. my opinion there are individual differences in transfer: while an exercise might transfer fast and easy in one athlete, the same exercise might not have the same level of transfer for another athlete

    • Martin Bingisser
      Martin Bingisser says:

      Agreed, agreed, and agreed. On the new GAINcast episode coming out Thursday Vern Gambetta and I continue to discuss this topic and land right on these points. The search for transfer is the search for the target. What most people don’t realize is that is is a constantly moving target that is different for each individual at each moment in time.


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