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Added Edge: The Advantages of Sport-Specific Workouts

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Genevieve Cunningham

Added Edge: The Advantages of Sport-Specific Workouts

CrossFit. Circuit training. Functional fitness. All three of these exercise programs are insanely popular. When it comes to exercise, programs like these tend to have the whole package. They work out the whole body, use weights and cardio, and are perfect for people wanting to get fit overall. They’re the perfect cross-training choice.

But what about people who need to get fit for something specific? Perhaps it’s football or soccer or running. Is cross-training necessary for these people? Or would it be better for your workout to be sport-specific? Let’s dive into the world of sports and take a look at something that might give you the edge you need to take your game to the next level.

Are Sport-Specific Workouts Worth It?

This is a question with an ambiguous answer. Are sport-specific workouts worth it? The short answer is maybe. None too helpful, right? But the long answer gives a bit more clarification because the truth is that it’s highly dependent on your long-term goals.

You can rest assured that collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes all do a combination of both cross-training and sport-specific training. They need the strength, flexibility, and stamina that comes from cross-training. But they also need sport-specific training for improving in their sport. If you’re trying to decide what’s best for you, consider asking yourself the following questions.

  • What is my ultimate goal?
  • In what way do I need to improve in my sport?
  • Do I have the proper equipment to train in my sport?
  • Do I have the knowledge to train properly in my sport?

Once you answer these questions, you can make a plan of action. If general fitness is the goal, you may not need sport-specific training. If improving in your game is the goal, sport-specific training may be just what you need to get the job done.

What Are the Benefits of Sport-Specific Workouts?

If you still can’t decide whether sport-specific training is for you, take a look at the potential benefits. Although everyone needs a little bit of cross-training, sport-specific training brings serious benefits into your routine and general health.

Injury prevention - If you’re playing a sport, you’re going to perform certain repetitive moves. If you never practice these moves, the risk of injury becomes higher. But sport-specific training may actually reduce the risk of injury. Participating in the right kind of training might mean the difference between finding success and finding yourself recovering at home.

Improved athletic performance - The goal of sports-specific training is to make you a better athlete, and engaging in sport-specific workouts will certainly do it.

Strength and power - Lifting weights will help you gain strength and power, but sport-specific lifting will help you train exactly the right muscles. If you jump, you’ll train your legs, while other sports might train the back, abdominals, or elsewhere.

It gives the athlete an edge - If you’re performing sport-specific moves and your opponent isn’t, you’re gaining an edge over them in competition. It's a win you'll definitely want to hold onto and enjoy.

How Can I Cater My Exercise for My Sport?

Perhaps the hardest part about sport-specific training isn’t determining whether you should try it, but figuring out how to do it successfully. In order to make your workout successful, you’ll need to gather some very specific information.

  • Determine movement patterns - Each sport requires different kinds of movement. Soccer requires lower leg strength and stamina. Baseball requires arm strength and the ability to throw. Any kind of jumping requires explosive power. What kind of movements are most prevalent in your particular sport?
  • Target the appropriate muscles - Once you figure out the patterns of movement, you can create a plan. You’ll need an exercise that targets each individual muscle group. This is one of the fastest ways to see improvement in your target area and target task.
  • Assess your strengths and weaknesses - Sport-specific training not only caters to the sport, but also to the athlete. What area of the game do you need to improve? This will help you change your workout to fit your particular needs.
  • Ask for help - Unless you’re truly an expert in your sport -- and even if you are -- it can be incredibly beneficial to ask someone for help. A coach, a personal trainer, anyone who can guide you toward the right workout for your goals in your sport may provide the bit of information you need to go to the next level; don’t be afraid to learn.

What Equipment Do I Need to Perform a Sport-Specific Workout?

The equipment required for sport-specific training will vary greatly by sport, but there are certainly some common pieces of equipment that are beneficial for almost every sport.

  • Free weights - Strength training is an important part of all kinds of training programs. A set of free weights can help you target specific muscle groups and improve strength and muscle mass in very specific ways.
  • Yoga mat -It probably sounds too simple, but a yoga mat can come in very handy. Athletes of every kind will need to maintain and improve flexibility in order to improve range of motion and prevent injury. You can also use a yoga mat to protect your arms and knees while doing exercises to improve core strength -- things such as holding a plank position or doing crunches.
  • Small hurdles - There might be a few sports that don’t require speed, but it won’t be many. Investing in samll hurdles will allow you to practice speed training, an element that will be helpful in almost every sport and in fitness in general.
  • Resistance bands - Resistance bands are highly affordable and adaptable. Use these to create resistance, ultimately leading to an increase in strength.

Other gym equipment may be more sport-specific. Some may require particular balls, bats, clubs, or gloves. Some may require really heavy-weight options for training. Some may require ropes, weighted medicine balls, or some other niche device.

The good news is that creating a home gym for your sport-specific training can be accomplished no matter your budget. You can use an empty room in your house or an outdoor workout space instead of leaning on a fancy gym membership. Collect equipment over time instead of buying it all at once. Look for deals on local trading sites. If you want to create a home gym for sport-specific training, it can be done.

CrossFit and circuit training and functional fitness are great ways to work out and get fit. But if performance is your goal, sport-specific training may be your best bet. Even if you’re not an Olympic-level athlete, the right training plan can help you play your best game --and be in the best health -- of your life.

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