Sport Specific Training

Sport specific training is a truth that most athletes are aware of. My question lies with the degree of sport specifity (if thats even a word) to which an athletes training must be before it will aid their game.

Does everything in my training have to be sports specific? If so how does weight training fall into this? I don't really see how the usual excercises including in weight training are activity specific, does that mean that they will not aid performance or that they are not the most efficient way to improve performance?

I'm looking at this from the perspective of an MMA Competitor. Sorry for the ramblings.

I will agree that the term "sport specific" is often misused.

I think many people confuse replication with specificity as it applies to weight training and/or conditioning. You should think in more broad terms when evaluating a program.

Just sit back and think about how your sport is characterized. To me I see MMA needs as follows:

#1. Fast, explosive movements
#2. Need for cardiovascular endurance while going
from standing to ground and back to standing
#3. Shoulder endurance to keep your hands up
#4. Flexibility to be able to better maneuver on the mat
#5. Ability to move objects equal to your bodyweight in multiple planes of movement (as you would an equally weighted opponent)

With this evaluation in mind, start picking exercise protocols that match up to these needs:

Fast explosive movements – Olympic lift variations with barbells, DBs, KBs plus all sorts of plyometric drills

Endurance standing to ground and back up – think burpees, 6-count bodybuilders with DBs, etc...

Shoulder endurance – shadow boxing with light hand weights, high rep clean and jerks, high rep pushups

Flexibility – any good flexibility or joint mobility program – take your pick

Moving objects equal to bodyweight – sandbag training, barrels, any odd objects plus practicing takedown drills and such with a partner who is similar in size

Again, there is no real weight training movement that can accurately replicate or imitate a shoot in and take down. You don't try to replicate the motion, you train the characteristics.


Great reply Andy!

Nice post Andy!


Cheers much Andy.

In general, in addition to Ash1 post,you need to evaluate witch muscles or muscles groups do specific elements, and train them in velocity specific manner:
Ex. Because mat work requers a lot of slow motion under full power (like when trying to overpower opponent during arm bar), it's recommended to include isometrics or slow (6-10sec.) duration lifting. Something like that.

I'll keep that in mind, thanks. Anyone else with any insightful gems?

I wouldnt spend much time on slow repetitions.

Additionally, not all stretching programs are the same. I think that flexibility is one of the most specific needs for a sport. For MMA, PNF stretching + dynamic stretching would be ideal. This would take care of a large portion of your isometric needs anyway.

Passive static stretching should be mainly used for active recovery.


I would stay away from slow repetitions too. You can avoid being put in an armbar with an explosive movement at the right moment.

Well... there are other reasons to avoid slow reps, which is what i meant. In grappling, against a good opponent, if you are in a fully extended position you are fucked.

Skill is king. Conditioning just keeps your skills sharp for a longer period of time.


Oh, and helps prevent injuries.


I agree with most of what is written here. I will add some thoughts. Conditioning and strength training can be and should geared toward your sport. Here is an example. High intensity interval training is far better suited to grappling than long distance, slow paced running. First, intervals most closely represent match or fight conditions. There is no specific skill transfer and intervals will not improve your side control attacks, but the conditioning effect is very specific to what you do. Second, you have only a limited amount of time and recovery ability at your disposal. Running two hours a day will improve your general physical preparedness, but you would be better off using an hour of that time skills training or recovering from more intense workouts. Strength training can be looked at the same way. High intensity, short duratin workouts that focus on muscle groups used in your sport make sense because they replicate fight conditions and are highly efficient from a time and recovery standpoint. Exercise selection, rows vs calf raises, is the same situation. Both may help you at some point, but one is probably a much better use of your time. Train as you fight. D-Rex

Beyond matching the energy and strength demands of your sport, there's not much you can do with weights that is "sport specific".

Much of what gets passed off as sport specific training is really sport specific marketing.

I am in agreement with HarryLime and D-Rex.

Sport Specific Training = Practice

Yeah those are the kind of lines along which I have been thinking. So what do you guys think? Should I spend any time in the gym at all? Or would I be better served just adding say a half hour workout a few times a week where I grab my training partners and do a few drills carrying them around the gym, pushing/pulling each other, and stuff like that for my strength training?

You would do well to set up a program that gets you to the fitness level you need to be at, then maintain it and work on skill.


Really appreciate the responses guys, now if you could do me another favour. Could you guys come up with a plan I could use as a guide on which i can build a more personalised one. I have access to a normal gym, usual squat rack bech etc. no barrels and stuff unfortunately.

Thanks in advance

Again, there is no real weight training movement that can accurately replicate or imitate a shoot in and take down. "

No but there are elastic bands that work well of course. I agree on all counts. I like to vary explosive movements with allot of BWE/bag work/and interval training.

Strength Training Principles Applied for Judo Performance

Judo performance requires both strength and muscular endurance for success. Strength can be classified as either absolute strength (total body strength), or explosive strength (power), both of which are required for judo performance (Fisher, 1981). Figure 3.0 "Rate of Force Development Curves", illustrates the difference in contraction velocity between peak force and the rate required to develop force. Power maintains a higher slope to peak force, whereas peak force requires a much longer period to reach its plateau. Maximum strength is identified as the force or tension a muscle can exert against a given resistance in maximal effort, while power can be defined as the rate of force development (Sale and MacDougall, 1981). Certain principles for strength training have been identified, which must be followed for optimal adaptation. Sale and MacDougall (1981) outline the key components of strength training for sport. The principle of overloading (increased resistance and/or tension) is necessary to impose a stress stimulus on the muscular system. All exercises must reproduce the sport movement as closely as possible. This principle of specificity of training involves utilizing exercises, which are identical in contraction force, type, velocity and movement pattern of judo movements. Figure 4.0 "Specificity in Strength Training", provides some examples of resistance exercises which closely reflects the movement patterns in judo. Song (1980), identified the four types of muscle contraction as: (i) isometric (tension produced with no change in muscle length); (ii) isotonic (muscle shortens with varying tension while lifting a constant load); (iii) isokinetic (tension produced while shortening at a constant speed through a full range of motion); (iv) eccentric (muscle lengthens while developing tension).
Applications to judo training then would require mainly power exercises, involving concentric contractions at or near maximal resistance as quickly as possible (Takahashi, 1992). Specific muscle groups take precedence in training for judo. Development of the legs, primarily the hip and knee extensors, are of utmost importance in executing basic judo techniques. In addition to leg development, upper body strength of the muscles involved in pulling and pushing are essential for judo performance. Fischer (1981) recommends five basic exercises of: good mornings, leg squats, bench press, bent over barbell rowing and the power snatch, to develop strength. The third principle outlined by Sale and MacDougall (1981) is that of progression, which involves the systematic increase in the resistance load throughout the course of a program. Finally, both volume and frequency define what energy system or what adaptation is being sought after. This is also contingent upon what stage of the training year the athlete is currently involved in. Early phases in training mainly involve increasing absolute strength, while mid-year and later phases of training are concerned with power, speed and endurance development (Verkhoshansky and Lazarev, 1989). The judo athlete must have a well rounded approach to strength training, incorporating both muscular strength and endurance training (Takahashi, 1992). All types of muscular contraction take place throughout the course of judo activity. Adaptations to strength training involve increases in muscle girth (hypertrophy) and cross-sectional area. Also included are enzymatic changes, capillarization changes and increase in motor unit recruitment (Sale and MacDougall, 1981). Table 1.0 illustrates the relationship between the type of strength program used and the corresponding physiological adaptations to strength training. Improvements in strength will also aid in joint stability and improve flexibility, which will reduce the risk of injury.

Training exercises should attempt to reflect the physical demands of the sport. Furthermore, strength training must be congruent with the energy system being trained for each phase of the yearly training plan. For example, high repetition, circuit type strength exercises should be trained at the same time that anaerobic judo drills are used. This will develop muscular endurance overall, during the competitive phase of the season. Supplemental strength training serves as a necessary means for judo preparation. It can be done year round, as long as it corresponds to the physiological demands of each training phase. It is imperative that both the athlete and coach understand that strength training is supplemental to judo specific practice. Furthermore, the very nature of judo training involves a high degree of natural strength training and this must be considered when incorporating strength training in order to avoid overtraining or fatigue.

note that wrestling, judo and bjj sport training is identical considering the physiological basis for sport performance...