Sport Specific Demands & Standards

According to this article, Freddie Roach is quoted as saying,

“That’s going to be Manny’s call. It’s not my call. The thing is, it will be up to Manny who he wants as he strength coach. Because the strength coach doesn’t work for me. They work for the fighter.”

In other words, Roach is Manny Pacquiao’s client, not the other way around. Roach does what he does best, and that is boxing. Whether he has an influence on how MP strength trains, it is up in the air and not for Roach to decide. However, at the minimum, there should be communication between both sport coaches and strength coaches discussing the training of the athlete(s). As an up and coming strength coach and fitness professional, a few things need to be taken into consideration when it comes down to communicating the technical aspects of the sport vs. strength and conditioning aspects of the sport.

  1. Sport specific exercises.
    -Specifically making a fighter, pitcher, or runner even, perform a similar athletic movement under load may not be the best course of action. The reasoning is that professional athletes have specific motor patterns that have allowed them to perform at such elite levels. Choosing a naturally sport specific movement and having an athlete perform it with a heavier weight will in most cases be detrimental to the athlete’s specific movement pattern.
  2. Sport specific training.
    -Generally speaking from a S&C perspective, all athletes should aim to be faster, hit harder, be stronger, and recover faster than the opposing athlete. Specifically, if an athlete has noticeable flaws in his athleticism, such as great linear movement, but when it comes to lateral movement, he or she is lacking, we want to address that flaw in training. How we address that, either through performing a movement screen to identify any movement deficiencies, creating a new phase for the strength program, or freeing up movement through soft tissue work, are all things we must consider when talking “sport specific”. Essentially, it isn’t “sport specific” anymore than it is “athlete specific” and these aspects are situational at best.
  3. Do no harm.
    -Michael Boyle, owner of MBSC and strength coach at Boston University for the hockey team (among many others) has reiterated this many times, even saying this should be the “Hippocratic Oath” of any health professional dealing with people, whether a patient, client, or athlete.
    Even if it is a given, “fitness professionals” do harm by not educating themselves on the most up to date information and techniques for their athletes. So whether it is taking out barbell work completely with overhead or contact sport athletes, or learning the intricacies of soft tissue work and who to refer out to, we should seek out to do no harm to the athlete or client. This is so important, that it comes first in Boyle’s training philosophy. When it comes specifically to boxing or MMA, long distance cardio has been used in the past to not only simulate “fighting conditions” during a match, but also to help increase an athlete’s endurance, control weight during critical times for weight classes, along with it being just traditional old school mentality of “no pain, no gain”.
    Now we can use other methods engineered through exercise science and practical experience to prevail over this long, slow, endurance mindset, as it may not be the best course of action to creating a powerful, and strong athlete. Intelligent interval work can now be used to recreate the same conditions as a 3 or 5 minute fight, and weight management should be advised by a nutritionist or dietician along with maximizing the recovery potential of said athlete.On that same note of doing no harm, we should aim at the many ways of reducing the amount of damage that is inflicted on the body, especially in high contact sports like boxing, football, and MMA-related sports. Soft tissue work, hydrotherapy, and an intelligent selection of exercises are all different methodologies that have proven track records for reducing inflammation, injuries, and increasing recovery time for athletes of all kinds.

    (Straight Bar Barbell Bench Press for an athlete that is constantly loading their wrists and shoulders with contact punches? Not the best idea, as it is not particularly pleasant for an athlete that receives mechanical jarring in their anterior capsule to bench a straight bar vs. swiss bar/dumbbell work overall.)

    In this equation, we want to make sure that our top number is less than the bottom number in order to reduce our threshold for injury. A boxing athlete will undertake immense amounts of  repetitions for punching and speed work (speed bag drills, heavy bag drills, combination drills etc.) often done at sub maximal to maximal forces. Ideally, we want to reduce this threshold by-Promoting soft tissue work to increase the relaxation time for the muscles, tendons, etc. (Inhibit)

    -Stabilizing the new mobilization (through specific exercises).

    -Along with choosing strength exercises that create enough of a stimulus without negatively stressing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

  4. Sport Coaches should collaborate with the strength coaches to create the best situation for training.
    -Communication between coaches should be enhanced. For example going from one coach’s philosophy of long distance training, to another coach of machine-based training may prove to be inefficient at properly creating a positive stimulus for the athlete’s body. If it  can be agreed that an athlete will perform movements in competition similarly to how they practice, then training in a fatigued state, going from long slow distance running  to performing an aggressive and contact oriented combination drill session along with several punching drills, may not be the best format for the boxer to perform in. As their movement patterns are degraded due to fatigue from running, down the rabbit hole goes their reactivity and central nervous system for their punching and footwork drills later in the day.Proper communication will allow all personnel involved to understand the training regimen that has been undertaken by the athlete(s), along with creating a plan that will not only reduce potential injuries or setbacks, but also promote speed, strength, and power at any time of the year, or at least the maintenance of these qualities, whether off-season or not.

Understanding the physical demands (requisite strength, energy systems training, and functional movements) of the specified sport should be among one of the top priorities of both strength coaches and technical coaches. Creating a positive environment for physical growth and development should follow, along with not causing any harm to the athlete, either through lack of information or outright damaging exercises to the specific athlete. If communication cannot be resolved between not only fighter-coach, but coach-coach, then all are at a loss, rather than just the athlete or one coach. If both strength coaches and sport coaches do not embrace these aspects, the athletes take the hit. As professionals, we need to improve our standards and increase our responsibility in letting these athletes know the best courses of action not only in strength and conditioning, but also any referrals we may consider along the way, including massage therapists, nutritionists, or technical coaches. This is opposed to taking a neutral stand on the subject and allowing the athlete to choose on his or her free will. At the end of the day, we should all be able to agree on these standards, and we should collectively aim to win, not as a coach who just happens to train an athlete.

One thought on “Sport Specific Demands & Standards

  1. Pingback: Why Bboys Don’t Need to Run to “Get in Shape” « Miguel Aragoncillo

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