Book Review: Bondarchuk’s Transfer of Training in Sports
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“We will free ourselves from naive and abstract types of conclusions: as for example, to throw the hammer such and such distance it is necessary to do the barbell squat a certain number of time, the power clean a certain number of times and so on. The time of primitiveness has already passed and the time has come to look at the problem all the more seriously.”
-Anatoliy Bondarchuk in “Transfer of Training in Sports,” available from the HMMR Media Store
The quote above may sound like the beginning of a throwing manifesto, but instead it is part of the simple conclusion in my coach’s 2007 book Transfer of Training in Sports. Besides the occasional article in obscure journals, little of substance has been published by or about coach Bondarchuk in English. He has a wealth of knowledge that guided him, and many of his athletes, to gold medals and world records in the throwing events. Since moving to Canada in 2005, throwers across North America have gradually started to learn more about his coaching methodology. He has spoken at clinics across North America and published two books in recent years. If you been following my site, you’ll know I also have been writing about his philosophies, but I don’t have the space or time to really do it justice. Since Bondarchuk’s second book was just published last month, I figured it would be a good time to review both of his new books. This post discusses his first new book, as translated by Dr. Michael Yessis. I’ll review his second book next week.
The intent of Transfer of Training is to familiarize readers with the research that underlies Bondarchuk’s training methodology. As the title suggests, his training programs focus on something called “transfer of training.” As he defines it in the first section of the books, a positive transfer of training is where an increase in results in one exercise leads to an increase in results in another exercise. There can also neutral and negative transfers, where an increase in one exercise leads to a decrease or no change in another exercise.
All coaches utilize “transfer of training”, whether they are familiar of the term or not. When constructing a training program, a coach must decide which exercises to use and which exercises to leave out. That decision always comes down to what the coach thinks will help the athlete throw farther or run faster or jump higher. Sometimes the decision is based on science, sometimes it is based on intuition, and sometimes it is based on experience. Either way, the coach wants to choose the exercises that transfer the best to the competitive movement. In this book, Bondarchuk provides the data he uses to make his decisions compiled from years as the Soviet national coach overseeing thousands of track and field athletes.
In the first section, Bondarchuk lays out the model results in general exercises for all the track and field events. In the second section he looks deeper into the transfer of training and shares the correlations different exercises have to the competitive movement. For instance, he shows the correlation between different weight room exercises and competitive results in the hammer throw for each level of hammer throwers. He also shows light and heavy hammers correlate to the competition weight hammer. I’ve talked about how he applies this data to training in previous posts found here and here. He does this for every track and field event and the information is invaluable for a stat nut like me.
In the final section, Bondarchuk discusses the transfer of motor skills. This is often an overlooked part of training. In addition to transferring strength, athletes must also transfer technique. For instance, Bondarchuk’s research has found that when an athlete breaks the throw down into parts to work on technique, the training does not transfer over as well to the full throw. In addition, throws with maximum effort transfer over better than easy throws to competitive results, although intense throws lead to fatigue and other downsides. Bondarchuk covers warmups, training frequency, and many other topics in this final section and all have interesting results that I find the most useful of the book.
What I Liked and Didn’t Like
As the quote above illustrates, Bondarchuk’s theories are different than most coaches. More than anything, this book shows why that is so and how his mind works. Bondarchuk focuses more on technique and specific strength since that transfers over well to the throw. He spends less time on general strength and has found that traditional concepts, such as building a “base” in fall training, only help improve results at the beginner and intermediate levels.
This book does a great job of laying out the data and research that Bondarchuk has compiled over the years to reach that conclusion. But that’s it. This book is not an attempt to provide coaches with cookie cutter training plans or discuss the biomechanics of throwing technique. While I would like to read a book on that topic, Bondarchuk first needs to lay the foundation with this book. Rather than telling you what to do, this book will instead open your eyes with useful data that you can incorporate into your training. Volume 2, which I will review next week, builds upon the research in this book to discuss periodization and other topics. The only downside of this book is that the dense translation took a couple of readings for a liberal arts major like myself to understand. But anyone can understand the numerous tables and charts included in the book, and that information makes this book a must have for the open-minded track and field coach.
I found it very interesting and resourceful. Many of his concepts have found their way into my training as I start my 2nd hammer “career”. Looking forward to getting volume 2.
Hasn’t it been demonstrated over and over that skills simply do not transfer?
I’m not sure what skills you are referring to and what studies you are talking about. Could you provide a little more info? If you are referring to skills not transferring from one weight implement to another, then I think you are wrong. The strong correlations are hard to refute…pick up the book and his evidence is right there. Hammer throwing is not just a “skill”, but a combination of technique and strength. Shooting pool is a skill; the hammer throw is an event. Throwing different hammers helps build up the strength required to throw far while still working on technique.
Anecdotal evidence is also all over. How many elite throwers do you know that only throw the 16-pound hammer? None. If you just want to throw the 16-pound hammer, more power to you, but you’ll likely plateau because you need to occasionally change your training to make progress.
Bit late coming to this, but could John, 28th April 2010, be meaning ‘drills’ not skills. See my article on drills on the UK hammer circle web site