In the world of strength and conditioning, there is confusion/debate over how to train for a specific sport. Many terms are tossed around such as general physical preparedness, special physical preparedness, sport-specific training, functional fitness, and sports performance training. In this blog post, I will define these terms to help clear up the confusion and give a sample of what Sport Performance Training in the gym would look like for a sport like Mountain Biking.
General Physical Preparedness (GPP)/Functional Fitness
These two terms are generally tied together and made popular by Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit. Glassman famously said, “the needs of the Olympic athlete and the 80-year-old grandmother are the same. They differ in scale and load.” That sounds good as a quip, but it is NOT accurate. Olympic athletes need much more than a grandmother to compete on the world’s largest stage.
The goal of GPP is to have a non-specific, varied level of work capacity. In other words, the ability to do a lot of work at various time domains. They really are a generalist, good at a variety of tasks but likely does not have the skill of someone who competes. For instance, participants in CrossFit may perform Olympic Lifting, however, they do not have the skill of someone that only competes in Olympic Lifting. As a generalist, they are certainly in good fitness shape, look the part, and have the work capacity to ride a mountain bike on the weekend. Likely they would not have the technical riding skill to compete or even complete a very technical ride for competition.
Special Physical Preparedness (SPP)/ Sport Specific Training
These two terms are often confused with GPP. It also leads to a misapplication in the gym as well as confusing marketing. The definition of these terms is really practicing and perfecting the actual skills of the sport itself. For instance, sport-specific training for baseball is batting skill practice, fielding practice, etc. For a sport like mountain biking, it would be learning and practicing the attack position, clearing an obstacle, or bunny hopping.
However, some trainers will use SPP or sport-specific training to market training for specific sports. They might be doing a program designed to train strength, power, and targeted energy systems of a particular sport, which is great, but it is NOT SPP. They will also try to load a specific movement that is skill-based, which is a mistake as the load could change the mechanics of the movement. As an example, think about how ankle weights on a runner or biker can change gait or pedal mechanics.
Sports Performance Training
This is how the athlete wanting to build transferable strength, power, speed, and overall athleticism should use the gym and is the focus of our program. The gym is a safe place to load and strengthen primal movement patterns like pushing horizontally and vertically (bench press/shoulder press); bilateral hip hinge (squat); hinge (deadlift/power clean); and pulling horizontally/vertically (bent over row/pull up). Combining these movements effortlessly and seamlessly is what athleticism is.
The gym is also where you train energy systems. As the First Law of Thermodynamics tells us, “within a closed system, energy is neither created nor destroyed.” Energy can transfer from one form to another. The human body uses three energy systems to provide energy to do a task. The Phosphagen system is the primary energy system to lift a heavyweight 1 -2 times or sprint up a short hill on a mountain bike. It lasts for 5-10 seconds. The second system is the Glycolytic system which lasts for 10 secs to 2 minutes. The Oxidative system is the last system that everybody knows as the aerobic system. All these systems work simultaneously in the background to fuel our activities.
Sample Day of Sports Performance Training for Mountain Biking
A sample day might look like this:
Warm-Up 10 mins
Jump Rope x 100 (get the heart rate up to begin work)
Walking Lunge with trunk rotations x 10 yards (warm-up legs and move torso in multiple planes of motion)
4 Way Deadbug x 10 (trunk activation as well as a reminder for proper posture and position for back squats)
Scapular Pull Up x 5 (prep work for upper body vertical pull)
Strength Work (performed as a superset)
Specific movement warm-up
A1: 3 x 5 Back Squat gradually building weight to just under work set weight
A2: 3 x 10 Bent Over Row
B1: 3 x 5 Linear Progression Back Squat (used for hip and quad strength based on pre-tested weight. Each week add weight to sets.)
B2: 3 x 10 Bent Over Row (used for back strength and pulling strength to make pulls stronger for biking)
Glycolytic Intervals (training glycolytic system)
5 rounds of max wattage for 30 seconds on Assault bike. + 10 Heavy KB Swings
Rest 1:30 between rounds
Trunk Work (strong endurant trunk makes for better stability on the bike and control while riding)
Plank March x 12 (trunk stability)
Banded Walkouts x 3 steps R/L (anti-rotation stability)
This is a well-rounded day of getting stronger, working some energy systems, and training the trunk for trunk stability. Beginning April 15th, we are going to trial Mountain Biking Strength Class.. Since the Mountain Biking Strength program is designed as a 7-week period, there will be a test and re-test before and after 6 weeks of linear progression on the strength exercises. We will not train the oxidative (aerobic) system since you should be getting that work on the bike!
Click on the link below to sign up!
April 15, 2021 to June 1, 2021
Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30PM