Specificity of Training

Thoughts from: Dr. Michael Reinhardt, DPT, OCS: Performance Physical Therapist, Resilient Performance & PT & R2P Academy Instructor

specificity of training factors

What is “specificity of training?”

Specificity is an often over-used and under-appreciated term within the fitness, strength and conditioning, sports performance, and rehabilitation realms.

Specificity implies the ability of a training activity (something outside of one’s sports/activity) to promote favorable improvements in a specialized sport or task.

For example, cross-training for endurance runners often incorporates strength training to enhance the connective tissue and muscular qualities and can help to buffer the volume of impacts associated with running itself. Similarly, sprinters often train with an array of jumping, bounding, and lifting variations in hopes of improving their elasticity and strength capabilities necessary to sprint faster.

Ultimately, specificity boils down to how well do the interventions, their dosages, and their prescribed intensities promote improved coordinative and physiological changes.

5 key considerations when discussing specificity are shown above:

  1. Challenges Familiar Joint Positions
  2. Similar Motor Sequencing and Muscle Recruitment Patterns
  3. Relevant Speeds of muscle contraction and limb movement
  4. Scalable to allow for progressive overload (have the ability to progress/regress a given activity to modulate stimulus-response)
  5. Potential for increasing force outputs. The activity should afford the athlete the ability to generate greater force or with a higher frequency than seen within the sport/activity itself.

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