Balancing General and Specific Training

If adjustments in the training are necessary to make further progress, is it better to reduce general training components and place more emphasis on the specific activity (sprinting), or would it be better to distribute the workload over more general training components, allowing more recovery for sprinting and hence greater intensification?

How would the level of development affect this decision?

Very true!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it depends :slight_smile:

I certainly think that the level of development of the particular athlete could have a huge impact. For example, for someone who is already world class, it is unlikely that they will need much as far as GPP. I would think that high quality sprinting would be called for.

However, we would still have to look at each athlete as an individual and determine where their strengths and weaknesses are. Based on that, then we prescribe training. If an athlete is fairly fast and has good technique, but lacks the strength to get out of the blocks, then perhaps general training components (weights) would be emphasized, but remember two things:

  1. Never get too far away from speed work. It should happen in every cycle.
  2. Less is more.


I think this is an important issue because it affects how different components are integrated into the training.

Nice response ideal :clap:

However, you have to be careful about focusing on weaknesses as well. No matter what Carl did, he would never be as explosive out of the blocks as Ben, so if he had attempted this, it may have actually detracted from his overall race because he would lose that time he could have spent improving his strengths.

I’m not saying that one shouldn’t identify and shore up areas of weakness, but I am saying that at some point beating a dead horse does you no good. Figuring out when a weakness should be targetted and when the time would be better spent improving strengths is once again a judgement call and it is what separates to good coaches from the great ones.


I guess the way I might approach the problem with my athletes( mostly football, soccer, hockey) is that I look at what part of their running needs help. Some guys are explosive as hell and fire out of the blocks but lack spped due to too long ground contact time. I would move to more plyometric movements to shore up his weakness. Other guys are fast but lack Explosive power. I work on their strength to get better hole shot. At the level you look to be at, I would say you need the help of someone of Charlie’s caliber. That being said, look for your biggest weakness and address it. Than analyze yourself, and target a new weakness. It will likely vary. Look at Ben and Carl. Ben was always more explosive than Carl. Ben probably spent a good deal of time lowering his ground contact time. Carl probably spent most of his career working on his explosiveness.

The generality vs. specifity debate rages on! It seems like everybody wants to become ultra specific nowadays. I heard Ian King talking about swiss ball training for ab’s. The rage was “instability”! Ian posed an interesting thought. If someone cannot selectively recruit his ab’s on the floor, how will he ever do it on a ball? It struck me that he was right about not being too specific. That being said, if running fast is what you are after, run. The way it was posed to me about GPP to SPP, you adjust all your training to meet the increased volume in other areas. Say you increase flex in GPP, maybe you cut back on speed work, but never eliminate it altogether.

I’m not talking about all of the “specific” sports training that has nothing to do with actually playing the sport. What I’m referring to are the major components in sprint training.

For purposes of discussion, I’ll break down the training components as I see them:

Sprinting (high intensity)

Tempo (low intensity)
Core (low intensity)
Weights (high intensity)
Plyometrics (high intensity)
Medicine ball throw (both low and high intensity)

This is our general menu (with possible variations). I’m not talking about basic program design. We’ve been over that. What I’m talking about are the issues involved in fine tuning and adjusting the training to maintain progress.

I’ll start with an example and see what kind of response (if any) that I get. A sprinter is beginning to stagnate in his speed development. I’m assuming that recovery is not the main issue, but rather a need to change the stimulus. Would you reduce the general high intensity training to allow a greater focus on the sprint training? Or would you place more emphasis on one or more of the general high intensity means (e.g., plyos) to overcome a deficiency that you think cannot be further improved through sprinting itself? What factors would you consider when making this decision? How does this choice vary with the level of development? How do we go about determining the athlete’s needs? In other words, how do we determine where the weakness is in order to choose the correct training component?