TL:DR – you want to get good at something, PRACTISE IT and all the aspects surrounding it.
We’ve all seen the videos on Youtube, you know the ones, where a person or athlete who is in great shape attempts some sort of fitness activity or challenge that is outside their regular sport or activity. Bodybuilder tries boxing, Gymnast tries the army PFT or Crossfitter tries strongman lifts.
The running theme the videos tend to share is that these people in otherwise great shape, struggle with the new activity and end up in a sweaty, exhausted heap. If they were performing with the sport or activity that they usually partake in, they could probably go for hours, so why do they struggle with the new sport or activity? Well task dependent conditioning is the answer to that.
So What is Task Dependent Conditioning?
Task dependent conditioning is training your body to excel at a certain task. like Mirko Cro Cop excelling in kicking Wanderlei Silvas head into orbit in the picture above. In order to do this you have to think about what your goals are and then plan what you should be doing to make yourself better at it.
Task dependent conditioning tends to boil down to ‘practice the thing, to get good at the thing’ which funnily enough, makes sense. if you want to be a good powerlifter, then you have to powerlift and if you want to be a long distance runner, then you have to practice long distance running.
The problem with this however, is that the body gets used to being great at this one thing and then when you are thrust into another form of exercise, your body starts to struggle like in those videos at the beginning.
Many athletes now do some form of cross modal training in order to help them compete, however in order to get the most out of cross modal training there is a catch.
It has to be a close as possible to the sport you are practicing. So for instance a rugby player might be looking for more explosiveness, so they begin to dedicate time in the weights room training Olympic lifts and explosive pushing movements. Then when they get out on to the training field, they might practice building more speed over shorter distances as well as practicing short tackles. Because they’ve placed some direction in their training now they’re more likely to build aspects that they want, they haven’t just stuck to training rugby and left it there.
This is why so many athletes now tend to cross train, as it makes them ultimately better at the goal they have in mind. There are very few athletes now who do not cross train in other forms of exercise.
How to train Task Dependent conditioning?
Its all very well and good explaining what task dependent conditioning is, but how would you put it into action? Lets start with your overarching goal, THE BIG ONE, so to speak. What do you want to achieve, is it a sports goal? or something like building more muscle? how about professional fitness? like a soldier or a police officer?
Lets take the soldier for example, as basic training is perfect in demonstrating how to train task dependent conditioning. When a person is sent to basic training they have to undertake a series of fitness tests, running, a number push ups, situps and pullups normally completed within a set time, grip strength tests, pressing and pulling strength tests. The list as you can see is quite comprehensive.
These tests continue well into basic training and will increase in difficulty as training continues, until eventually the person completes basic training, so why was the fitness training so important? because it ensures they can do their job, the soldier has to be able to perform in multiple different forms of exercise. Its not good if the soldier can run 20 miles in an hour if they cant carry their pack and rifle and vice versa, the soldier could be the strongest man in the world but if he cant run a mile he’s just as useless. This is why the fitness training is so comprehensive, the better the soldier is at all different forms of exercise, the better soldier they can be.
Lets break that down further, so we can see why the exercises they perform are important, running builds the aerobic base so the soldier can perform for longer, the callisthenics provide muscular strength, injury proofing and stamina, so the soldier can work harder, so now the soldier can work longer and harder, just like that, we can see the benefit of task dependent conditioning.
Another good example of multiple forms of exercise being used to take a person to the next level would be boxing training.
Many boxers start out just lamenting all the different forms of exercise they have to do on top of regular training in their own time, running, skipping, calisthenics, weight training, proprioception training its no wonder so many people get turned off from it in the first few months.
But all of those different types of exercise add something to the boxer to make them a more complete boxer. The running builds endurance for the boxer, the skipping builds stamina and footwork, the calisthenics and weights condition and injury proof the body and the proprioception training builds reaction time and motor control.
All of these pieces add to the big thicc pie that is the boxer and when added alongside all the regular sparring, pad work and bag work, can make them a truly formidable boxer.
So how do you do it?? like I said before, pick a goal, one that’s specific to your chosen fitness domain, be it sprinting 100 metres in under 12 seconds, more explosive punches, better grip strength the list can go on and on. For the sake of this exercise, were going to choose sprinting 100m in under 12 seconds. I personally would find 3 areas to work on, I would train for:
1. An explosive start, to get me up top speed faster.
2. The sprint itself, so my body gets used to moving at speed
3.Endurance training, so my body has a better gas tank so I know I can train for longer
These three training areas open up a vast array of exercises and types of training, but again for simplicity’s sake.
1.For the explosive start I would train with sled sprints or with a weighted vest, as I’d only be training my acceleration for that day I would keep the running distance short, maybe 50 meters, so that I could really focus on working on acceleration, I would also do some explosive callisthenics, so jumping squats, push up claps, box jumps mostly lower body movements that can be practiced explosively.
2. In order to train the speed aspect, I would just keep it very simple and just do practice sprints, for these I would wear a weighted vest, lighter than the one I would wear for explosiveness training, but I would make the sprints a bit longer 150 metres maybe, so that i could really practice staying at speed for longer periods of time, if I couldn’t use a weighted vest or rucksack I would instead use hill sprints, warning though, hill sprints are gross, they are so effective but also sooooo gross, they will make you vom.
3. This one seems strange, but for these sessions, I wouldn’t really sprint at all, I would do a nice low and slow 5 mile run/jog, a very easy, very simple training session, but one that is also vastly important.
with those methods of training, you could reliably improve your 100 metre sprint, why is that? well by practicing the smaller components of the sprint, you make your actual sprint better, all the aspects, the explosive start and acceleration, being able to stay at top speed and the endurance to ensure that you’ll be able to complete the task at hand, all mesh into one activity, the sprint.
Long story short, you want to get good at something, practise it. Remember to stay civilized and ill see you next time.