What is the best way to train for your sport?

By Paul Lundgren, CSCS Sanford POWER

To be the best athlete that you can be, you need to have in mind what kind of performance training that you want to do and what sport that you are training for.  This will help both yourself and your strength coach train better, smarter, and harder.

Train for Your Sports Movements

Sport specific training is training exactly how you would perform a movement during competition or practice.  Generalized strength training programs focus on building strength in the muscle groups that are most commonly used during completion of the skills for the sport.

What is better training: Generalized athletic based training for increasing performance or sport specific training?

Generalized Training vs. Sport Specific Training Program

A generalized training program incorporates a lot of weight training that centers on building maximum level strength.  The program includes variations of squats, Olympic lifts, and horizontal or vertical presses.  Lifting progressions are based upon maximizing strength gains by:

  • Increasing how much is lifted each day every new week
  • Working up to maximum percentages during the lifting cycle
  • Allowing sufficient recovery to let the body rebuild.

Along with the core lifts, auxiliary lifts are included to allow for specific targeting of certain muscles or muscle groups that are based on the focus for the lifting day.  Normal progression during the day works from large muscle groups to smaller muscle groups and individual muscles.  This program focuses on movement mechanics involved with each lift.

A sport specific training program will also include variations of squats, Olympic lifts, and horizontal or vertical presses, but will incorporate them in a way that will mimic a certain action that is performed during practice or competition.

An example of this would be strengthening a baseball pitchers arm by using weighted equipment or resistance bands during their throwing technique. Sport specific training merges skill training with strength training.


It is important to understand that most of the time it would be very hard to perform a specific sport skill efficiently and correctly in the weight room.  Weight room equipment limits the body’s ability to perform sport skills with the same mechanical precision that is necessary to develop the skill in the first place.

Performing a sport skill with additional weight or resistance requires the body to adapt to that new stress in the hands or on the body. This will then cause the body to change when performing the skill without the additional weight and most of the time the skill will be performed incorrectly.  By separating practice from strength and conditioning you allow yourself to develop your skills in practice and to build a good base strength to be able to perform better on the playing field or court.  A generalized program that is formatted around basic movement principles to build strength, mobility, speed, and agility will do more in helping increase performance while still being able to develop the necessary skills that are used in each sport.