How to Use the Principle of Specificity for Exercise

Whether or not you are seeking to strengthen athletic efficiency, maximize skill level, or raise overall exercise, implementing the principle of specificity can assist you get the final results you have to have in a well timed fashion.

“Specificity brings schooling from particularly generic, like lifting weights or core do the job, to incredibly distinct where an athlete or leisure exerciser tactics their selected activity or exercise,” states Keke Lyles, DPT, advisor, and head of effectiveness at Uplift Labs.

Whilst specificity is only 1 instruction principle, it is a important element of any in depth athletic plan or exercise program.

Here, we get a closer glimpse at the theory of specificity, how it’s utilized, its professionals and drawbacks, and how it compares to cross-coaching.

Simply place, the basic principle of specificity states that how you educate should really mimic the expertise, movements, and actions demanded to carry out and excel in the game, exercise, or occasion you’re participating in.

“Our bodies adapt and respond to the type of work out or schooling that we do (also recognized as manner), how typically we do that work out (also acknowledged as frequency), the sum of time that we do the exercise (also regarded as period), and the depth of the exercise,” suggests Kasia Gondek, PT, DPT, CSCS, of Fusion Wellness and Actual physical Therapy.

“The muscular tissues you prepare throughout a distinct physical exercise are the types that begin to adapt and respond. This also means that other muscle groups that are not recruited during that education do not see the similar adaptation and coaching response,” clarifies Gondek.

Training variations will manifest exclusively inside the movements and routines you practice, for the metabolic demands you expertise, with the exercise intensity and muscle mass teams utilized (1).

The physique can make gains from work out according to how the system physical exercises. Applying specificity correctly enables you to have a plan developed all over gains and plans that is economical, centered, and effective.

If you do not use the basic principle of specificity, you possibility wasting time and electrical power, and you could not attain your objectives in a well timed manner.

Applying the principle of specificity to a schooling application assists you access your goals and prevent injuries that could take place from incorrect or weak planning (2).


When your schooling mimics the actions or capabilities needed in a sporting occasion or health and fitness activity, you are making use of the principle of specificity.

The principle of specificity is a critical portion of a schooling application for competitive athletes, avid exercisers, leisure athletes, or anybody wanting to strengthen particular areas of effectiveness, toughness, flexibility, or cardiorespiratory health.

When you are building a system dependent on specificity, there are a handful of points to emphasize, including:

  • muscle tissues and joints you need to train
  • speed of movement
  • electrical power techniques you want to prepare
  • actions you will need to teach

For instance, if you’re schooling for a sprinting celebration, you will want to design and style a conditioning program that is carried out at high speeds.

It should really also include things like workout routines that make you more powerful and in a position to contend at large speeds, such as plyometric physical exercises and Olympic-type lifts.


Gondek suggests when doing work with shoppers who want to educate for a 5k operating race versus a marathon, there are subtly distinct muscle mass needs owing to the big difference in in general pace and period of the situations, even even though both demand managing.

“A 5km race (3.1 miles) generally involves far more rapidly-twitch muscle mass recruitment about a shorter time period of time, whereas a marathon (26.2 miles) requires additional gradual-twitch muscle mass fiber recruitment,” she states.

Hence, Gondek claims when coming up with a 5k schooling approach, she incorporates quick bursts of speed and electricity geared towards shorter distances, tempo operates just shy of their aim working pace, and a few time demo runs that coach the muscular tissues and cardiovascular system to operate at your purpose race rate.

Similarly critical, she suggests, is strengthening the muscle mass groups utilized with jogging: hips, lessen legs, core, and to a lesser extent, the arms.

Overhead throwing

One more sports activities-unique case in point is training for throwing athletes. The very first issue Gondek appears to be like for is sufficient variety of movement all through the shoulder, elbow, spine, and hips to obtain exceptional throwing patterns.

If the array is fewer than perfect, she focuses the very first component of their teaching periods addressing that with practical variety conditioning, flexibility physical exercises these as dynamic stretching, and self-joint mobilizations to enhance joint range of movement and muscle mass flexibility.

At the time her clients attain exceptional motion through the assortment of movement essential for throwing, Gondek then incorporates focused workouts to teach the adhering to muscle teams: main, rotator cuff, hips, and arms.

“The workouts incorporate both equally explosive and potent movement, as well as sub-maximal stamina exercise routines in the positions applied in throwing, coupled with throwing apply,” she explains.

In the gym

One more way to consider about the principle of specificity is in the gymnasium. For case in point, if one of your targets is to fortify the upper body muscle groups, you have to have to complete workouts that goal this spot, this sort of as bench press, chest flys, and push-ups.

This can also use to cardiovascular schooling. If you’re coaching for a 50 percent-marathon, you ought to include many managing exercises, cardio routines, and pounds schooling into your general method.

That reported, if you expend extra times carrying out basic cardio schooling like driving a bike, swimming, or elliptical exercise sessions, you are not applying the principle of specificity, which would have you focus on operating workouts like hills, pace, tempo operates, intervals, and distance operates.

When this form of training will make improvements to cardiovascular performing, it is not distinct to operating and could not add to your in general targets.


Examples of the basic principle of specificity involve education for a 5k by incorporating sprints and shorter coaching runs. A throwing athlete need to add motion-precise power training workouts that target the throwing muscle tissues in the higher body.

If you’re new to specificity, you may possibly be wanting to know if the added benefits outweigh the negatives. The very good news is: indeed, there are additional execs than drawbacks, but it is essential to convey consciousness to both.

The rewards include things like talent mastery, improved conditioning, muscular strength and stamina certain to your selected action, and better preparation for an event.

In accordance to Lyles, specificity can also support boost functionality and reduce injuries for an untrained or under-skilled particular person. He compares it to a teeter-totter.

“On one particular aspect, you have an less than-educated person, and on the other facet, you have an elite athlete. If the teeter-totter is weighed down on the underneath-experienced personal, this particular person would absolutely advantage from certain teaching, and it would assistance them enhance the two bodily, but also from a skill standpoint,” he points out.

Nonetheless, the much more that human being performs and the much more elite participant they turn out to be, Lyles states that teeter-totter will change to the other side, and now you develop into at threat for overtraining or overuse accidents.

“I believe that wellness and general performance are on the identical teeter-totter, and to really improve functionality, you press the boundaries in a single course, and as it begins to shift one particular way, you focus far more on the other,” he says.

Simply because absolutely nothing is ever free from disadvantages, the theory of specificity can have some adverse results if not utilized accurately.

Incorporating numerous sports instruction concepts like progressive overload, periodization, variation, and relaxation is the very best way to assure over-all health and efficiency (3).

If you only concentration on specificity, you might stop up unbalanced or locate that your general performance and capability decreases around time.


The rewards far outweigh the drawbacks. On the execs side, the theory of specificity can assist boost overall performance, enhance athletic expertise, and decrease injuries. That explained, implementing other coaching ideas to your system is significant to general athleticism and health and fitness degrees.

No matter if your objective is an athletic level of competition, street race, or to enhance your decreased physique toughness, you ought to incorporate movement-pattern specificity into your instruction plan to adapt to the calls for (2).

Making use of the basic principle of specificity to your physical exercise program relies upon on the activity or action you’re coaching for. If you want to get greater at a distinct athletic process or action, you will need to use the muscular tissues in a way that mimics the activity alone.

For case in point, in planning for a race, it’s crucial to discover managing routes that resemble the program you will be competing on — in particular if the course has a number of hills, you are going to need to integrate hill teaching in your exercises.

When Gondek trains novice, recreational, or elite athletes, she addresses and enhances their foundational motion initially, followed by a lot more sport-distinct movement and work out.

“When our bodies can entry the comprehensive range of motion and versatility wanted to accomplish certain motion styles, we can then start to build toughness and specific motion styles that are wanted in our sport or exercise,” she describes.

By concentrating on instruction motion to start with, followed by activity-precise muscle mass teams desired for activity or a sort of physical exercise, Gondek states you can increase efficiency, as properly as avert injuries from overuse or employing the mistaken muscle mass teams.

The moment that is obtained, you can prepare the distinct muscle mass groups and movement patterns essential for your sport or action.


You can utilize the principle of specificity to any education method together with all those for amateur, recreational, and elite athletes.

Cross-education and specificity of teaching are the two vital aspects of any superior training system. When they share some equivalent components, they are not the similar thing.

“Specificity of coaching implies that we coach the actions, skills, muscle teams, and the cardiovascular procedure for a specific sport or action,” claims Gondek.

Cross-schooling, on the other hand, is an activity, motion, or training that is not sport or activity-particular.

“This can appear like a lot of various issues and features multiple rewards to any schooling system which includes harm prevention, prevention of burn off-out or boredom, and diversifies your cardiovascular coaching,” she says.

A different way of wanting at cross-education, states Lyles, is it is applying a different sport or action to put together for your most important activity.

A superior instance of this is a soccer player who desires to establish their aerobic method (conditioning). They can use swimming as a way to cross-teach.

Lyles suggests, typically talking, the greatest way to consider about cross-training is, if there is a distinct top quality that you want to create in your activity, you can use an additional sport where that high-quality is seriously emphasised to produce it.

Lyles also points out that cross-teaching is usually performed in a style that de-hundreds your most normally overloaded joints.

For occasion, a basketball player who ordinarily puts a ton of tension on their knees will use boxing as a way to produce their cardiovascular conditioning while restricting the stress on their knees.


Specificity refers to doing education movements certain to athletic techniques or routines. Cross-education is making use of a further sport or action to get ready for your most important activity. Cross-schooling is not sport-distinct, but it can add to in general cardiovascular and muscular energy.

Applying the basic principle of specificity to your athletic coaching or general workout routines can support boost general performance, boost skill level, and quite possibly minimize the likelihood of obtaining hurt.

If you have issues about how to integrate sports-certain education into your plan, think about functioning with a certified personalized coach, strength and conditioning professional, or bodily therapist. They can design and style a software particular to your desires and make absolutely sure you are getting off on the suitable foot.