The primary goal of competitive athletes should be to improve sports performance. The most direct way to improvement is to effectively use the concept of specificity of training. In other words, you perform as you train. Consequently, an athlete’s familiarity with this exercise concept is essential.
Specificity of training is an exercise principle, which states that the body specifically adapts to demands placed upon it. Body changes are specific to the muscles, heart, lungs, and neurologic responses that are required by the exercise activity. The changes are tied to technique as well as how often and how long the exercise is performed. Specificity of training means that the closer training is to desired outcome requirements, the better the outcome. The scientific explanation appears complex. However, the concept is simple. You perform as you train.
To achieve improvements in performance for a particular sport, the training methods relevant to the skills of that sport are necessary. Exercises must supply training that boosts the specific skills of the athlete’s particular sport while avoiding those that are irrelevant. Most sports involve movements specific to that sport. Unfortunately, many commonly used exercises are too generalized and often do little, or nothing, to improve performance for a particular sport.
Specificity of training is illustrated by a couple examples. The first example is seen with the obvious difference in training methods and body types between a long distance runner and a shot put athlete. Long distance running requires great endurance but minimal rotational movements. This athlete trains over long periods and typically has long and lean muscles. On the other hand, shot putting requires bursts of explosive energy and strength. This athlete usually has more pronounced muscles, but also possesses significant rotational flexibility. A second, more subtle, example is a baseball hitter who performs general strength exercises that make him stronger. However, this athlete sees no improvement in bat speed velocity nor quicker hip rotation. He continues to struggle hitting fastballs thrown on the inside of the plate. His strength training made him stronger. He looks more fit in front of a mirror. However, his performance is not better. Why? Because his training was not specific, his hitting performance did not improve.
Unfortunately, a common scenario is for an athlete to use training techniques that generate improved but irrelevant strength measurements that ultimately do not improve performance in their sport. Sometimes the resulting body changes may even be harmful to performance. Just because their muscles are stronger does not mean they will be more skilled. However, at the end of the day, everyone agrees that skill improvement is the ultimate goal. The problem of including irrelevant training methods can be exaggerated by well intentioned, but fragmented, training which involves multiple advisors. This situation fails to produce an integrated approach that combines relevant activities that improve specific skills and movement.
Every athlete should regularly examine whether their training techniques yield performance improvement. Is bat speed velocity faster? Is shot put throw distance farther? Is side kick force stronger? If not, failure to remember specificity of training may be the reason. You perform as you train. The Powercore 360 System promotes this training concept. Future postings will explore how to achieve performance gains in many sports using the Powercore 360 System.
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McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I., and Katch, V.L. Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance. 2010. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.