#35 Training Principles Pt.2: SPECIFICITY

Please note that even though the Training Principle Series is posted in the order of importance, in reality, the order of importance can vary depending on the context.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “something is better than nothing.”  This quote can have various meanings depending on its context. The reason why I bring it up and want to start off this post is to emphasize the importance of taking action.  In order to bring about any change and/or adaptation, it must start with DOING.  For example, we, humans, are made to move, so walking is better than just sitting on the couch and going to the gym and using just the basic equipment will be better than not doing so.  Instead of just planning or thinking or wishing of losing weight, gaining muscle, or getting better at a sport, start by taking actions!

Now we can actually move on to the fundamental training principle that I wanted to discuss, which is the principle of SPECIFICITY.  

In simple terms, specificity refers to taking specific actions in order to achieve a specific goal.  This principle can be applied to a very general and broad goal like losing weight, as well as a very specific goal such as improving pull-ups. Let me explain.  

As mentioned in my previous post, Training Principles Pt.1, Jane wants to lose 15lbs.  In order to do so, she must achieve an energy deficit by either manipulating her energy-in (food intake) or energy-out (movement).

***If you are not familiar with the concept of energy deficit or energy balance please check out Nutrition Principles Pt.1***

By applying the Principle of Specificity, Jane’s actions must create an energy deficit in order to start the weight loss process.  Regardless of the “type” of movement or exercise, as long as the deficit is created she should have the specific demand for the weight loss. She may be able to burn more calories by adding in a structured exercise regiment like strength training or cardio training, but if only an hour of walking can create such deficit and specific stimulus Jane is on the right path.  Something is better than nothing.

As I mentioned above, the Specificity Principle can be applied to a very specific goal as well. To illustrate that, meet Sarah.  

Sarah wants to be able to do a pull-up.  She actually wants to be able to do more than one but she knows she’s gotta start somewhere.  Sarah has learned about the Specificity Principle and thinks about how she can apply it.  The first thing she realizes is that in order to achieve her goal of doing a pull up she must start by doing the pull-up.  Obviously, she can’t do one by herself yet so she must somehow make the movement “easier” for her to complete. With so many types of equipment and accessories out there, like the assisted pull up machine or a monster band, she can easily “regress” the movement to fit her current ability.  Sarah is going to create a specific movement demand.  (I’m not going into which version of the exercise is better here).  

Let’s apply the Principle of Specificity even further in this example.

Sarah’s goal of doing ONE PULL UP is an example of what you call an absolute strength. What this is referring to is her ability to create the maximum amount of force.  Why is this important to me? Sarah asks herself.  Because the Specificity Principle can no only be applied to the movement demand but also specifically to the absolute strength development.  Without going too deep into the science, there are many different types of strengths in addition to the absolute strength.  One example being strength endurance. So even if Sarah was to use the assisted pull-up machine, which will create the specific movement demand, unless she also creates a specific demand to the absolute strength development of the pull-up, say by only performing 1-3 reps at a very high intensity, she will not create enough SPECIFIC STIMULUS.  If she decides to perform 3 sets of 10 reps like so many people do, she will be creating more of a demand for strength endurance rather than the absolute strength

***Please note, 3 sets x 10 reps can be an excellent protocol and can & should definitely be used, but as previously mentioned, the use of such and any protocol will depend on the context

Pull Up.jpg

In summary, if you want to improve or change something, start by TAKING ACTION.  And, if those actions can create more specific demands towards your goal(s), more specific the better, then you’ll able to create a more effective stimulus.  Ultimately, resulting in a better adaptation(s) and being able to achieve your goal(s)!!!


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