Transfer of Training
Sport specific training is a very hot topic today. You can google your sport or your goal and immediately get many options that promise to make you better at your sport. For the athlete who hasn’t done much strength and conditioning work, most of them work, for at least a short period of time. As long as you are doing some kind of strength and conditioning you will show some kind of progress in your sport. However as your fitness increases you need to better prioritize your training to help you get the most out of your time away from your sport. This isn’t necessarily sport specific training but rather training that specifically targets where you will see the most carryover, not just in your sport but your physicality in general. For us this is a true transfer of training.
Just as athletes come to our gym with specific training goals in mind, we also have specific goals for our athletes. Our goals are based on the physical characteristics that we see the most carryover outside the gym. These goals are the mastery of what we consider basic movement and strength skills that our athletes will get the most out of. For example if a distance runner comes in our gym and wants to be a faster runner but can’t do a bodyweight squat without falling down, we don’t have them run. They already run and they do that in their sport. We simply have them get stronger.
In our experience the single biggest transfer of training we see is simply by getting our athletes stronger. Due to this we are a strength training gym. We don’t always lift heavy weights, but no matter what part of a cycle we are in or what we are doing we always doing some form of strength training or loaded work.
The backbone of our programming and training philosophy is structured on providing our athletes with the largest foundation of base fitness to build on. This is not a process that happens overnight. It takes work, time and dedication to build an athlete’s base fitness. We build an athlete’s base fitness by both improving their strengths and eliminating their weaknesses. We do both of these things by building a basic 12-16 week cycle. Our first goal of this cycle is to increase strength. Strength not only comes first but it will remain the only constant for the entire cycle. We do this simply because improving an athlete’s strength is the single best thing we can do for them for the limited time we have with them in the gym. Strength training has the highest carryover. Even though it takes the longest to improve, it also takes the longest to lose. We see more carryover with even a minimal increase in strength than anything else we do in the gym. It makes our athletes more confident, improves power and stamina. It also makes them increasingly durable, which prevents injury.
Strength training also gives them something they can take with them. By that I mean that when an athlete is training in the gym they are always being coached. By being coached we are eliminating unnecessary mistakes. Reducing risk of injury and basically teaching an athlete the correct way to do a movement. We are also imparting knowledge. Everything we’ve learned about doing an exercise right and doing an exercise wrong. Almost every time an athlete replicates this movement it’s with a coach watching and correcting. The combination of proper movement, drills to perfect movement, and improved strength means that after time an athlete leaves the gym performing that movement to the best of their ability. So there truly are no wasted reps. This also means that when the athlete leaves our gym we have given them the knowledge to continue to perform the exercise correctly even if there isn’t a watchful eye on them.
Think about that for a second. That means that almost every time an athlete is doing a simple movement they are getting a correction or a drill on how to do it better. By acting on that correction and perfecting that movement they are practicing perfection. This would be akin to having a running coach run next to you every time you ran to correct gait or breathing. There is a huge amount of carryover in this. Both through simple repetition and because the athlete is getting stronger and more confident in these movements.
Due to the nature of Work Capacity, Stamina and Endurance cycles we don’t have these same opportunities to correct movement. We can offer coaching pointers and adjust weight, but due to the desired goals of these cycles, keeping the heart rate in a certain range, it works against the goal to pull the athlete from the movement and “coach” them. So as technique or form deteriorate we are forced to drop weight or change the movement. However when the athlete goes into these cycles with a foundation of correct reps and coaching points from the strength cycles they are able to correct poor movement on the fly without intensely detailed instruction.
This is important for several reasons.
First and foremost it keeps our athletes safe. By hammering correct form and loading in a controlled manner, i.e. non elevated heart rate scenarios, the athlete is more likely to perform the reps correctly when they are fatigued. They are also more likely to respond to repetitive coaching points in a fatigued manner as long as they are consistent with what they are hearing during their other training sessions.
Second: A stronger athlete performs better. They are able to push a heavier weight for a longer period of time. They fatigue less and recover faster. This allows them to consistently push a higher level of fitness. This is achieved through both movement economy and increased strength.
Third: Durability or Buffer Zone. This is what we call the grey area where an athlete’s form does start to degrade or movement falls apart. This becomes inevitable with intensity and duration. The buffer zone is the range that an athlete can still perform the movement without risk of injury. Weakness and poor movement directly affect the buffer zone, making it a smaller range and increasingly the likeliheood that the athlete is going to hurt himself because he’s tired and getting a little sloppy. The stronger and more efficient the athlete the larger the buffer zone is and the less likely that athlete will become overly fatigued or injured. While this is important during high intensity workouts in the gym. It becomes really important during outside gym activities. Long distance running or rucking, even something as simple as yard work. Basically any repetitive movement activity that has the potential for injury.
Fourth: Confidence. Nothing makes or breaks an athlete like fear. The more comfortable an athlete is with a movement or a load the less afraid of it they are. Ultimately fear of lifting heavy weight limits us as athletes. So as our newer athletes get more confident moving heavy weight they take control of their fear. This has direct carryover into every other part of their training. If an athlete starts and they are afraid of a 12kg kettlebell and can barely swing it, and 6 months later they can swing a 20kg kettlebell. Yes they have gotten stronger, but they are also more confident in their abilities so they are doing more work simply because they are more confident in their ability to do more work.
It takes time to build a base level of fitness and this level of fitness will vary depending on the athlete, the demands of their sport, and the amount of time they can devote to it. This will always be a struggle our athletes have coming into the gym. Just like learning a skill set, building fitness is lifetime pursuit. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be. It’s an investment, and the more dedicated you are to making the right investment in your training the more carryover you will see in your sport and in life.