Wake Up To The Power Of One
The Law of Specificity: Training For the Gains You Want
This law is pretty straightforward but is a cornerstone for any athlete’s regime. It’s the Law of Specificity. Think about it: You don’t become a cyclist without riding a bike. You don’t become exceptionally fast on the field without sprint training. That’s why you can’t just train in general and expect to hit peak performance — you need to train specifically for what you want to become.
“Specificity of training means that we train the movements, skills, muscle groups, and the cardiovascular system for a specific sport or activity.” — Kasia Gondek
Here’s why you need to start paying attention to the Law of Specificity.
First — we need to clarify. When we say train specifically, it doesn’t mean you only do that sport. Otherwise, why would hockey teams have dryland training at all? The Law of Specificity means you’re tailoring your training programs to improve precise skills, movements, energy systems, and physiological adaptations required for optimal performance in a given sport.
(Watch this video at 1:03 - Principle of Specificity)
Here’s what you need to do:
Enhance Your Skills
This is where working at your actual sport comes in. You need to develop all the fundamental skills and techniques necessary to perform at your peak. For example, basketball players will spend hours honing their dribbling, shooting, and defensive skills, while triathletes will train to perfect their transitions, running, swim strokes, and cycling. By prioritizing sport-specific skills, you’re enhancing your technical proficiency and overall performance.
Target The Right Energy Systems
As we said, the Law of Specificity doesn’t stop at your sport. Different activities rely on varying energy systems to fuel performance. Endurance athletes like triathletes, cyclists, or long-distance runners, heavily depend on aerobic capacity — and they train for that! Alternatively, power-based sports like weightlifting require explosive strength and anaerobic power. Understanding the energy demands of your sport and tailoring your program to target the relevant energy systems enables you to improve your performance in the most effective way.
Adapt Your Physiological Systems
The Law of Specificity also involves optimizing your physiological systems to meet the unique demands of your sport — like how a good rugby player needs to be fast. Athletes must train to improve their strength, speed, flexibility, agility, and coordination according to the demands of their activity. Take a look at F1 drivers or tennis players. They do hand-eye coordination drills because those skills are crucial for quick response time on the court or track. By targeting the relevant muscle groups and movement patterns, athletes can enhance their body’s ability to execute those sport-specific actions with efficiency and precision.
Finally, the Law of Specificity isn’t just physical. You need to train your mind for your sport. Especially for sports that involve big hits or high risk, mental training can help you find a calm space to perform from or help you bounce back from an injury faster. Sport-specific mental training techniques include visualization, breath work, focused concentration, and strategic decision-making exercises. Once you’ve mastered the basics, practice under conditions that mimic competitive scenarios. These exercises will help you develop mental fortitude while enhancing your ability to perform under pressure.
BONUS: Avoid Plateaus
A great thing about the Law of Specificity is that it helps you avoid hitting a plateau in your regime and performance improvement. Generic training routines that neglect sport-specific skills and conditioning can hinder progress and limit your athletic potential. By incorporating specificity, training programs will continually challenge you, promoting constant growth and development.
The law of specificity is the cornerstone of achieving high-level athletic performance. By tailoring your training program to match the unique demands of your sport, you’ll maximize skill development, enhance the required energy systems, optimize physiological adaptations, and sharpen your mental fortitude. All of this leads you to perform at your highest athletic potential (even under pressure). The Law of Specificity allows athletes to push beyond their limits, consistently improve, and achieve their goals at the highest level of competition.
“If you only ever give 90% in training, then you will only ever give 90% when it matters.” — Michael Owen
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