On the utility of deliberate practice: Predicting performance in ultra-endurance triathletes from training indices
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The theory of deliberate practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer 1993) and the principle of specificity maintain that specific forms of training (i.e., deliberate practice) are the most beneficial to performance improvements. However activities that share common elements may also be useful in perpetuating performance adaptations. This study examined the roles of specific (i.e., all swim, cycle, and run training/competition) and non-specific (all other training/competition) forms of training in predicting performance in ultra-endurance triathletes. Twenty-eight UE triathletes provided information regarding training performed throughout their career and completed detailed training profiles for the year leading tip to their key ultra-endurance race of the season. Forward stepwise regression analyses were used to determine the predictability of time spent in the various forms of training on overall race performance and performance in each of the triathlon events. Results generally supported the specificity of training hypothesis; however there was some evidence of transfer among the activities. Further, the amount of variance accounted for by sport specific forms of training was typically less than 50%, indicating a large degree of inter-individual variation remains unaccounted for by 'deliberate practice'. While these findings provide additional support for the role of non-specific transfer in developing expertise, a number of unique limitations should be considered in future research.