Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"functional" training - it is all specific!

This is an interesting study that goes back to some of the issues that I discussed with Doug and Luke.

Luke explained:

If you want to get better at jumping, you need to strengthen the muscles involved in jumping according to their biomechanical and anatomical function. Secondly, you need to practice jumping. It is that simple. Of course, the strengthening portion is not "simple" - simple to understand, not simple to actually perform.

The skills are very specific. If you want to get better at say punching....them punch. Punching while holding a weight will not help - it is a different movement.

Similarly if you want to get better at swinging a standard bat.....then swing a standard bat...not a heavier one. Sure train to get stronger so you can swing harder....but swinging a heavier bat is a different skill.

Perhaps that is what this study is saying:

Effect of Warm-up With Different Weighted Bats on Normal Baseball Bat Velocity.

Traditionally, baseball players have used a heavy bat for warm-up before competition. Because bat velocity is an essential component to hitting a baseball, and because players warm up differently, there is a need to investigate the best way to maximize post warm-up bat velocity. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of warm-up with different weighted bats on normal baseball bat velocity. Nineteen recreational male baseball players (age, 24.5 +/- 3.9 years; height, 181.1 +/- 8.4 cm; body mass, 87.9 +/- 18.4 kg) participated in this study. Three different randomized warm-up conditions were completed and analyzed for velocity and for their effect on post warm-up normal baseball bat velocity. Subjects were instructed to perform 5 maximal swings with each of 3 different weighted bats-light (LB = 9.6 oz), normal (NB = 31.5 oz), and heavy (HB = 55.2 oz)-followed by 30-second rest and then 5 swings of the NB. Analysis of variance revealed that warm-up velocity of the LB (63.57 +/- 3.58 mph) was significantly (p < style="font-weight: bold;">it is suggested that when preparing to hit, 5 warm-up swings with either a light or normal bat will allow a player to achieve the greatest velocity of their normal bat.


toddhargrove said...


Here's a post I did a while back on this issue ....

Chris said...

Thanks Todd

Natural Athlete said...

I can't claim to have as in depth a knowledge of the scientific literature that the Doug and Luke have. Still I am familar enough with the difficulties of study design in excercise science and have spent enough time training athletes to feel that the HIIT crowd overstates the SAID principle.

The study linked is an example, the problem there is not no transference it is negative transference the heavy bat programs interfers with the normal bat program, they seem to indicate that a lighter bat actually does have positive transference. If there was no transference at all we should expect basically no effect from either they would both just be waste of time.

I coach parkour, and I have background coaching crossfit(I am not a kool aid drinker) and working in martial arts. So I see example of postive skill transfer all the time.

Basketball players almost always drop their hips well and drive up with their arms on wall runs. Their is postive transference from the basketball drop step, on asimilar but distinct motor program.

High jumpers, are extremely efficient at leg drive on lazy vaults.

Throwers make powerful punchers.

Soccer players pick up new footwork patterns easily.

Pole vaulters seem to do everything well.

I have noticed only negative athletic transfer from athletes with body building background outside of strength, in my experience they simply lack good kinesthetic abilities.

Chris said...

Interesting thoughts.

i wonder if we can determine whether what you are describing is real positive transference or just coincidence. e.g. maybe your good basketball players have the genetic biomechanics - levers etc - to excel at jumps. Throwers will be strong guys. Does the throwing make them string or does their strength training make them strong, strength which they can apply to throwing (a skill) or punching (another skill).

Natural Athlete said...

Obviously when taking about personal experiences its very hard to determine were causality lies but I think there is very little scientific work on fitness that controls for this well either.

That said neither of the alternative hypothesis really accord with my experience.

In regards to the basketball players it is not jumping power that is so especially notable, I have former Tae kwon do, soccer and gymnastics athletes who all have great jumping power. What is really notable about the basketball players in comparison is how consistent they are able to be in their approach, hip drop, arm drive and extension at the top of the wall pass right away.

As far as strength and punching I have meet quite a few guys who had strong lifts in the gym who could not punch well at all so that indicates to me some level of skill transfer.

I am curious how oly lifters perform on punching exercises, I haven't seen enough athletes with that background to notice a pattern.

Chris said...

Again, interesting stuff.

I can claim no expertise in this, but just think it is an intriguing area where what we think intuitively - that there is significant positive transfer from lots of moves to other moves - doesn't necessarily apply.

Punching I am convinced is a skill. Strength has some bearing but much more important is the move through the hips, which needs to be developed and practiced.

mc said...

Actually to get better at jumping, you don't have to do jumping - not always

Kenneth Jay did a study with athletes comparing kettlebell swings with trad plyo depth jumps and effect over two weeks of training.

The KB group did significantly better (assume equal sample pops in both groups).

Now why might that be so?

Hypothesis: threat modulation.

Doing the KB's was less threatening to the nervous system that the overspeed eccentrics of KB swings which work those muscles, mirror a plyo effect, and yet has way better recovery/less stress than plyo.

Checking out GPP transfer like this to specific work is pretty cool.


Chris said...

I'd like to see that experiment include a group that did neither kettlebells nor plyos, but who just practiced the jump they would be tested on and maybe a fourth group who practiced the jump and also did some strength training e.g. leg presses.

The whole area of transfer - positive and negative is really interesting. most of all I think you need to practice your skills.

Marc said...

Not all punching skills work the hips...
A very very powerful way of punching comes from the action of flexibile/soft knees and ankles. Functional strength.

Off topic...I loved Born to Run. Great read. Thank you


Natural Athlete said...

It seems to me unlikley that that the nervous systems constructs a a new motor program for every movement skill we learn form whole cloth whenever it faces a new motor challenge, that would be ridicilous innefficient and goes against what I understand of generally neurological patterns.

It seems to me much more likely likely that we generalize movement skills and use the stuff we already have in our tool box as guide for figuring out the next thing. People who have a better developed tool box pick up new motor skills faster.

Throwers punch well because the spend their training developing the ability to transfer power effectively up the kinetic chain from ground contact, through hip and shoulder torque into the implement. This is very similar to how one throws a punch.