Specificity...is it specific enough?

Specificity is a buzz word in the world of training, but what does it mean and how do you practically apply it?

In simple terms specificity refers to training being specific to your sport. So if you are a runner, for example, the best training you can do is to run! Simple! 😀 But if you just run will you overload those muscles to get the adaptation you need? Well, if we stick with running for a moment, let's think about specificity in terms of a warm up. A specific warm up for running would be walking, similar actions, similar muscle use, but slower, with less force etc.

Training for running, would then be running, a cool down would be walking again... get the idea? Need to overload more? Run up a hill, sprint, or pop ankle weights on. Need to off load? Back to walking. Offload further? Walk with walking poles. You get my thinking. 😀 We can upload and download an exercise by increasing or decreasing speed, intensity, weights involved or support given.

How about an exercise that you can't so easily reproduce, how about kayaking. You would specifically train kayaking on the water, but unless you are an elite athlete, you can't train on the water every day, so how do you get specificity to work when you are training in the gym or in another medium. Well for that we need to check out the muscles used. 🤔 Kayaking is a bit complex, but let's give it a go. So firstly we need balance, sitting in a kayak takes a lot of balance, especially the sprint kayaks, they are very thin but as this is a sitting sport there is no point in training balance standing, so a swiss ball would work well here. You can get cylindrical inflatable balls so that would work perfectly as a specific exercise, if you can't use that, a swiss ball would work fine. However, you would need to train it with your feet in-front of you, off the floor, maybe resting on another ball? You can't use your feet to stabilise in the same way while sitting in a kayak, so no point in training it this way. Lots of torso rotation is needed for kayaking, that is where most of the power comes from, so exercises such a woodchop would work, but let's get specific and work towards doing the woodchop with pulley's while sitting on the swiss ball or inflated cylinder! Now we are getting specific. 😀

Let's take swimming as another example. 🏊 Once you have good strength in the general swimming muscles, how do we get specific? Well swimming is done, not in an upright position, but more in a lying prone or supine position. Forces will work differently through the body in this position, so to get specific we should train them in this position. I have had swimmers lying on their beds with their hips supported on their bed and torso in free air, using wrist weights to complete swimming strokes. This is great overload as they would usually be supported in the water, not so with half their body in mid air! Great for the core, an end stage exercise of course 😉. I have them supported on swiss balls, remember water is not stable. Again sitting on the swiss ball isn't much use to a swimmer, they don't swim in a seated position, so lying prone or supine and strengthening using pulleys, bands etc is far more specific.

Hopefully you see where am going here. I love it when I get to sports specific strengthening in the clinic, it doesn't happen often enough as generally the client is out of pain and doesn't want to pay for anymore. But sometimes we get lucky enough to create training programs for elite or high level recreational athletes and then I get very excited as the ideas can flow. It is the best thing to watch their times improving, doing what is very simple strengthening that any of us can do with a little bit of sports specific knowledge.😀

Fancy using this for CPD? 📝 Have a go at this task...

Pick a sport, ideally one you often train clients for or see a lot of injuries from. Research the mechanics of the sport, which muscles are used, which are the prime movers, which are the stabilisers and which are supporters.

Create a strength training program for end stage rehab for them. So they have no pain or injury, they are just looking to improve their speed or technical ability. Get creative, if the tool you need to train them in the way you want doesn't exist, try to make it from other equipment you can get. Then write it all up in your CPD logbook. For your FREE Reinge Education CPD Logbook, click here and subscribe to our newsletter.

Happy designing! 😀


Reinge Education

21 Leeside,



BS20 6JL


Email: enquiries@reinge-education.co.uk

Telephone: 07782 212183  

                    07917 301410


bowen logo web resolution 1 (2).jpg

Approved for CPD by The Bowen Association. 


  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
Best New Business Awards 2019 WINNER (1)

© 2018 Reinge Education