Training Principles for Sport

01 Nov Training Principles for Sport

The development of the kinetic chain for sport requires adhering to specified training principles and underlying concepts. These concepts and principles guide the strength coach, athlete, and trainer in the development of the kinetic chain appropriately. These principles in conjunction with a structured training template will assist is a systematic approach in the development of the kinetic chain of the athlete for the sport of their choice. Provided below is a series of principles and training concepts pertinent to the strength and conditioning program of the athlete.

Multi-Planar Training

Sport occurs in three dimensions. Athletes will be utilizing the entire kinetic in order to change direction, accelerate, throw, and hit. As a result, we can classify sport as multi-directional and multi-planar athletic actions. As a result it is necessary for the athlete to utilize an integrated training approach incorporating all three planes of motion (Sagittal, Frontal, Transverse). Training modalities developing flexibility, stability, balance, strength, endurance, and power in multiple planes of movement is required for optimal sports performance.

  • Sagittal Plan

The sagittal plane is an imaginary axis dividing the anatomical body into left and right sections.

  • Frontal Plane

 The frontal plane is an imaginary axis dividing the anatomical body into anterior and posterior sections.

  • Transverse Plane

The transverse plane is an imaginary axis dividing the anatomical body into lower and upper sections. Rotary movements incorporate the transverse plane.

Cross-Specificity Training

Cross-specificity training is a reference to the similarities between exercises, training modalities, and conditioning programs to the movement patterns associated with the athlete’s chosen sport. Recognize the kinetic chain requirements of an offensive lineman in American Football and that of an Olympic Javelin Thrower are vastly different. As a result it is imperative the strength and conditioning recognize the kinetic chain requirements of the athlete’s sport and develop the programming around these requirements.

Transfer of Training Effect

The ability of an exercise or training program to elicit performance gains in the athletes chosen sport of competition. The transfer of training effect is a resultant of cross-specificity training of the athlete for their chosen sport. In order to elicit a transfer of training effect for any athlete, the coach should utilize the physical components required in during competition of the sport. For example, a pitcher will look to have a strength and conditioning programming maintaining arm health and increase throwing velocity, where as a wing in rugby will require a training program increasing the ability to accelerate, change direction, and exhibit power.

Limits of Stability

Limit of stability is the distance outside one’s base of support they can go without losing control of the kinetic chain.  Limits of stability is an integral component in the development of one’s balance capacities for sport and is a part of the process of progression within strength and conditioning programs. Recognize controlling center of gravity and extremity limbs is crucial for performance in sport. The wide receiver in American Football having the ability to control the body or the golfer maintaining spine angle during clubhead speed generation are two examples of where the ability of the athlete to control the body will have an outcome of performance.


Adaptation is the ability of the human body to adapt to the demands placed upon it by external stimuli. During the process of eliciting improvements in the golfer’s stabilization, strength, endurance, or power capacities the kinetic chain will adapt to loads placed upon it.


The human body will adapt to increased resistance placed upon it over time. The adaptations resulting from the overloads placed upon the kinetic chain through performance training occurs in the form of improved mobility, increased stability, augmented strength, and increased power outputs within the kinetic chain. In order to elicit continual improvement of the kinetic chain of the golfer, the health and fitness professional will be required to utilize the principle of overload to extract these performance gains.


The implementation of exercises or training modalities within a strength and conditioning program which progressively force the neuromuscular system of the kinetic chain to work harder. Progression is the process of overloading the kinetic chain resulting in adaptation within the neuromuscular system.

SAID Principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands)

The kinetic chain will adapt specifically to the demands place upon by external stimuli. External stimuli relative to resistance training can be in the form of load, volume, duration, or frequency. For example, if a shot putter lifts heavy weights to improve lower body strength. The SAID principle indicates the neuromuscular system of the lower body will adapt to the heavy weights through improved muscular strength.


The development of strength and conditioning programs  for the athlete require consideration to the age, medical history, current or past injuries, training experience, capacity for work, recovery, and structural integrity of the athlete. The individual athlete will respond best to a training program that is developed specifically in accordance to their needs. It is extremely important for the strength and conditioning professional to acknowledge and apply this principle. Sports have an extremely wide variance of participation in terms of population. As a result of this characteristic of the sport, individualization of performance training programs is a necessary step for the strength and conditioning professional.


The kinetic chain operates as a unit to execute the biomechanics associated in sport. In order for the kinetic chain to operate efficiently in the process of accelerating, decelerating, and stabilizing kinetic chain for optimum performance it is necessary for the athelte to utilize a training approach integrating the entire kinetic chain in multi-planar, multi-directional training modalities. Adhering to an integrated training approach will develop the required levels of mobility, flexibility, balance, stabilization, neuromuscular control, strength, and power required to execute the athletic actions associated within their chosen sport.


Periodization is a systematic approach by which loads, intensity, and training volumes are cycled during a given time frame of days, weeks, months or years. The cycling allows for an orderly approach to achieving improvement in the areas of flexibility, mobility, stability, strength, endurance, and power.


 Intensity can be defined as the amount of work for a specific exercise, group of exercises, or an entire training program. Modifications in intensity are contingent upon the training variables of load, volume, duration, and frequency.

  • Load

 Load is the amount of resistance utilized for a given exercise.

  • Volume

 Volume is the total amount of work performed in a given exercise, exercises, or entire training program.

  • Frequency

 Frequency is the total number of training sessions within a given time frame.

  • Duration

 Duration is the amount of time between each exercise within a single workout.

Stretch-Shortening Cycle

The stretch-shortening cycle is an eccentric and concentric sequence of muscular loading and unloading in which a muscle is first lengthened and then shortened. Research indicates a muscle can produce more force if actively lengthened prior to a concentric shortening. (Roger Enoka, Neuromechanical Basis of Kinesiology) In addition research indicates the enhancement of force production from the stretch-shortening cycle is caused by a combination of using elastic energy within the muscular system, and the myotatic stretch reflex. The stretch-shortening cycle is the basis of power development within the kinetic chain for sport.

Integrated Performance Paradigm

The integrated performance paradigm states all movement patterns during athletic and functional activities incorporate a repetitive series of stretch-shortening cycles. Components incorporated within the integrated performance paradigm include eccentric deceleration, stabilization, and concentric acceleration of the kinetic chain. As a result the athelte must develop all of these components within the kinetic chain for efficient movement patterns to occur.

Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement

This principle was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle. The mobility/stability pattern of human movement states efficient movement within the kinetic chain occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments. If this pattern of mobile joints and stable segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns will occur and compensations in these movement patterns will be the result.

Locomotion in the kinetic chain is a “feet to fingertips” activity operating in an alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint throughout the entire kinetic chain. Joints such as the elbow and knee are not rod-like pieces of iron, but rather these joints are stable in terms of limited degrees of motion. For example, the elbow is a hinge joint operating in one plane of motion whereas the gleno-humeral joint is considered a ball and socket joint rotating in 360 degrees of motion. As a result, within the mobility/stability pattern of functional movement, the elbow joint is considered a stable joint whereas the shoulder is a mobile joint.

The mobility/stability pattern of human movement allows for the creation and transfer of energy through the kinetic chain from “feet to fingertips”. Dysfunction within the mobility/stability pattern of human movement will deter for  optimal movement, acceleration, power development, and increase the propensity for injury due to dysfunction.


Provided above is a series of principles and concepts to guide the strength and conditioning professional in the development of programming for the athletic population. Recognize the above information is not of the required principles, training concepts, and guidelines required to work with this population. It is only sampling of the knowledge required. Though this does provide at the very least an introduction to the information necessary when working with the athletic population.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy provides Sean a proven track record of success.  He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.


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