Strength Training vs Skill Training or More on SuperSlow and Similar Approaches


“You can observe a lot by watching”—Yogi Berra

Here are my thoughts on the dispute between proponents of separation of strength training from skill training vs proponents of integration of strength and skill training (i.e., progression of strength exercises from general to increasingly sport-specific with parallel technical training). Let’s begin with easily observable facts:

At any stage of training, those exercises that address the greatest deficit are the most effective (duh…).

Beginners have deficits of both general strength and of skill, so they improve with training that addresses either one or both of these areas. (However, if they neglect general strength, their skill training is likely to eventually hurt them. If they neglect skill training, they will perform poorly and may get hurt too.)

Another fact: Beginners improve with nearly any exercise program. The question is, for how long, i.e., how far below their potential will they stop improving?

Advanced athletes have both great general strength (just look at, for example, pro baseball players) and excellent skill. At some time in a career of a player comes a stage when increasing general strength does not carry over to improved performance, and practicing pure skill more (more reps) is not feasible. That is when the sport-specific strength and sport-specific speed exercises help. So says experience of millions of athletes trained in East European-style programs and of thousands of their coaches who tried many different ways of getting better results.

The bottom line: When in doubt, refer to everyday observations. An accurate observation is never wrong.


For those who don’t know what are sport-specific strength exercises:

Sport-specific strength exercises are very similar to the skill (in their intermuscular and intramuscular coordination) but provide an overload so the athlete can do more in fewer reps. Here are two quotes  with examples of sport-specific strength exercises:

Science of Sports Training p. 171:
Six weeks of practicing volleyball spikes with a 1-lb. weighted glove increased the velocity of the players’ spike. . . .

Science of Sports Training p. 172:
The intermuscular and intramuscular coordination in throwing a 1.5 kg (3.3 lb.) ball using the technique of a javelin throw without a prerun is the same as in throwing a 0.8 kg (1.75 lb.) javelin. In throwing a 4 kg (8.8 lb.) ball in the same fashion, the external form resembles the javelin throw, but the muscular coordination registered by an EMG (Electromyograph) is different. The throw with a 1.5 kg ball can be used as a sport-specific strength exercise, but the throw of a heavier ball—up to 4 kg depending on athletic level—may be used only as a directed strength exercise by javelin throwers below the stage of maximal realization of their potential (Wazny 1992b).

More about sport-specific strength exercises at:

Request for help:

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3 Responses to “Strength Training vs Skill Training or More on SuperSlow and Similar Approaches”

  1. That is some very interesting food for thought Tom. Thank you for posting that.

    It seems that recently since “functional training” has become such a buzzword, a lot of people try to rush right into sport-specific strength exercises and frequently neglect the need for general strength.

    This is a good reminder that there needs to be a logical progression.

  1. 1 So Many Exercises, So Little Time | Tom Kurz's Weblog
  2. 2 Excelsior | An Accurate Observation Is Never Wrong or What a Coach Needs to Know: Thomas Kurz

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