The idea of combining sport specific skills with physical training is nothing new. A short trip down the instagram rabbit hole will show you all manner of crazy shit.


Does this idea have merit?


Should we combine skill based training with physical training?


We think it does have merit, and that sport specific athletes with limited time could benefit from this methodology.


But, like everything else Atomic Athlete does, we have to place some sort of structure behind it. We need some guiding principles that will ensure improved performance.


Why you should do it

It’s an effective use of training time.

Time is a precious commodity for almost every athlete out there. Finding 2-5 hours per week to physically train can be challenging, add in 3 more hours of skill training and you have just picked up a part time job. One of the biggest reasons to mix a specific skill with physical training is efficiency. There is simply a higher return on investment of training time.


It’s way more fun.

The best training for improved performance is not always the most fun. And training that is not fun can very well end up not getting done. If by adding a skill to the training you can get more out of it and increase the chances that it’ll get done it’s a no brainer.


When you should do it

Skill work can be done during either aerobic capacity training or maximal strength training.


Aerobic capacity efforts are low intensity and usually focus around single mode activities (bike, run, step-ups, row, tire drag). Because the intensity is so low, and the durations at least 30 minutes long, these efforts can just be downright boring.


Traditionally we go back and forth between different modes, or add in a total body exercise, to keep things interesting. Adding in a skill every few minutes is a great way to break up a 45 minute aerobic block.


Maximal strength implies low volume (1-5 reps) and high intensity (75-95% of 1RM). With higher intensities comes longer rest periods. Traditionally we program in resilience exercises such as mobility or soft tissue work as these rest periods last 60-90 seconds. Adding in a skill during this rest period is another great way to get in additional training.


What should you do

You need to choose a specific skill that:

  • Is easily repeatable
  • Takes 5-30 seconds to execute
  • Is SAFE to do in your training environment


What skill you choose is very dependent on your sport, endeavor, or profession.


How you should do it

During Maximal Strength

When doing it during a maximal strength session it’s pretty straight forward as you have a good window of time and you don’t have to worry about a dramatic decline in heart rate. For each circuit we suggest picking a singular skill and doing 3-5 repetitions of that skill for each round completed.


5 rounds

6x Bench Press –  60 to 70% of 1 RM

90 second rest = 3x Speed Reload’s (specific to LEO / MIL / Competitive Shooter)


During Aerobic Capacity

For aerobic capacity sessions you need to maintain a certain heart rate which is why it’s important to keep the skill short (5-30 seconds). You’ll conduct a single activity such as rowing, running, or riding, then do a single skill. The shorter the aerobic portion the more reps you’ll get of the specific skill. We suggest the single mode be at least 1 minute in duration, and not exceed 5 minutes. It seems that 2-4 minutes is the ideal range for the single mode. You’ll alternate between the skill and the single mode for the prescribed duration.


30 minutes

1 minute jog around mat

Single X to X Guard to Sweep (BJJ competitor)


Final Thoughts

Overall we think this is a valuable method to use that will make training more interesting, and more efficient with the athlete’s time. Remember that the primary purpose of the session is the physical component, and that the skill is there to add value to it, not vice versa. Focus on quality reps when doing this as usually you’ll only get 10-30 reps in a singular session. Sloppy practice results in sloppy results.

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