One of the big developments in sport conditioning is the growing body of research into how different exercises improve athletic performance. As a result, more and more exercises are being referred to as sports specific. But what does that really mean and is there any merit to it?
The term sports specific is typically used in two contexts; movement and muscles. The former is generally used to classify an exercise that has the same or similar movement patterns to those found in a particular sport. The latter refers to exercises that recruit the same muscles as those used in a particular sport or one of its components (the vertical jump and heading the ball in football for example).
The technical reality is that the only activity that is truly sports specific, is the sport itself. The exceptions to this are sports that are based on particular exercises, i.e. Olympic Weightlifting and Girevoy (Kettlebell) Sport.
Outside off these very specific sports, exercises are more or less relevant to a particular sport, rather than genuinely specific. That said, certain exercises lend themselves to improved physical performance, which may in turn result in improved skill.
Regarded by many as the biggest bang for buck exercise in existence, the deadlift improves triple extension, posture, starting strength and acceleration. All of these benefits have a degree of carryover to many sports, which is why understanding how to programme a certain exercise into an athletes training is essential, as it's not just enough to be able to deadlift more weight.
Of all the exercises available to the S&C coach, this is probably the one that promotes the least debate and is therefore the safest choice for anyone looking to enhance athletic performance.