Transfer of Training in Sports- from the gym to the court

I’ve not been posting so much in recent months- very much a case of being in the business rather than working on the business I’m afraid.  But I’ve still spent plenty of time reflecting about my training philosophy since my visits to PaceLab and Portugal.


Yesterday I was invited to attend a Pixolar inspired ”Brain Trust” session at the invitation of British Tennis to discuss all things strength & conditioning in Tennis.  It was a great opportunity to meet up with professional colleagues and good friends, and share our views with the newly appointed Head of S&C at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).


I had known about this meeting for a few weeks and at one point I had even said I would be happy to give a presentation which could be used as a conversation starter for discussion.  In the end a presentation wasn’t needed but I wrote it any way and decided to share it with some of my APA coaches in person, and record it for everyone else.  Apologies in advance, everyone these days seems to like bite size bullets of take home messages.  This presentation hits the 1 hour mark.  But I’m confident there is some good info and though provoking stuff in there!


Here it is in all it’s glory for your viewing pleasure!



For those that can’t wait for the punch line, below are the Cliff notes:


In this presentation we looked at:


  • The role of the Strength & Conditioning Coach


  • General and Specific Means of training for Tennis


I am reflecting on the role we play as a strength & conditioning coach, and it essentially comes down to:


  1. Preparing the body in a General sense to handle the stress of training and competition
  2. Preparing the body in a Specific way to improve Sports Performance
  3. Monitoring the body’s response to fatigue to enable repeated high level performance


Achievement of Physical Normalisation


In regards to the Training methods I think it is really important to recognise that Sport is not the ‘best’ stimulus for improving Fitness.


There is no sport that truly ”optimises” any single component of fitness.  Even a closed skill sport like a 100m sprint doesn’t optimally develop maximal velocity, as for a significant period of the race you are accelerating up to top speed and then there is a period of speed endurance where you try your best to keep running at as close to top speed as possible.  This means:


Don’t play sport to get fit- get fit to play sport!!


So I regard general training as those types of training that help to fill up all the buckets of fitness (speed, strength, stamina etc) to prepare you to play sport- any sport.  Because the body first and foremost recognises stress! It’s about developing ‘Physical capacities.’


The task is physical ‘normalisation’ not achievement of high sports results.  It may create a ‘base’ or foundation (potentiation effect), in the training of low level athletes.  However, in high level athletes transfer of training to the competitive event can take place only with specialised preparation means.


The evolution of my training philosophy has seen me review how much of what I thought was specific is actually just high level general training.  So maximum strength and maximal power methods including maximal effort explosive strength (half squat, snatch and power clean), jumps (SLT, STJ, VJ) and throw exercises (shot put forward and backward) is all just General training??!!  That’s the question I’m asking myself!


Improve Sports Performance


Let’s be clear- sport is the most specific form of training.


Sports skills are complex movements often performed reflexively and at high speed.  It is the speed of movement which in many cases separates the training we do in the gym from the training we do in our sport.  It is probably also the main reason why sports coaches don’t buy into training methods that they can’t see in some way simulate or connect with the actual sports technique- in speed and/or in joint position.


Now some S&C coaches will say, ”Is it our job to improve Sports Performance?” My view on it is this, if you see your role as being primarily to make the athlete more robust by filling up their buckets of general fitness so they can better handle the stress of sport and training then that’s great.  It’s a very important role.  I personally think you are then putting a tremendous amount of faith in both the sports coach and the athlete to ensure that the ‘general’ physical potential you have helped raise with then suddenly realise itself in higher speed, time pressured specific movements.


Why not get involved and see if you can help with that process? After all, if you truly want to be an integral part of the interdisciplinary team, then that means being collectively accountable for the performance on the court!  As a colleague of mine said about an Elite Netball coach they once worked with, she would only rate an S&C coach if she could tell that our intervention had visibly improved some aspect of their on court performance!


Given that I have started to see a lot of my classic power development exercises as more general power development exercises, what would I now classify as specific? Well essentially it comes down to those activities that are focused on:


  • Velocity capacity- incl. Early and Late RFD
  • Motor (Skill) capacity- aka Applied or Coordination Strength


I haven’t fully tested these methods to make a leap of faith yet with my philosophy.  But if we go down this route then what we have here are tasks that will involve:


  • Early rate of Force Development- Maximal Isometric contractions
  • Late rate of Force Development- Stretch-shortening cycle jumps and throws
  • Weighted Implements
  • Weights vests
  • Over speed work
  • Skill-stability exercises (Frans Bosch)
  • Contrast sets with a physical task paired with the sports skill


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