Question about specificity

Just reading the latest article on T-Nation about HIT training (article is by Ellington Darden who has just written a new book on HIT)

The article includes the following statement

'But most athletes and coaches try to perform their strength training in a way that simulates their sport—which means fast, explosive lifting and lowering, little of which transfers to their sport. Worse, it can confuse performance through negative transfer and it's dangerous. As I was saying earlier, if your competition is doing the same thing, then no one is getting an advantage and the best athletes and coaches still win. '

This is counter to most things I read on here. Wondered if anyone has any comments...

Full article is at:;jsessionid=3B36601DE43E8A4D27C6E1A481B2C0E2.ba13?id=508353

Neither side really has conclusive generalized evidence that could end this debate. Most studies are done over short periods of time on already well-trained athletes, generally in groups that are fairly small (due to limits on funding). I've never seen a study where people made huge, long-term commitments to any form of training, and had the resulting transfers evaluated.

It's safe to say that specificity of one activity to another is hard to achieve; and overly cheerful claims of the form "my new Uzbek Jumping Squat routine is clearly specific to takedowns" are almost certainly false. Or at least unsupported by any evidence.

Take all such claims with a grain of salt. Remember that the Internet is the haunt of the perennial beginner, regardless of the numbers that people claim to be lifting. For a beginner, improvements transfer pretty easily because there's so much potential improvement in so many areas (strength, anaerobic endurance, grip strength, etc.).

I think Darden is perhaps misunderstood in this case.

So often these things boyle down to semantic differences and if we all sat down in a room together we would most likely be on the same page about many things.

Dardens feeling is that one should not do things that are "sort of like" what you do in your sport. This is where negative transfer could take place. The more fine tuned the motor pathways involved in the sport specific movement patterns the more you want to avoid doing something similar but not exactly the same.

For a basketball player to shoot baskets with a ball that is heavier then normal for instance and do this for time and accuracy. When game time comes, the athlete will shoot poorly with the lighter ball.

This could be true for may throwing sports etc.

I hope this makes sense.


Do my eyes decieve me? Is that Geoff Langdale answering a question????

Please, old chap, do write me an email and tell me how your life has been, i would appreciate it greatly!


PS. Geoff is correct. of course!

Cheers Geoff but Darden is by no means a beginner. Rest of the post makes sense though.

Taku, having re-read the article, that kind of makes sense, I have used the same argument to argue against weighted shadow boxing (amongst others)

I would not suggest that Darden is a beginner.

The issue with beginners is not that they pretend to be training gurus, but that they provide a large pool of people on-line to log on to forums and claim that method X gave them amazing 150% strength gains in 6 weeks. This is often true, but I've noticed that people are either shy about posting actual numbers or just plain exaggerate.

Equally common are those who are very inconsistent about their training to get 're-energized' by the rhetoric of a training guru and, after a long layoff, to train consistently with some method for a few weeks. Unsurprisingly, they make big gains. It's a lot easier to recover strength than to gain it in the first place.

Throwing very heavy balls or doing weighted punches aren't exactly sport specific. Strength training is of little benefit for basketballers, a ball isn't that heavy (they need some strength training for jumping and stuff though). Throwing punches whith weigths in the hands completely alter the movement. These are completely unspecific exercises. A "similar" exercise would be bench pressing with a very close grip, and I doubt that has much negative impact on your striking power.

"As I was saying earlier, if your competition is doing the same thing, then no one is getting an advantage and the best athletes and coaches still win."

So what?

The big question is how alike does "sort of like your sport" have to be?

We might all agree that 3lb hand-weights are a worse idea for boxing training than training with gloves approximately the same size as the ones we'll fight in.

This proves very little about whether or not one should train for boxing with:

  1. medicine ball chest passes & explosive bench press throws, or

  2. slow, rhythmic bench presses, torso rotation and shoulder/tricep.

Negative transfer is a very narrow concept; it might put a few bad training techniques off-limits but it doesn't really suggest a generalized principle of how we should train. I don't know whether option 1 or 2 is the ultimate truth, but I doubt that option 1 is going to have negative transfer - the movement pattersn are going to be different enough from punching that it won't screw things up.

If people take a very aggressive view of negative transfer happening really easily, I wonder how they would explain Westside successes and the fact that Oly. lifters train using a host of variant O-lifts in their training. Why aren't they getting negative transfer?

The best way to improve striking power is to practice striking. Weights aren't necessary.

Fighters should spend a majority of their training time sparring, doing skill drills, or increasing work capacity via high-intensity interval training.

If specifity would be that much of a problem, the Sanchin Kata would lead to bad Karate technique.

When I saw this thread I knew Geoff couldn't stay away.

As always great info Geoff.

Too many mixed martial artist are not elite level athletes and so represent the intermediate to beginning level of trainee in a physical sense.

So that skews the so called successes of certain training programs.

I've trained for years and yet I'm a novice so I believe that you should do what you enjoy for the extra training and like Todd said focus on your skill training and sparring.

On a side note I've been doing Crossfit style workouts and sandbag training mainly for the past 3 months. I've recently began the Westside for Skinny Bastards from and my lifts in the gym are horribly weak yet I'm stronger than ever on the mat in wrestling and NHB training.