Is Special Strength Training... "Special"?

Is Special Strength Training... "Special"?

What is Special Strength?

Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky, was a Russian Scientist famouse for his work and advancements in the field of plyometric training. Verkoshansky's work and life deserve an entire blog post to themselves, but for today the focus will be on his work written in Special Strength Training: A Practical Manual for Coaches. 

Special Strength can simply be referred to as specific (sport) strength. The overall theme is how to bridge the gap with strength you can apply in your sport. Thinking that "strength is strength", no matter what is a big mistake... If this was the case powerlifters would ALWAYS make excellent football players. Both sports require a certain level of strength, but both sports also have SPECIFIC means by which the activities need to be carried out for the best possible outcome.

Verkoshansky's 5 Key Points: 

Rule One: Formulate motor task before executing SST means

 SST once again at its most simplistic form is a method of developing sport-specific performance. Verkhoshansky advocates for not only having athletes rehearse a given SST means, but also have a fundamental understanding prior to execution. Concepts such as relation to the sport, the speed of movement, and how an athlete’s background and morphology can impact the movement’s execution.

Rule Two: Maintaining scheduled length of rest intervals using active rest

Rest periods are crucial in their own right. For example, rest periods will determine the energy pathway that is of priority utilization in a repeated movement—but perhaps just as important is how the periods are used. Verkhoshansky seems to believe in moderate activity to help clear metabolic byproducts from working muscles. For example after performing an intense working set (Running a 400 or taking a set to failure) ‘active rest’ should be used which can consist of light hopping/jumping, gradual runs, dynamic stretching or even intentional shaking of the involved limbs.

Rule Three: Using SST means in specially organized training sessions

Special Strength Training should be a discrete and isolated portion during the training session. Unrelated activity shortly before or shortly after may impair the training effect via mechanical fatigue or even simple distraction. This concept can be represented in two forms. Using "Gassers" as an example, athletes performing SST after running gassers would not produced desired results, or the effect of anticipating gassers while trying to focus on SST would also interfere with progress. Athletes might be prone to low motivation when taking part in SST if an unwelcome training mode is next on the agenda, or, subconsciously or not, leave reps in the tank to make the following task more manageable. 

Rule Four: Keeping up training potential of SST means

Put best, save your top SST exercises for late in the training cycle when the body can handle the rigor, and when an elevation in stimulus is needed to maintain progress. IF you fail to do this, expect progress to stall near competition when performance and adaptation should be at their peak.

Rule Five: Increasing the specificity of SST means’ training stimuli gradually

The specificity discussed here is not necessarily in terms of a mean’s resemblance to a sport activity, e.g., a basketball player wouldn’t be advised to do nothing but run around with a basketball at the end of a training cycle. 

Instead, the SST exercises should be programmed in a way that correlates with needed strength capacities while allowing the skills obtained to blend and flow with each other. 


Examples of SST Jump Exercises:



In my opinion, this book does an excellent job highlighting the importance of training and having relevant carry over to the competition lift/sport. Perhaps not everything from this material can be applied due to lack of understanding or simply just no need to be overly complicated... But, still the general idea of SST should/could be used for development in all persons.  

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