How To Get Better In Your Sport

TAKU’s NOTE: This week features an excellent article from my good friend Steve Mckinney. Steve is an awesome Personal Trainer, and runs studios which offer personal fitness training in the following areas:  St. Louis, Clayton, Ladue and St. Charles, Missouri. Along with Edwardsville, Maryville, and Glen Carbon, Illinois. I highly recommend that if you have the chance, you book a session with him, and don’t forget to tell him TAKU sent you.

By Steve McKinney

Every athlete wants to improve performance in their particular sport, that’s why we play. The question is, “How do we do it?”

The answer is quite simple, probably so simple you can’t believe it. Here it is¡­..are you ready?…. PRACTICE! (I know Allen Iverson may not agree with me)

Think about it. If you want to be a great 3 point shooter in basketball what should you do?

A) Practice Free throws

B) Run sprints or

C) Practice 3 Pointers.

If you said A or B please don’t read any further there’s no help for you! Just kidding. It just should be obvious the correct answer is C.

To me it just seems obvious, to get better in my sport I must practice that sport particularly/specifically over and over and over again.

In my 20’s slow pitch softball was big in the Midwest. I played on some local teams but there was a team based in St. Louis that paid their players. I wanted in on that! So here’s what I did. Every chance I could I recruited guys to practice with me. I got about 50 balls and I would make sure I had 3 guys, a pitcher, a hitter and an outfielder. We all changed positions. 1-2 hours per day, 4-5 days per week of hitting and catching and then playing games every night. Guess what? Within 2 years I was like, “show me the money!” For the next 5 years I traveled all over the country playing the best players’ week in and week out.

I know the evidence I just gave you is anecdotal but that’s how I learned. I became my own trainer by experimenting. I still do. I then advise others and track the results making adjustments when necessary.

The question then is, “Are there other things I can do to help?” I’m glad you asked! There are. You should know I’m an advocate of High Intensity Training or H.I.T. for short.

High Intensity Training (HIT) is a form of strength training popularized in the 1970s by Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus. The training focuses on performing quality weightlifting repetitions to the point of momentary muscular failure. The training takes into account the number of repetitions, the amount of weight, and the amount of time the muscle is exposed to tension in order to maximize the amount of muscle fiber recruitment.[1]

My suggestion to improve for your sport is to get stronger by using H.I.T. that is if your sport involves strength. (ping pong isn’t going work)

Strength training using H.I.T. methods while practicing your sport will really make a difference in your training. It allows for more time to specifically practice your sport. This specific training is called motor learning.

Motor learning ideally transfers positively to your game. This concept of transfer can have different affects on your training. However it can have a negative affect also.

Allow me to explain. I’ve seen people jumping rope to improve coordination or throwing a lead ball to help strengthen your arm, etc. In my experience the only thing jumping rope improves is ones ability to jump rope! Same with the lead ball throw, it makes me better at throwing a lead ball. But not a better pitcher, it would actually make me worse. That’s negative transfer. My softball example above is what I consider positive transfer.

Arthur Jones wrote something that really provoked thought: Skill in basketball (for

example) is produced only by playing basketball¡­ and the level of cardiovascular ability required for basketball is produced by the same training.(2)

Ellington Darden writes about 3 types of transfer: Positive, negative and indifferent.

    • Positive: When the activities of practice and competition are identical
    • Negative: When the activities of practice are almost the same as those in competition. Almost the same activities cause the neuromuscular pathways frequently to cross
    • Indifferent: When the activities of practice are totally unrelated to what happens in competition. (3)

Positive transfer helps your sport whereas negative transfer hinders it. Indifferent transfer is just that, indifferent, and has no affect on your game.

That brings me to strength training. Strength training is indifferent in that it has no affect on the skill levels of your game. It will only enhance your game, if, while your strength train you practice the skill part of your game. If you just strength train without skill training you’ll get stronger but your skill levels will diminish.

In conclusion let me give you some simple tips on improving your game.

    1. Practice your game specifically. If its basketball shoot then shoot, shoot and shoot some more. If baseball, then hit, hit and hit some more.
    2. Enhance your game by getting stronger using H.I.T. methods of strength training.
    3. Critically think about any advice given to you by experts. Don’t accept everything told to you. Most people try to add everything to their training except training itself.

References:

    1. Philbin, John (2004). High-Intensity Training: more strength and power in less time. Human Kinetics. ISBN 9780736048200.
    2. Arthur Jones, Total Fitness, the Nautilus Way, Chapter Titled, “Improving Functional Ability… In Any Sport”
    3. Ellington Darden, (2006) The New Bodybuilding for Old School Results, page 108
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