If you want to be exceptional at a specific event, you need to train your body specifically for that event. Some examples could be sprinting, bike riding, discus, long-jump or boxing. The exercises that you perform as part of your training need to be specifically targeted to the type of event so your body can exert maximal force in the most efficient manner possible.
When you undertake a completely foreign task - for example, throw a javelin as far as possible, you are going to be very inefficient at that particular movement. You may be extremely strong, but this is by no means a determinant as to how far you will be able to throw a javelin. Here are three primary considerations that will determine how far you could throw:
- Your technique. Obviously technique is crucial. Someone with half the strength of someone else may be able to throw the javelin twice as far, just because that are able to generate force in that specific motion four times more efficiently. This covers everything from body positioning, to how you breathe.
- How your muscles have been conditioned. If you have been training specifically for power, then you will be able to generate much more force in a short period of time, as is required for a javelin throw. Someone with good endurance capacity would not be able to accomplish this, as their muscles are more effective at lasting for long periods of time with a continual and relatively lower force output.
- How your brain has been conditioned. Your brains forms neurological connections as you learn a new technique. If this technique is foreign, your brain will be unable to communicate with your muscles effectively. Thus, force generation will be minimal. With a mathematics equation, the more often you perform it, the more efficient you become at solving the problem. The same would reign true for any physical movement.
Other considerations such as fitness, mindset, nutrition etc. would also affect the end result of your javelin throw. However let's focus on these three aspects listed above in this discussion.
So, how do you become extremely efficient at all three of the above aspects; technique, muscle conditioning and brain conditioning?
- Technique will improve from practice, practice and more practice. If you wish to throw a javelin far, you need to throw a javelin. You need to be taught correct and efficient technique too.
- Muscle conditioning will partially come from actually throwing the javelin. More importantly will be the resistance based training work that you perform in a gym. In this particular example, you would want to focus on heavy weighted, power based exercises. Many of these exercises would be compound in nature (recruiting multiple muscle groups simultaneously). You would also perform exercises that mimic the general motion of throwing a javelin, to enhance your strength in this motion.
- Brain conditioning will come from the combination of actually throwing the javelin and the resistance based work that you do. Both of these activities will teach the brain how to interact efficiently with the muscles being worked.
Depending upon your chosen activity, the exercise prescriptions will vary widely for peak performance. Hence why it is important to hire a personal trainer to guide you to success.
Now that I have covered the basics, I would like to provide a real-world example of this conditioning. I am personally the subject of this experiment which will conclude at the end of this month.
I'll begin with the background. On new years eve, I was at an amusement park where there was an old fashioned "Test of Strength" stall. Basically you are given a rubber-coated sledge hammer and you have to hit the base as hard as possible. An electronic light moves up the tall display to show how hard you have hit the target. I decided to give it a go.
I had never had a go on one of these before, nor had I ever used a sledge hammer. Picking up the sledge hammer was a surprise enough as I did not realise how heavy they were!
Hitting the target proved a challenge. It was not that the sledge hammer was too heavy, but rather the movement felt foreign and awkward. I had no idea how to hit this target effectively, so I just tried to bring the sledgehammer over my head and down onto the target, in a similar manner to how other people were hitting it. I also did not feel confident that I was going to actually hit the target, so upon coming down onto the target, I backed off the force somewhat just to ensure that I was actually going to make the target.
The results were poor. Whilst other males with a fraction of my training experience were able to obtain over 100 on the score board, my scores were 79 and 83 respectively. Suffice to say these scores did not even warrant a slinky prize!
This does not come as a surprise though. Apart from having never used a sledgehammer before and having poor technique, my training prior to this had been hypertrophy (muscle building) based and not strength based.
A side note on the scores, the 4 point improvement is a prime example of the "brain conditioning" explained above. Of course, there is only minimal improvement in a single hit, but that is a 5% improvement in a more fatigued state.
So, I decided that I'd set myself a challenge over the next month. Over the next four weeks, I will train specifically for this event. I will do this by:
- Learning correct technique and practicing this using a sledgehammer and a tyre.
- Training specifically for explosive strength in the gym, with some specific movements that mimic those when using a sledgehammer.
In late January, I will be at a music festival where they typically have this game available. There, I will give it another shot with improved technique/confidence and more specifically conditioned muscles and mind. I will be sure to post an update on my results!