In the preface to Beyond Functional Training, I discussed the principle that the single most important characteristic of a successful relationship between exercise selection in strength and condition and conditioning and sport performance for an athlete or a team is that ANY exercise the athlete ever does in the short or the long term improves the athlete’s ability to practice or compete.
This principle implies that exercise selection is a reverse engineered process. We can only find out which exercises are relevant to the athlete or client by looking at their end goal and then “working backwards” to where they are now.
The approach of working backwards does NOT mean that the athlete or client will develop muscle imbalances or does not build a “base.”
A former – and very successful colleague of mine – focused on building a base in the athletes she worked with and progressed from there. She used a forward engineered process. She also could not explain why her training was working for the athletes she worked with. Her athletes loved her, but the few times an athlete choose to stop working with her, it was because they did not feel (understand) how the training was supposed to help them in their sport.
I have always had trouble with the concept of “general”, “specific” and “special” exercises.
Famously, “general physical preparedness” (GPP) includes “balanced physical conditioning’ in endurance, strength, speed and other basic factors of fitness, whereas “special physical preparation” (SPP) concentrates on exercises that are more specific to the particular sport. Further, “GPP and SPP always form an interconnected unit and in some cases they might be largely indistinguishable”. (22)
According to the dictionary general means can have several related meanings, for example, ‘not specialized”, “not specialized”, “including miscellaneous items”, “applicable or true in most cases.” All these meanings of the word general can relate to the concept of “general strength training” and “general physical preparedness.”
The meanings of the word general may convey the idea that exercises and training methods in “general strength training” can be chosen without particular discernment in relation to the athlete’s goal. Just make sure to “cover most major muscle groups or movement patterns” and the program is fine.
Anatoly Bondarchuk, one of the most successful coaches ever, gives a good definition of general exercises: “General exercises refer to those exercises that are typically used for conditioning, but do not have a direct correlation to improvement of the sports skill or sport performance.”
Understand the above definition by considering a brick house. The bottom row of bricks (the general exercises) does not directly support the roof (performance). However, without the bottom row of bricks the roof would be unstable or crumble. Only by FIRST considering the nature of the roof (size, shape and weight) would it be possible to determine which bricks to use and where to place them. Thus we can say that the bottom row of bricks is SPECIFIC to the roof. And by the same token the “General exercises” must be SPECIFIC to the desired performance.
Instead of focusing on the concept of ‘general training,” which might be misleading, it is more effective to focus on the specific sequence of exercises that, applied over weeks, months and years can build a beginner into a world class athlete. This is the idea of the conjugate exercise system. There is no need for the “general” and “specific” distinction. Focusing on the entire sequence provides a much better understanding of the training process.
What are YOUR thoughts on general vs specific exercises?
To Your Success,
PS: If you would like to learn many SPECIFIC examples of the conjugate exercise system, you will like “Beyond Functional Training”. Click to find out how to attend.