Reverse Transfer of Training

Primoz Kozmus executing a snatch and a hammer release. Other than the rotational element and hand width, the positions are quite similar.Ever since Bondarchuk published the English translation of his two-volume work several years ago, “transfer of training” has become a buzz word in the physical preparation community. The concept itself is quite simple: exercises are of varying usefulness depending on how much the gains in one exercise transfer to the gains in the competitive exercise. We want to use the exercises with a positive transfer, i.e. exercises that will help us throw further as we improve in them. Exercises that have no effect on the throwing, or that hurt results, have either a neutral or negative transfer of training.

The best way we have to measure the amount of transfer comes from correlations. But correlations just show if two exercises rise and fall together; they do not show the actual casual link between the two exercises or which direction it flows. For example, let’s say that a thrower sees a simultaneous increase in hammer throw results and front squat performance. We all would likely infer that front squats are improving the throw. But it could also be the opposite: the throw might be helping the squat. I call this a reverse transfer of training. The transfer of training effect operates the same no matter what direction it is going, but in these cases the direction is simply the opposite of what was intended.

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16 replies
  1. diskus
    diskus says:

    As you say just because there is correlation don’t assume causality. The interesting thing would have been to measure you snatch performance in month two or three of your light lifting period at the end of the season. Another aspect you may want to consider is weather your training load toward the end of last season was designed in a manner to allow you to reach a true peak performance, It sounds like it may not have and your top capacity for performance may have likely occurred sometime later

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      That definitely would have been interesting. We normally do not do lifting tests (the ones I do are like this one…I am just curious and throw on some extra weight…it is never called for in the program). That is one downside of the approach.

      I may be in better form for lifting or throwing heavy implements now, but in September I was definitely at a peak with the competition hammer. If I had performed better or could find a few more meets I would have reached a PR. I’m not in PR shape now.

  2. Lance Neubauer
    Lance Neubauer says:

    Martin, I’m curious what training were doing with the kettlbell? Are you taking “pud” throwing or were you doing actual lifting with the kettlebells – swings, cleans, snatches, presses, get-up’s, etc. what kind of volume, what weight bells? Different correlation, different subject, I find as I’m getting older, when I’m swinging kettlebells and doing other dynamic training, I’m able to maintain overall strength without the load, intensity or volume I’m accustom to.

  3. diskus
    diskus says:

    Martin here is a key statement you made “or could find a few more meets”.
    based on your general strength performance seemingly having a long duration at a high level. I was surmising that you may have performed better in competition in the weeks following your season completion. Of course this is just a guess on my part. The clues are your duration for maintaining weightlifting performance regardless of whether it is an emphasis, and the fact you seem to feel you unperformed which implies motor functioning not at peak levels. Biggest clue is it is very common among athletes of all levels. LOL of course Im just pulling at straws here

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Definitely, and I actually wanted to continue my season for a few more weeks but there just weren’t any good meets left at the end of the season. The one I found was literally held in the dark and the rest were not until October which would have been hard to hold my form that long.

  4. Eric G
    Eric G says:

    I’ve recently purchased a membership on your site and really enjoy it (and find it a bargain at that price). I have an possible alternate explanation for your recent snatch record. As a former javelin thrower/ olympic lifter/ powerlifter and current strength coach I’ve seen a phenomenon in myself and hundreds of athletes (but not yet in powerlifters) that I cannot disregard or relegate to the label of coincidence. There is a cliche that “there is a child in all of us”. When you stepped off the planned path and decided to “throw on a few extras plates for fun” you awakened that phenomenom. You decided to have fun. You were not “training” anymore. Whether this resulted in a rise of key neurotransmitter (dopamine &/or epinephrine) and an enhancement of neuromuscular recruitment I can’t say for sure…but I highly suspect it. This effect can’t be staged or manipulated in any way. Additionally, I believe that the repetiton of a ballistic activity (throwing, olympic lifting, etc) above a certain threshold creates a very specific type of neuromuscular fatigue in “that” exercise. By keeping your lifting under 60% you have been below that threshold where training occured but fatigue did not accumulate. Needless to say, it is also possible that those hundreds of throws with 12.5kg prepared you directly for that record lift. The only conclusion is that you did the correct thing to ” “throw on a few extras plates for fun “.

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Glad you enjoy the membership and great theory! Like I said, I am only speculating so it could have been because of many reasons (or a combination of them).

  5. STS
    STS says:

    I love your exuberance, and your passion to learn the keys to proper training, but every time I read something you have written, I am saddened to see that you just can’t understand the human body principles of strength training and athletic performance.

    There are so many things that I could say about your article, and the mindlessness of your previous training program, but I will just say this: Continue with your idea and let’s see how long you gains continue. Either that, or listen to me and save yourself the time. Your great discovery is not what you think. That program will never again bring you the strength gains that you think you made because of it. If it does, then I don’t know what I’m talking about. That will never happen.

    Your new strength gains came from your discontinuance of your previous program. I know that it’s hard for you to imagine that your previous program was garbage, but it was. And the discontinuance of that program, that was causing you to lose strength, was the cause for you to perform new maximal lifts.

    I had a guy come into my gym one day. He sat in my office and told me that today was the first day of training in over 3 weeks. I said OK. He then told me that he just PR’d in his bench press. And I told him that makes sense to me, and that I knew why it happened. He wanted to know why. I told him that his previous training program was trash. He wanted to argue with me. I quickly stated that he just got stronger, by staying at home and laying around. You get stronger by not training. That doesn’t happen to me. You’re training program stinks.

    With the proper strength training program you will never get stronger by taking off. And, you will never get stronger by lifting lighter weights. If you think I am wrong, just do a years worth of training and log your results. I will do a years worth of strength training with heavy weights and log my results. At the end we will compare results. I will have made more gains in every category that we can test for strength or explosiveness. I will be stronger and more explosive on light weights, heavy weights, and now weights (body weight).

    You have to understand how the human body grows in order to understand how to set up a strength training program.

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I’m not sure how to reply to a troll (or even if I should), but I must. First off, I was not “taking off”, I have been training my ass off the whole time I have described. The program is garbage? Let me compare your anonymous résumé to my coach’s.

      But the main point here is that you missed the entire point of the post. My goal is not to increase my snatch. If I wanted to increase my snatch I would be doing different training. We can test and compare our results, but that’s not what I’m after. I don’t care if you can increase your bench more than I can; I don’t want to bench, I want to throw further. I think you need to learn the difference between training and strength training. Athlete’s should have training programs, not strength training programs. Training programs aim to improve performance while strength training programs simply aim to get stronger. Many strength training coaches assume their role is the key role and find it hard to accept that in most cases it is not. We need strength, but only in the context of throwing.

      I also wanted this post to show how exercises can be linked. Even if you do not train one exercise hard, you can improve by working hard in another one. Everyone accepts this principle in one direction (that’s what the whole strength training industry is built upon after all), but it works in the other way too. By refusing to admit how these two exercises can be linked you are showing an ignorance of how the human body grows.

  6. Glenn McAtee
    Glenn McAtee says:

    Martin, This is an interesting article. Keep writing, and don’t waste your time with people talking shit. Glenn


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I discussed how transfer of training and the reverse transfer of training might make us reconsider he use of hig…, I presented my point as a simple cost benefit analysis that tends to lean in one direction. I am […]

  2. […] HERE is a cool article from Martin Bingisser, a hammer thrower, on “reverse transfer of training.” Martin knows his strength training as it applies to sport! […]

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