Programming Sport-Specific Training

Last week I gave you a brief introduction to sport-specific training. We left off on how the most logical way to initiate an effective sports-specific exercise prescription is to identify the general conditioning category in which a sport falls. Anaerobic, incremental, and aerobic are the basic conditioning categories.


  • Sports that involve activities requiring significant muscle strength with little muscle endurance
  • Are performed at low cardiorespiratory intensity and high muscle contractile intensity
  • Require comparatively short bursts of energy maintained over periods of short duration
  • Do not normally elevate the average exercise heart rate to extreme
  • Rely heavily on carbohydrate energy sources.


  • Sports that involve comparatively moderate muscle strength and endurance
  • Require the intermittent performance of both high and low intensity muscle and cardiorespiratory activity
  • Are performed over periods of moderate duration
  • Cause a varying fluctuation of training heart rate with a moderate to high average exercise heart rate
  • Rely on both carbohydrate and fat energy sources.


  • Sports that require muscular endurance and little strength
  • Require the performance of moderate to high intensity “steady-state” cardiorespiratory activity
  • Are performed over periods of longer duration
  • Cause a steady, moderate to high average exercise heart rate
  • Rely most heavily upon fat energy sources.

Being able to categorize sports and athletic activities in terms of the above-required conditioning parameters is important. It enables us to develop and prescribe an optimal sports-specific program of exercise to compliment an athlete’s existing coordination and motor skills. Proper specificity training can best be prescribed only after the performance of a close preliminary analysis of the individual athlete’s existing genetic attributes, motor skills, past experience in the sport, current physical condition, etc. Secondly, a detailed understanding of the inherent conditioning demands imposed upon the athlete by the sport itself is required. Given ALL this information, you are ready to formulate a physical conditioning, sports-specific exercise prescription.


Ron Clark is the Founder of National Federation of Professional Trainers, NFPT. From U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant to Competitive BodyBuilder, then Firefighter and Certified Personal Trainer - he founded NFPT in 1988 with a mission to make fitness training careers accessible to every day fitness enthusiasts who want to turn their passion into their livelihood. Ron has always led with a heart of service, and, in that spirit, he helps people to achieve real and practical career goals that serve a greater good in changing people's lives. He lives and leads by example, being a personal trainer himself for more than 10 years before setting out to develop a certification program that is real-world and foundational to the goals of personal trainers and their clients. Click Here to learn more about Ron's story and NFPT's inception.
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