The training styles and approaches that we adopt when in the gym are extremely important. Spending time working in the gym ensures that we are able to build the tolerance, strength, power and proprioception of our muscles and joints which can then be taken onto the field or courts and applied to competition. A big area of neglect that I have seen in the clients that I deal with on a daily basis is that their training doesn’t incorporate any unilateral bias or sport-specific movements.
An example of this, that I often hear, is people doing double leg squats or deadlifts as their main strengthening component in the gym, but their chosen sport is cricket. When you break down the movement patterns of a cricket player, it is rare that you see them moving in a position which looks like a normal bilateral squat. Regardless of if they are batting or bowling, it is more likely that they have a split stance, and weight transferred more onto one leg than the other. So the age old debate within strength and conditioning continues… should we be simulating this type of position in the gym more frequently than say a bilateral squat? Do you think that working more on a split squat or single leg Romanian Deadlift might apply more transference to a Batsmen’s front foot drive in cricket or a bowler’s front foot stride as they slam onto the pitch?
I firmly believe that a greater portion of our regular gym sessions need to incorporate exercises which simulate that of the sport/activity we intend on improving. Not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ I still think we need to use traditional methods to build techniques or to increase muscle load but that this should not be the sole base for all of our workouts. Maybe try to split your weekly workouts into days that are going to be sport-specific and days that are designed at getting maximum load, so that way you are getting the best of both worlds.
Instead of using simple barbells and machines scattered through most public gyms, it could also be significantly more advantageous to try alternative forms of loading. The body will have to adjust with more trunk stabilisation if you were to use things like resistance bands, kettle bells, chains etc. Also the freedom of having this type of equipment as your main loading is that you can move through different planes of motion. For example, using a traditional lunge or split squat position and adding in some trunk rotation with the resistance band. This type of movement is extremely specific to tackling sports like rugby or football, or board sports such as surfing or skateboarding.
My best advice is to break down your sport’s specific movements, watch yourself on film and analyse what position your body is in with each skill that you perform. Then get creative in the gym or with your workouts to try replicate and load the muscles and joints in similar type positions. It should also add to the fun and variety of your exercises as well which is always a bonus!
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