You’ve Gotta Be More Specific!

I have written about the body’s incredible ability to adapt to its environment, and this article aims to further expand on this topic.

Powerlifting, a sport to which I am relative ‘newbie’, involves lifting as much weight as you can in ‘the big three’; the squat, bench and deadlift, within certain rules and parameters. My pursuit of strength in this arena has not been progressing as I had hoped and thus I went about reflecting upon why this might be. Upon analysis, it became evident that my training had not been specific enough to achieve optimal results. As a result, I thought I would share with you the importance of specificity, among other things I learnt from my reflection.

 The Principle of Specificity

When looking to improve a particular facet of a sport, constantly repeating the movement required is the best way to achieve this. The closer the situation emulates a ‘real-game’ scenario, the better. The repetition helps to improve ‘motor patterning’, improving efficiency of the nervous system. Let’s use the example of a soccer player attempting to boost his penalty taking ability.

  • Player A, or Jimmy, practices by kicking a lemon between two palm trees with his Labradoodle as goalie. This scenario is highly unspecific, and is unlikely to have any beneficial carryover to game day. Furthermore, over a period of time, the acidic nature of the lemon will damage poor old Jimmy’s boots!
  • Player B, or Johnny, practices at training on a regulation field with a match ball, a well-skilled keeper  and a small crowd watching. This situation is far more specific and is likely to translate to a favourable outcome in a game setting.

The specificity principle can be applied to all athletic endeavours and stresses the importance of focus. Often times, many of us (myself included), try to ‘hit seven birds with one stone’ as the old saying goes. Hone in on a few areas rather than spreading your butter too thin.

Ask For Help

Males in particular, often have great difficulty asking others for help, and this is often to their detriment. Asking for help aids in filling in the gaps, or perhaps offers a different perspective. I recently asked a friend about how to program correctly for Powerlifting, and he was more than happy to share with me his insight and advice about how to go about it. As a result, my program is much more well-rounded than it would have been otherwise.

Regardless of the content of the advice you’re given, it’s important to remember that it’s your choice as to whether you follow it. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.



This point goes hand in hand with the last. By asking others to evaluate a program or idea of yours leads to a more complete end product. Many of us, when we go about a task, often do so with a degree of ‘tunnel vision’. By having another person cast their eyes over a concept throws a different spin on it. The more people you ask, the greater the scope.

Beware of a couple of things though…

  • Don’t be offended by the criticism, although it may seem harsh or unwarranted. Instead, look at it from their perspective and try to learn from it.
  • All feedback isn’t necessarily good feedback. As above, take what you feel to be relevant, helpful pointers and discard the rest.

In Closing

When it comes to your training program, take into consideration these points. Of course, these principles can be applied to areas outside of your personal fitness with equally beneficial effects. Take it or leave it!

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realise I should have been more specific”

-Lily Tomlin

By Andrew Cammarano


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