New article time!
The following article is on XL Athlete, so check it out. The site is great and has tons of great articles and lots and lots of videos, so go over there and poke around. Great stuff. Special thanks to Cal Dietz for running the article and the great work he is doing with XL Athlete.

Here it is

SAID Principle and Transfer

You hear it all the time, “hey strap on these jump shoes and your vert (vertical) will go sky high man!” “You NEED to do calf raises for a huge vertical” Others argue “screw that, the calves don’t contribute more than a gnat’s butt to vertical, you need to work the glutes with some glute bridges” The debate normally degenerates into long drawn out version of the telephone game you played in first grade. What was a purple elephant by the end is a blue giraffe. They both are animals found in Africa, but not too similar otherwise.

To stay with the circus animal theme I am cooking up here, the large elephant in the room that people seem to miss is the concept of TRANSFER. I am here to shed some light on it for you and see if we can get a picture of these elusive, Nessie like creature.

Step 1) I SAID it!

To start we need to go back and dust off our physiology 101 text books. Can’t find yours beneath piles of old TV Guides; well let me help you out.

The SAID principle stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. Or translated, your body ALWAYS adapts to EXACTLY what you are doing, whether you are conscious of it or not.

Powerlifters have known this for a long term. How should you train if you want to rock your first or 50th meet where you perform the squat, bench and deadlift? Well, you squat, bench and deadlift! Yeah I know that is overstating the obvious, but via the SAID principle this is what you would expect. Now let’s peel the triple ply bench shirt down a layer and take a closer look. Everyone young male wants to bench press. Go to any gym on a Monday and somewhere in the bylaws it states that it is national bench press day—I swear I saw it (right after I got kicked out for doing an overhead lift like the guy on the symbol was doing).

So from the SAID principal if we want to up our bench, we need to bench press. Next we need to look at HOW a bench is done in competition. Various rules are slightly different, but in general you will have to hold the bar at lock out until an audible “start” command is given, lower it to your chest and pause there until the “press” command is given and hold at lock out until the “rack” command is given.

Back to national bench press day. If we want to increase our bench in a competition, we should be doing some training with the same audible commands and a pause at the chest since it is more specific.

So we know that SAID specific work is good. So why don’t we just pound away at it all the time? It becomes obvious pretty quick that heavy single rep work at every training session will quickly result in stagnate progress or even back sliding—-crap, what now?

Enter transfer

We have now maxed out our SAID work, so time to look for something else. Enter accessory work for the bench press such as board presses, floor presses, and even upper back work. Yes Johnny Wannna Big Bench on Mondays you will have to work a muscle you can’t see in a mirror. Our goal is to have these exercise TRANSFER to an increased bench come contest day. Powerlifters refer to this many times as “carry over.”

Enter Joint Mobility

Out of left field here comes joint mobility. What? Hold on there and this will make sense soon.

The body is governed via the nervous system. The three main ways you get new information into the nervous system is 1) proprioception (the body’s 3D map of its self) 2) visual (information from the eyes) and 3) vestibular (inner ear “balance” function). Your body is constantly taking in information from these three systems. If you are getting bad proprioceptive information, you are screwed for starters! If your map to Chicago is bad, you are going to have one long drive!

The body has lots of mechanoreceptors—imagine little green guys that live all over your body and really like to hang out in your joints. So they are not really green guys, but they are constantly sending precise signals to that thing on the top of your neck (yes that would be your brain). Since the bones do not move much (hopefully), by concentrating mechanoreceptors in the joints we can assess where our limbs are in space (and also pass that sobriety nose touching task too when you have a visit from the friendly Smokey).

Dynamic joint mobility work (like Z Health) engages the mechanoreceptors. Many times an old injury can result in long lasting neurologic shut down. The body really wants to protect itself, so if you injure your elbow there will be some shut down to the muscles that cross the joint in order to protect the body due to the arthrokinetic reflex (2, 3, 7). To combat this arthrokinetic shut down, we can work on the joint with some dynamic joint mobility work to tell the brain “hey, this is the elbow joint here and we are all up to 100% now and good for some heavy lifting now”

Sports Performance

Ok, so we have talked about SAID, transfer and joint mobility. What we really want to know in most cases do this exercise transfer to an increased performance. In the case of our friendly powerlifter, we have a
pretty good idea; but the water gets as murky as the Mississippi river in front of the waste sewage plant when we look at sports performance. Does weight lift
ing make Johnny a better football player? The old saying goes “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”

What does the research say?

Researchers have been interested in this for years, and especially in the old Soviet Union which has a machine to crank out amazing athletes for years. While many excellent coaches talk about transfer, it was probably the Russians that did much of the work years ago.

“A+B+C=D Correct!

A+C+B=D Not correct.”

—Anatoly Bondarchuk Transfer of Training 2006

“This is what people don’t understand and it is what the Russians are best at.” —Cal Dietz, Head Olympic Weightlifting Coach University of Minnesota

The US literature surrounding sport performance has not reached a consensus yet from what I can find. It may be surprising that getting an athlete stronger in the weight room does not AUTOMATICALLY ensure increased performance in sport (1, 4-6, 8-10). Don’t even start with me about the Swiss ball unless you are training athletes for the Cirque De Soleil(11). Keep your athletes the heck off that thing.

What to do now? Is he done yet?

After all my yammering, what the heck do I do now? Glad you asked. Here is the plan

1) Perform as much SAID principal work as you can

As in our example above, this will be limited by the recovery ability of your athlete.

2) Perform joint mobility work to ensure your proprioceptive signals are clean and your athlete is not experiencing any neurologic shut down due to the arthrokinetic reflex.

3) Combine 2 and 3. Whoooo hold on there Tex, what? You can put the athlete in the sports specific position and perform a joint mobility drill. For example, our bench press buddy could get into a bench press position and do Z Health wrist circles. Based on the SAID principal we know this should have the greatest potential to help his bench. Good places to starts are any areas of old injuries and scars. Make sure that is it not painful, as pain can also start to shut down the nervous system too

4) Test it! How do you know if Kettlebell swings increase sprinting performance? Test it! Yes I know that is rather obvious, but without testing we don’t know what change we have made.

So the next time trainer “big guns 23” tells you that jump shoes will increase you vertical, you will know what to do! The art for coaches is to determine how to test and determine which exercises really do increase sports performance (not just weight room performance). Happy testing!

Note–please post any comments on what you have tested and found to transfer well! Or what testing you do and your results. I expect a good discussion!


1. Blazevich A. J., D. G. Jenkins. Effect of the movement speed of resistance training exercises on sprint and strength performance in concurrently training elite junior sprinters. J Sports Sci. 20(12):981-990, 2002.

2. Clark R. K., B. D. Wyke. Temporomandibular articular reflex control of the mandibular musculature. Int Dent J. 25(4):289-296, 1975.

3. COHEN L. A., M. L. COHEN. Arthrokinetic reflex of the knee. Am J Physiol. 184(2):433-437, 1956.

4. Cronin J., P. J. McNair, R. N. Marshall. Velocity specificity, combination training and sport specific tasks. J Sci Med Sport. 4(2):168-178, 2001.

5. Keetch K. M., R. A. Schmidt, T. D. Lee, D. E. Young. Especial skills: their emergence with massive amounts of practice. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 31(5):970-978, 2005.

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7. Liebler E., L. Tufano-Coors, P. Douris, et al. The Effect of Thoracic Spine Mobilization on Lower Trapezius Strength Testing. J of Manual & Manipulation Therapy. 9(4):207-208-212, 2001.

8. Lockie R. G., A. J. Murphy, C. D. Spinks. Effects of resisted sled towing on sprint kinematics in field-sport athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 17(4):760-767, 2003.

9. Meckel Y., H. Atterbom, A. Grodjinovsky, D. Ben-Sira, A. Rotstein. Physiological characteristics of female 100 metre sprinters of different performance levels. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 35(3):169-175, 1995.

10. Morriss C. J., K. Tolfrey, R. J. Coppack. Effects of short-term isokinetic training on standing long-jump performance in untrained men. J Strength Cond Res. 15(4):498-502, 2001.

11. Stanton R., P. R. Reaburn, B. Humphries. The effect of short-term Swiss ball training on core stability and running economy. J Strength Cond Res. 18(3):522-528, 2004.

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