• Hot Topic: Dynamic Correspondence - The Key to Strength Training Transfer
    An athlete’s resistance training program is often focused on one thing - to attain greater performance. As a result, maximizing the transfer of training to performance becomes imperative, especially as the athlete moves into higher realms of training.
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  • Dynamic TransferIntroduction The SAID Principle, which stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands, is one that serves as the basis for many sport performance training programs across the country. At this point, the SAID Principle has become an increasingly popular and accepted fundamental theory as it pertains to athletic preparation. It is common to hear sports performance professionals claim that his/her athletic preparation plan is sport-specific. However, upon further examination, one may find that these methods are not overly specific to a given sport task.

    This is typically due to the lack of the exercises meeting several areas of criterion and the overall lack of positive transfer to an exact sport movement. Thus, it is recommended that as sport performance professionals there be a reevaluation of what it really means to be sport-specific in the training methodologies being employed. Specificity can pertain to biomechanical, metabolic, or psychological adaptations (4).

    This article will attempt to provide a general overview of the biomechanical specificity of resistance training measures. Namely, the concept of dynamic correspondence will be introduced and a discussion of its principles that may lead to greater transfer in sport-specific training preparation will be briefly investigated.

    The Essence of Athletic Preparation 
    An athlete’s resistance training program often has one main overall objective: to attain greater performance. Thus, the optimal ways to maximize the transfer of training to sport movement performance is of utmost importance. This becomes the very essence of athletic preparation and becomes of even greater importance as an athlete moves into the high-performance realm of training.

    It should be noted that the principle of specificity will vary greatly according to one’s training status, physical preparation levels, maturation status, and overall level of sport mastery (4, 12, 13). Overall, there is a great deal of scientific evidence which would indicate that the levels of strength and power that one possesses are likely influenced by the specific type of training protocol that has been utilized (8-13).

    Athletes that are at a lower level of sports mastery may benefit from nearly any training modality and in turn could see positive transfer of training to commonly executed sport tasks (1, 12, 14). However, it would appear that as an athlete progresses in sport and training mastery, training methods must take on a greater emphasis of sports specificity in order to result in the desired adaptation (2, 4, 12, 13).

    In other words; transfer will take place much easier in lower level athletes due to their high sensitivity levels to physical activity. Their room for adaptation is much larger than their more advanced counterparts. At those low levels, general strength training exercises will simply carryover more easily to in-sport performance (12-14).

    Not only do the general strength training protocols result in greater strength capabilities, but also increased balance and proprioception, injury reduction, and greater core stability (13). Unfortunately, often times those same exercises could possibly have a negative effect on an athlete’s overall sport-specific preparation levels as one progress (2, 5, 7, 12).

    It has been shown that athletes whom are at beginning or lower levels, can simultaneously develop increases in several independent physical characteristics such as strength, power, speed, and hypertrophy (12, 14) whereas those athletes who already possess higher levels of strength and/or training status may no longer achieve the desired training adaptation through the greater attainment of that physical quality (2, 6, 7, 12, 13).

    Dynamic Correspondence 
    In order to design the most effective training plans one must begin with the working knowledge of the SAID Principle, ensuring optimal training transfer based on the athlete’s preparation level. A concept that has been proposed by several sport scientists has taken the principle of sport-specificity one step further. In Siff and Verkhoshansky’s text Supertraining, they explain this concept as the principle of dynamic correspondence (12).

    This concept emphasizes that all exercises for specific sports be chosen to enhance the required sport motor qualities/movement patterns in terms of several criterions which include (12):
    • The amplitude/direction of the movement 
    • The accentuated region of force production 
    • The dynamics of effort 
    • The rate and time of maximum force production 
    • The regime of muscular work 
    Furthermore, the theory proposes that the strength displayed in the execution of a given movement be referred to only in the context of that given task (12). Moreover, sport movement tasks are specific and goal-directed and the enhancement in their execution should also be treated as such. Because of this, exercises could be evaluated based on the type of transfer that they may possess in relation to the degree of skill performance increase (2, 7, 12, 13).

    After this is established, exercises and/or training techniques can further be classified into categories such as general physical preparation (GPP) or special physical preparation (SPP) (1, 2, 7, 12).

    Some have even gone as far as suggesting that only special-preparatory exercises will serve the motor potential and will equate to the ultimate level of physical preparation for an athlete (2, 12). Essentially, any strength training method can potentially result in either a positive or negative transfer to in-sport performance and can be expressed based on a training transfer equation first suggested by Zatsiorsky (15) and modified later by Young (13).

    This function is expressed by the gain in sport performance/gain in the trained exercise (13, 15).

    Under this detailed examination one may then find that those exercises which directly represent a complete positive transfer in an SPP-fashion will be relatively limited (2, 7, 13). However, one can say that the display of strength in any given sport task will be determined namely by the level of efficiency that the nervous system is able to display during the sport movement pattern.

    Thus, it is important that the chosen exercise strive to reinforce optimum neuromuscular efficiency and function which includes factors of intramuscular and intermuscular coordination. This includes greater excitation of appropriate muscle agonists and synergists, decreased co-contraction of antagonists, increased motor-unit recruitment, firing rates, and synchronization (8, 12, 13).

    The previously mentioned information provides evidence which highlights the importance of movement pattern, force application, and velocity specificity in the prescription of those exercises used during strength training for athletic preparation. It is in this way where we can begin to see the limitations in transfer of some traditional training methods to sport performance.

    For example, it’s important to note that recent scientific findings would show us that when it comes to the training or testing of jumping, sprinting, and change of direction performance qualities, the methods are highly specific and result in very limited transfer from one quality to another (2, 3, 7, 11, 13). Essentially they are separate motor abilities and should be treated independently of one another in the selected training and testing methods.

    Notes of Caution 
    True sport-specific training protocols that represent dynamic correspondence should be used with caution. An inadequate understanding of the principle of dynamic correspondence could actually limit the training means and methods in a number of ways. First of all, one could misinterpret the conditions of dynamic correspondence to mean that an athlete must literally copy the specific sport task during the training movement.

    This occurs quite often when one jumps utilizing a weighted vest, sprints towing a sled, or swings a bat representing a heavier load than the individual typically swings. These types of methods have been shown to be effective at times depending on the load being utilized, the movement pattern, contraction velocity, and working effect but they do also have their limitations (12, 13).

    For example, larger loads often greatly alter the biomechanics of the movement which, in turn, will most likely also actually reduce the specificity of the training exercise (12, 13). Thus, it may be more appropriate to simply suggest that the sport performance professional implement exercises that similarly address the motor characteristics that are found in commonly executed sport-specific movement actions.

    Second, in an attempt to accelerate the progress of the athletes, many sports performance professionals will implement dynamic correspondence too early in the progression of an athlete’s mastery. Even though that statement may seem counterintuitive based on the comments made earlier in this article, an attempt to have athletes perform exercises of SPP-nature before they are fully ready will only inhibit the long-term athlete development of the given individual.

    The reason for this is he/she may not have attained sufficient levels of general physical qualities (such as strength or flexibility), optimized sporting skill technique, or perfected appropriate neuromuscular programs prior to performing exercise of SPP-nature.

    Thus, any attempt at close replication or pure simulation could negatively alter those abilities which control the sport movement actions in these athletes.

    Finally, once incorporation of these training exercises are employed, one must address the all-important issue of just how much of the overall training volume is being consumed by SPP-type exercises versus those of more general nature in a periodized training plan. Though the idea of periodization has been studied extensively, this final point of caution has only been addressed on a limited basis and no clear recommendation can be made yet at this point.

    To provide a general overview of the sequential process of specialization in training preparation, Siff and Verkhoshansky (12) offer the following flowchart.

    SummaryBy understanding and emphasizing the factors of dynamic correspondence in the training of high-level athletes, sports performance professionals can make training much more specific to the demands athletes will experienced out in the athletic arena. The attainment of general physical attributes/qualities may enhance sport performance in some individuals, but training modalities focused on more specific exercises may in fact be needed for optimal transfer as athletes improve in their level of sports/training mastery.
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    About the Author:

    Shawn Myszka, MS, CSCS,*D

    Shawn Myszka, MS, CSCS,*D is currently the Co-Founder/Athletic Performance Director of Explosive Edge Athletics in Minneapolis, MN. He serves as a consultant to coaches at numerous professional, collegiate, and high school athletic programs. Shawn is a former national-level competitive bodybuilder who has become a well-known and highly sought-after clinician and leader in the field of jump training, plyometrics, and sport-specific power development. Shawn, who is the Founder of the Plyometrics/Jump Training Special Interest Group, has also recently developed the first-ever Jump Training Certification designed for coaches looking to specialize in training to increase jump performance. He is a founding member of the Minnesota NSCA Advisory Board and was voted the 2008 Minnesota NSCA Trainer of the Year.


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  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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