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S.A.I.D. Principle Demonstrated by Two Summer TV Programs
Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

The SAID principle is one of the most important basic concepts in sport science. It is an acronym which stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. It means that when the body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to make adaptations that will allow the body to get better at withstanding that specific form of stress in the future …

For example, if you train your right arm, the right arm will get stronger, not the left. If you practice the piano, you will get better at the piano, not horseshoes. But if you practice the piano will you get better at the oboe? Maybe a little. In other words, there is some carryover or transfer from piano to oboe. There's probably a lot of carryover from piano to organ …

So, in summary, remember to keep training simple – if you want to get better at X, do X as hard as possible without getting hurt or overtrained. Be very skeptical of the carryover or transferability of "functional training" or even training that purports to be "sport specific." Chances are, its not.

The above paragraphs are excerpted from an article on the Better Movement Web site. The full article is worth reading. But the most important points are summarized in the above paragraphs.

To put it another way, the SAID principle states that your body will adapt to the specific form of stress placed on it and only that specific form. It also means you will get better at the specific activity you practice, and only that specific activity.

If you do arm curls, your arms (specifically, your biceps) will get stronger, but not your legs. If you run, you will become a better runner, but it will do little to improve your swimming ability, If you practice hitting a baseball, you will get better at hitting a baseball, but it will do little to improve your ability to hit free throws in basketball. In other words, you need to train as you compete. A runner needs to run, a swimmer needs to swim, and a basketball player needs to practice basketball specific skills, like throwing free throws.

But it is also important to take note of the last paragraph. For some sports it is hard to train as you compete on a regular basis as doing so will lead to overtraining or injury. By way of example, it would be impossible for a marathon runner to run a full marathon each and every training day. But a marathon runner does need to run long distances in training on a regular basis.

The SAID principle is very important for any athlete to understand. But many fail to grasp its significance. To drive home its importance, this article will illustrate who this principle works out in actual practice by looking at a couple of TV shows this writer watched during the summer of 2009.

Shaq Vs.

The first show was an ABC reality show titled Shaq Vs. As any basketball fan could tell you, "Shaq" is Shaquille O'Neal, 13-time basketball All-Star, two-time All-Star MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP Award and key member of the 1994 USA World Championship and 1996 Summer Olympics basketball team, both of which won gold medals. But even those who know little about basketball (like yours truly) will immediately notice one thing about Shaq, he is big—7' 1" and 320 pounds.

Shaq Vs only ran for five episodes. But details about the show are still found on ABC's Web site. You can also still watch clips and even full episodes. Details on each episode are found on Wikipedia. It is from these sources and this writer's memory of the series that the above and following details are taken from.

In the show's intro, Shaq claims that he would have been a star no matter which sport he chose to participate in. That might be true, but he chose basketball. As such, he has spent his life perfecting his skills in basketball. But how well do those skills transfer to other sports? This question is answered by Shaq challenging the stars of five other sports to a competition.

In the first episode, he tackles football. Now with his size, strength, and quickness, there is little doubt that if he had chosen to go into football he could have developed into a great football player. Given his size, he most likely would have been a lineman. But for this episode, he wanted to try his hand a quarterbacking. And he just happened to choose the quarterback of this writer's hometown team, Ben Rothlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rothlisberger's nickname is ""Big Ben." And at 6'5" and 241 pounds he is big for a quarterback. But standing beside Shaq, Big Ben did not look quite so big. But size is not the most important factor in being a quarterback, skill is.

For the challenge, squads of college football players were recruited. The setup was somewhat like overtime for college football. One side would get the ball and run a series, then the other side. Each side would have the ball three times. But an important difference from regular football was there were only seven men to a side. This was because there were no lineman as no rushing was allowed.

This rule freed Shaq from having to engage in one of the hardest parts of quarterbacking, evading the rush. This in essence handicapped Big Ben since evading the rush is his forte. But the main handicap was that Big Ben's team had to start from the 40 yard line while Shaq's team started from the 20. Shaq got some pointers in preparing for the challenge from Steelers' backup quarterback Charlie Batch.

Both teams scored touchdowns in their first two possessions. But Shaq was intercepted on his third try while Ben again passed for a touchdown. So Shaq lost the first challenge. But he did reasonably well.

The next challenge was against St. Louis Cardinals baseball star Albert Pujols. At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Pujols is rather large for a baseball player, but again, he was dwarfed by Shaq. The challenge was to be a home run derby, similar to what is engaged in the day before the All-Star game.

In a home run derby, the batter's uses his own pitcher, who pitches the ball however the batter wants it. In other words, this meant Shaq did not really have to face Major League pitching. Given that hitting Major League pitching has been called "the hardest thing to do in sports" it is no wonder Shaq did not even try. But given Shaq's size, you would think he would have the strength to smack the ball out of the park.

But despite that seemingly "obvious" point, the handicap for this challenge was Pujols had to hit to the normal Big League home run fences (382 feet to center), while Shaq only had to hit over little league fences (250 feet to center). That is a big difference! Shaq also had ten outs while Pujols only had five. There were to be two rounds.

Both batters got five home runs in the first round, and Shaq again got five home runs in his second round. But then Pujols caught on fire and hit ten home runs in his second round. Thus Shaw lost the second challenge.

But the important point is that most of Shaq's home runs were barely over the little league fences. He did not come even close to hitting the ball over the Big League fences. Goes to show there is much more to hitting a baseball than just size and strength.

The third challenge was beach volleyball. This was to be a "battle of the sexes" as Shaq challenged the two-time Olympic gold medal team of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. The handicap here was simply that he was playing against two "girls." Also, neither of them had played volleyball since winning the gold medal a year before since one was having a baby while other was nursing an injury.

In addition, Shaq could choose whoever he wanted to be his partner. He chose the men's Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers, plus another Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser to be their coach.

At 6'3", Walsh is usually the tallest person on the court. But again, she was dwarfed by Shaq. And with his 10" height advantage, you would think he would have had no problems stuffing Walsh and blocking her spikes. But in fact, the reverse happened. It was Walsh who kept stuffing Shaq. Several times she literally bounced the ball off of his head!

You would have thought that Shaq would be used to jumping up and blocking balls. But it seemed like whenever he jumped up for a block, his arms were just a little too far apart, and hence the ball went through to his face. Very possibly what happened was Shaq was used to a basketball, which is significantly larger than a volleyball, hence his arm spacing was off,

It was a best of three challenge, but May-Treanor and Walsh easily won it in two games.

Next came my favorite challenge, boxing. Here Shaq took on Oscar de la Hoya. Oscar is a great fighter, but he was less than half Shaq's size at just 5' 10" Inches and a weigh-in weight of 160 pounds. With that incredible size advantage, you would think Shaq would have had no problem not only defeating Oscar but of knocking him out. But in fact, Oscar won on points by a unanimous decision. Just goes to show there is a lot more to boxing than just size and strength.

This reminds me of a letter sent to "Iron Vic" in Parrillo Performance Press magazine. In it, a bodybuilder was distraught over losing a bar fight. He couldn't understand how he could bench 300 pounds for reps and run top speed on a treadmill for half an hour, but get his butt kicked by some scrawny guy.

Vic basically laughed at him and mentioned that how many times he had seen bodybuilders and powerlifters get beat in street fights. The reason is simple, fighting is a skill, and like any other skill, it needs to be developed. But bodybuilding and powerlifting do not develop that kind of skill.

This is not to say strength is not important in fighting, it is very important. All types of fighters engage in some kind of strength training. But that is only one of many aspects of the training to be a fighter.

The last challenge was swimming, against Olympic great Michael Phelps. Michael is 6' 4" and 195 pounds. But most important, he was a large "wingspan." The announcer put it best, "With a wingspan of 6'10", Michael Phelps is built to swim. At 325 pounds, Shaq is built to sink!"

Wikipedia summarizes the challenge:

Each race had its own different handicap (race 1 - Shaq swam 25m while Phelps swam 50m with a 5s. head start; race 2 - Shaq, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Ariana Kukors each swam a 50m segment of a 200m medley relay, while Phelps swam an individual 200m medley; race 3 - Shaq swam 50m while Phelps swam 75m).

Shaq did win the first race, the first individual event that he won. But he lost the next two, with the last being a nail biter, almost like Phelps' 1/100 second of a win at the Olympics.

The Point

Shaq went 0/5 in his sports challenge. So being big, strong, and extremely skilled at basketball did not in any way prepare him for competing at football, baseball, volleyball, boxing, or swimming. In fact, his large size would be a detriment in some sports, like swimming.

This latter point is very important. Strength training is important for both basketball and swimming. But the style of the training will be considerably different. A basketball player can afford to gain a significant amount of muscular bodyweight, and even some "extra" body fat, but a swimmer can afford neither. This is not to say that a swimmer like Phelps is not muscular, he most definitely is. But he is also "ripped" with a very low body fat when in competitive form.

So skill-wise and training-wise, and even body type-wise, there are large differences between different sports. This is why training for one sport does not prepare you for another. It also makes it extremely difficult to be proficient in two different sports. The training methods and goals are considerably different.

However, it should be noted that Shaq only trained for a short period of time for each of these challenges. But what if he had been training for say baseball throughout his life along with training for basketball? Could have become great in both sports?

The seasons do overlap some, but maybe things could have been worked out that he could have competed in both the NBA and in the MLB. But given the great differences in required skills, it is unlikely he would have ever attained to the same degree of greatness in both sports as he has playing just the one sport. In other words, a great athlete can become *good* in more than one sport, but it is very unlikely that even a very genetically gifted athlete will be able to become *great* in more than one sport.

It is also very possible that trying to train for two different sports will lead to a career ending injury. There would be so many different skills to perfect that the amount of training could be overwhelming. It also could too demanding on the body to stay in peak condition year-round, as playing in two sports would require.

This subject addressed in further detail in Part Two of this article, with a look at the 2009 Track and Field World Championships.

S.A.I.D. Principle Demonstrated by Two Summer TV Programs. Copyright 2009 by Gary F. Zeolla.



The above article was posted on this Web site October 3, 2009.

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