One of the other threads on this forum prompted me to write this little bit and give my viewpoint on the most basic and yet single most important training principle there is: what exactly is the purpose of strength and conditioning? In other words, why train outside of your sport if you're an athlete? The funny thing is that despite 60+ years of research in exercise science and countless advances across the board in medicine and a greater understanding of the human body, there is still no real universal answer to this question. You could ask this question to a hundred different strength and conditioning coaches and probably get close to 100 different answers. The reality is that how someone answers this simple yet complex question dictates their entire framework of understanding and thus their entire foundation of their training methods. Some coaches believe the purpose of lifting is to get as strong as possible, that the weight room is for getting bigger and stronger and the field is for putting that strength to use. Some coaches believe that lifting weights explosively is dangerous and only slow work on machines should be used to get an athlete stronger. Some coaches think the most important thing is to keep players from getting hurt and the best way to do this is to use the same exercises and principles that therapists use to rehab injuries and to use exercises that mimic skills. Yet other coaches believe the only thing that matters is explosive power and the olympic lifts are the best to develop this and so every athlete should be training the olympic lifts. There are probably 4 or 5 of these different paradigms or belief systems that make up about 95% of the foundation for all strength and conditioning programs used in this country today. The interesting thing about strength and conditioning is that it's very difficult to ever prove or disprove any of these different points of view because human performance is so complex and there are so many variables, especially when it comes to team sports, that pinning an athlete's performance or lack thereof on their strength and conditioning program is next to impossible. At the end of the day an athlete's skill will always be the single most important factor in their success on the field, on the court, or in the ring. Many athletes are talented enough in their skills to succeed despite their training rather than because of it and it will probably always be this way. In my experience as a strength and conditioning coach I've come to have a different view than most out there and my paradigm does not fall into the category of any of those most commonly used. Much of my philosophy is based on the understanding and viewpoint of the eastern europeans which differs greatly from the traditional western philosophies of training which were first rooted in a culture of bodybuilding. My view of strength and conditioning and thus my basis of training and principles I use is based on breaking human performance into two general components of internal and external power. All of my training methods and principles are designed around improving either one or both of these components and I believe that is the role of strength and conditioning. I think understanding these two facets of performance and development provides a unique viewpoint and offers a great insight into why we should train. First, internal power is a new concept most people are not familar with. In the east, this concept is known as "biological power" or the "power of the organism." In my view, internal power generation can be thought of as the body's ability to coordinate its many systems to produce energy. These systems are the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the nervous system, the muscular system, etc. and as a whole they make up the internal components of energy production. These systems seemlessly work together to fuel all the processes of our body that keep us alive and the produce the movement of all of our muscles. Training to develop internal power means understanding which methods develop these systems and how they specifically adapt to stress. There is both a specific and a non-specific component to their adaptations. This means that regardless of the type of stress the body is placed under some of the adaptations will be exactly the same, and some will be totally different. This is the basic principle of the General Adaptation Syndrome pioneered by Dr. Hans Selye, considered the godfather of moderan day stress research. Because of these general and specific components of adaptation, several different methods of cardiovascular training and resistance training need to be used to functionally improve internal power. The process is also individual because different people have different systems more in need than others and everybody's ability to adapt to stress is different as well. Improving internal power can be analagous to making a light bulb glow brighter or simply as your body's ability to generate more horsepower. This horsepower is what is used to perform, and what is used to adapt to the stress of everday life and keep you alive. More internal power means the body is capable of generating more energy and adapting to stress more efficiently. This energy is the basis for all human performance and for life in general because without it we could not adapt to the physical and mental stress we all face throughout our lives. In some respects this is what people think of when they talk about work capacity, but they generally have little understanding of the specific methods and processes that need to take place to develop it correctly. Work capacity is certainly a part of internal power, but there is also more to the concept than that as well. External power is what most people think of when they think strength and conditioning and is much more commonly understood. External power is the result of how our muscles contract to produce movement. In sports, the end result of external power is the skill an athlete's able to perform. External power is a measure of how fast their able to move and skill is a measure of how effectively their able to transform and coordinate these movements into the components of their given sport. In the weightroom, external power is an easy concept to understand is simply how much weight an athlete is able to life, how fast their able to lift it. Within this context, the external power in the weightroom can be thought of as general because it is not part of any particular skill but rather part of an entire movement pattern. In a given sport, however, the production of external power is completely specific because all the power generated is done so in the context of the skills necessary for the performance of the sport. Because of the specific nature of strength, i.e. how the body produces force, and the specificity of adaptations that result from strength training, it is necessary to understand just how the power generated in the weightroom will carry over, or how it won't carry over, into the athlete's chosen sport. The primary question that needs to be asked is will the power developed through a particular exercise, or series of exercises, transfer into the execution of the skills in the sport? In my experience, strength and conditioning needs to be viewed from the holistic standpoint of these two overlapping concepts of internal and external power. The whole point of training is to develop the body's ability to internally generate power and then to make sure this internal power can be channeled as efficiently as possible into the specific external power required for a given sport. Within this context there are many different biological systems that need to be developed, and they need to be developed in the proper sequence for maximum power to be generated. There are always general and specific components that need to be taken into consideration, and there will always be a large amount of individuality to the process because everyone's adaptation abilities are different. This is what effective coaching is all about. To improve both components of power and to do so properly is not an easy task by any means. It takes an understanding of the general and specific effects of many different methods of training, and a framework from which to put these methods together to create the desired phyiological changes. The human body is never totally predictable so it's also necessary to understand how to guage progress and adaptation and make changes to an athlete's program accordingly. Strength and conditioning will always be as much a process of management as anything else. The fundamental idea is to effectively use and manage whatever means and methods might be necessary to stimulate specific adaptations and thus improvements the systems in whatever manner is necessary to improve performance. Every strength and conditioning coach has some different theoretical framework they use to decide which methods to use and how to manage them. Largely their methods and management approach is based on what physical abilities they think are most necessary to performance and how they believe they should best be improved. Some coaches think strength is all that really matters and the specific movements aren't that important and should be general, some think strength doesn't matter that much but the exact movement of the exercise does so it should be close to the skills of the sport, and some think weightlifting in general is just dangerous so it should all take place in machines where it's nice and safe. In any event, there will probably always be more disagreement than agreement and more questions than answers, but in the end to each his own, at least there will always be a reason to train.