Principle 3: Thou Shall Be Specific
If you want to be a better basketball player, would you go swimming?
How about if you wanted to be a better golfer…would you take up sprinting?
At this point, you’re probably all shaking your heads and wondering if I’ve gone off my rocker. In both the examples above you probably found it quite easy to say, emphatically, NO!
The principle of specificity states that athletic training adaptations are highly specific to the mode (fancy word for type) of training.
Essentially this principle deals with the transferability of training results. Or in more general terms, how much of your training will transfer to what you’re trying to improve.
For example, if you were working through a well designed resistance training program (following the previous two principles highlighted yesterday and the day before) you’d have noticed increased strength and muscle mass.
However, if improved cardio was your main goal, you’d probably find yourself lacking.
Now, if your program was designed to rev up your cardiovascular system by pushing you through some high intensity intervals or gut-busting complexes, you’d have noticed primarily adaptations which relate to alterations in your energy systems capabilities, without seeing the same strength or size gains.
So this takes us to a key point:
Due to this specificity of adaptation, exercise and training selection will, and should, vary from one sport or activity to another.
As with all the laws of adaptation, the principle of specificity has greater implication in highly trained athletes.
With a greater level of athletic fitness there is a greater specificity of adaptation such as those found in Olympic level athletes, who require very selective training in order to initiate any specific positive adaptation for competitive readiness.
In contrast, looking at a new exerciser, almost any type of activity (jogging, agility drills, resistance training etc.) will confer positive adaptations because the level of adaptation in the beginner at the onset is so low.
So take home point number two in this post:
Elite athletes need to be more specific to see positive changes; newbies, not so much.
Where does that leave you?
Does that mean you should stop lifting weights or running or swimming or any of the other activities you do?
Not at all!
The more movement patterns you can learn and become efficient with, the more athleticism you’ll have. Now that alone doesn’t mean you will be a better soccer player or cricket star.
It does, however, allow you to improve those skills through optimizing your ability to practice your discipline (e.g. increased endurance at soccer skills training session which then lets you perfectly practice your kick for 10 more minutes before you’re fatigued).
Those extra 10 minutes of kicking drills will directly improve your ability to kick better, whereas it was the fitness training that allowed you to train for the extra time.
Yours in specific movement.