Special Strength Training (SST)

“Special Strength Training is based on the specific characteristics of physical training and the long-term dynamics of the STS (Sports Training Process)”. (Supertraining 2003-2009) There are key principles that form the foundation of Special Strength Training that I believe are important for understanding this crucial part of development.

Brief overview of these key principles from Supertraining

  • Converging the partial effects of strength training means
    • Achieved by convergence of all the different partial training effects, i.e. the gradual convergence of their cumulative training effect to those important specific characteristics which are essential to the function of the body in a particular sport.
    • Example of a jumping progression one may use as they converge each special strength. The transition between strengths would take place over several weeks.
      • Static Jumping exercises
      • Barbell Exercises
      • Jumps with weights
      • Depth Jumping
  • Accelerating specific adaptation
    • Foundation for developing sports proficiency. The specific adaptation should be accelerated by advancing the stage when maximum sports proficiency is expected to be produced by the current training regime. Blending in a new stimulus for a desired training effect would be ideal once proficiency of current training means is about to take place. This is what’s known as the conjugate sequence.
  • Specific Correspondence of the training effect
    • Improvement of the kinetic chain (specialization of systems) and motor skills of the sport (specialization of abilities).
  • Maintaining the strength training effect.
    • Preservation of the training effect because of the timely introduction of more effective training means based on a logical continuity. In other words, constantly getting better and avoiding stagnation. The term “Maintaining” in sports science doesn’t mean to stay the same, it means to maintain what you have built and keep building.  The most popular phrase used as an athlete transitions from off-season development to in-season… “Now it’s just about maintaining”. Unfortunately most of the people who use this term do not understand what that actually means. Which leaves the athlete susceptible to stagnation, decrease in performance, or even injury.

Training speeds one must understand prior to assigning SST:

Explosive Strength – Maximal force in minimal amount of time. Training speeds – Jumps/Throws

Speed-Strength – Training speeds @  1.0 – 1.2m/s (I do not recommend training anything over 1.2m/s with a barbell)

Strength-Speed – Training speeds @  .75m/s – 1.0m/s

Accelerative Strength – Training speeds @  .45m/s – .75m/s

Absolute Strength – Training speeds @  .15m/s – 35m/s

Isometrics – Zero Velocity (0.0m/s)

As you can see, each speed blends into the speeds surrounding it. Other than isometrics, which are an amazing tool to utilize! But the focus of this article does not require to go down that rabbit hole, so we won’t.

Moving on…

The Repeated Effort Method is used during accessory work to improve the deficiencies of the athlete and turn weaknesses into strengths. It can also be used to add lean muscle mass and aid in hypertrophy. DO NOT use a barbell for the repeated effort method. Ideally this method requires an athlete to perform a set to complete failure. Which is why single joint exercises are mostly used. When the body becomes exhausted, things break down and injuries occur.  Single joint training becomes much safer. For athletes who need to practice for their sport 2-4 hours a day, go to class for 4-8 hours a day, then work a night job AND pile terrible nutrition and sleep on top of all that.… training to failure often is probably not going to end well for them all the time. With that said, there are some benefits with pushing it to “almost” failure and avoiding technical breakdown. Such as strengthening the ligaments and tendons, stimulating blood flow to specific areas, building the connective tissue with high volume band work, and of course the overall consistent boost in GPP. These exercises are usually done towards the latter half of the training session as they will not require as much physical or mental exertion as the main work for that day. The main work for the day should be done at the beginning of the training session.

Not all accessory work has to utilize the repeated effort method, nor does it need to be rotated every week. I personally like to rotate them every 3 weeks and re-introduce every 9-12 weeks. These are programmed for a reason (just like everything should be) and the athlete needs time to enhance both skill of the movement and individual weaknesses prior to moving on. If you see them getting bored or not completely engaged for a few training sessions in a row, don’t be afraid to call an audible and change it. Them being more engaged is equally as important as the program you wrote (if not more).

Equipment:

Utilizing sleds, we not only have a versatile way of training all 3 energy systems, but we also use them for restoration between training sessions, speed development and overall unilateral volume. Keep in mind, if you add a few thousand pounds of sled sprint volume to your athletes training, volume and prescribed intensity will need to be altered elsewhere in order to accommodate.

  • Sled combo (rogue – spud inc belt, spud inc rope, small sled)
  • Medicine Balls (literally anywhere)
  • Plyo boxes (you can either build them yourself or buy. These are usually sold anywhere that sells gym equipment and all for about the same price)

Accommodating resistance isn’t necessary, but very useful. Using bands and chains simply change the environment for the athlete. Having access to accommodating resistance just gives the coach more tools in the toolbox. Without using bands or chains during the main lifts, bar deceleration is inevitable. This could ultimately limit RFD simply because bands teach the athlete how to accelerate through full ROM.

As far as bars go, I recommend having as many different bars as possible. This will make rotating your exercises much easier and keep your athletes from stagnating. I realize this is not always feasible. So I’ll list some specialty bars that I would recommend investing in when possible.

  • SSB Yoke Bar (Elitefts)
  • Rackable Cambered Squat Bar (Elitefts)
  • American Cambered Press Bar (Elitefts)
  • Deadlift Bar (Rogue)
  • Earthquake Bar (Elitefts)

As far as special equipment is concerned, again the more the better! There is A LOT of equipment that should be named here, but because this stuff can get extremely pricey, I’ll only recommend a couple key pieces that are generally pretty affordable.

  • GHD (rogue/elitefts/westside)
  • Reverse hyper (rogue/westside)

To be blunt, if you’re an athlete and don’t have access to these machines at your gym, switch gyms. If you’re a coach and own a strength training facility but do not provide these for your athletes, save up and get them! These machines promote spinal traction and posterior development. Athletes of all sports are usually ALWAYS weak and extremely underdeveloped in their posterior chain. In my opinion, having these two pieces of equipment will not only save some athletes from injuries in the future but it will also aid in the their development. You can also create 100s of variations for the entire body using these machines.

Join me for part 4 of this series next week were we talk about rotation of exercises for both the ME and DE method and cover practical programming schemes. Make sure to subscribe to this blog below so you can get notified once its released!