Training specificity is a widely established principle as an integral aspect governing responses to training. This article explores the various ways in which specificity manifests itself. In addition, guidelines are provided detailing how to obtain the benefits of training specificity when designing programs for strength and conditioning training.

Training specificity has become an increasingly recognized principle as a fundamental part of shaping training responses, although it is far from modern.

The essence of training specificity is that the training responses elicited by a given mode of exercise are directly related to the physiological elements involved in enduring a specific training stress.

Specificity can be trained from a metabolic, biomechanical, nutritional, positional, climatological or psychological perspective, among other possibilities. For example, metabolic specificity of training adaptations applies to the energy systems mobilized during exercise. The muscle mass involved and the overall intensity of the exercise will dictate whether responses to training will be limited to adaptations at the muscular level or whether adaptations will occur at the cardiovascular level.

Regarding the most visible part from a practical point of view, gesture specificity or biomechanics will be trained with exercises that simulate the requirements of competition exercises and/or those in which improvement is desired.

Accordingly, the selection of exercises should reflect the ranges of motion and joint angles used in the sport or sporting activity. The specificity of speed and muscle contraction type is evident in that strength gains tend to be restricted to the speeds at which muscles are trained.

But, biomechanical specificity also extends to structural elements, such as posture and limb position. Thus, although an exercise may have the same movement pattern as the sporting gesture to be improved, it does not necessarily mean that it is intended to improve that gesture.
In this dispute regarding motor pattern, we can observe that closed kinetic chain exercises have a greater transfer to athletic performance because they are often multi-joint movements. Closed kinetic chain exercises with free weights also incorporate force transmission from the ground and upward, which again replicates what occurs during sport movements [2,5].

Not only that, but as we already know, one of the conditioning factors in sports practice is the speed with which force has to be applied, which defines the rate of force production or rate of force manifestation (RFD, Figure 1). This means that, from a physiological and biomechanical point of view, muscle contraction requirements are somewhat different from typical gym exercises.

Movements performed at real low speeds, even if the intention to perform them at maximum possible speed, are rare in most sports except, perhaps, powerlifting or strongman. Movements with these characteristics involve simultaneous activation of the agonist and antagonistic muscles during contraction, even at different frequencies. On the contrary, movements performed as quickly as possible, such as a sprint, a clean in weightlifting or a blow in any contact sport such as boxing, karate or MMA, which only last a short moment of time, envelop a three-phase sequence of muscle activation [5,6]:

  1. First, the agonist muscle of the movimeth is activated as much as possible, so that the antagonist is as inhibited as possible. This first phase of movement produces an impulse in the intentional direction of work. Consider, for example, that we throw a leg forward to advance during a race at full speed, with hip flexors being the main leg pitchers [5].
  2. Then, secondly, the antagonistic muscle group produces a braking force of the joint(s) that is moving before the final blockage of the first impulse, at the exact time the athlete requires such braking…
  3. … and the magnificent and curious thing about all this is that, thirdly, the agonita muscle group is re-activated to correct the excess braking that the antagonistic muscle group can cause and thus balance the forces in the necessary and optimal way to make the movement as a whole as efficient as possible for the sports practice that is being performed.

This entire three-phase sequence is present even in the absence of propioceptive afferent feedback, i.e. it can be performed in an automated and interminding manner without the positional receptors of the joints involved in the movement taking part in the equation, suggesting that the movement pattern is established in the brain and not in the spine that , is usually the motor origin of these movements [6].

The exercises selected for training should be predominantly multi-articular exercises specific to the demands of the sport. In this way, specificity will benefit muscle activation and improve coordination and control at the peripheral level [1-6]. This would also promote the development of stabilization musculature and propioception.

We are not only talking about specific weight exercises or body weight, but also about exercises and team dynamics for team sports [7,8].

In this case, in addition to the individual patterns of the sports gesture, training that simulates game-specific movements and locomotion modes, including side and backward movements, should be implemented. Limitations associated with a particular sport, such as opposition from other players and the dimensions of the playing area, should also be replicated in training, where possible [8].

sport app
Bibliography and references

  1. Barnett, M. L., Ross, D., Schmidt, R. A., & Todd, B. (1973). Motor skills learning and the specificity of training principle. Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 44(4), 440-447.
  2. Left, M., Hukkinen, K., Gonzalez-Badillo, J. J., Ibanez, J., & Gorostiaga, E.M. (2002). Effects of long-term training specificity on maximal strength and power of the upper and lower extremities in athletes from different sports. European journal of applied physiology, 87(3), 264-271.
  3. Behm, D. G., & Sale, D. G. (1993). Velocity specificity of resistance training. Sports Medicine, 15(6), 374-388.
  4. Young, W.B. (2006). Transfer of strength and power training to sports performance. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 1(2), 74-83.
  5. Kristensen, G. O., Van den Tillaar, R., & Ettema, G. J. (2006). Velocity specificity in early-phase sprint training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(4), 833.
  6. Berardelli, A., Hallett, M., Rothwell, J.C., Agostino, R., Manfredi, M., Thompson, P. D., & Marsden, C.D. (1996). Single–joint rapid arm movements in normal subjects and in patients with motor disorders. Brain, 119(2), 661-674.
  7. Catteeuw, P., Helsen, W., Gilis, B., & Wagemans, J. (2009). Decision-making skills, role specificity, and deliberate practice in association football refereeing. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27(11), 1125-1136.
  8. Causer, J., & Ford, P. R. (2014). “Decisions, decisions, decisions”: transfer and specificity of decision-making skill between sports. Cognitive Processing, 15(3), 385-389.

Leave a Reply