By: Chris Parchmann, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
What’s the only thing smarter than getting in shape? Getting up to speed on all the techniques, training theories and even tricks that can make it easier and more efficient to achieve your fitness objectives. At Ageility, we are passionate about helping adults to unlock their physical potential and we are focused on crafting great solutions to meet each individual athletes’ specific needs. It’s helpful to partner with experts like our therapists and trainers to understand how to avoid injuries, and to understand some of the secrets of effective fitness training.
Specificity is a great example of a theory or idea that can really make one’s training program more effective. In the context of fitness, specificity refers to the concept that the types of training undertaken should be tailored specifically to the activity in which improvement is desired. For example, if you are looking to improve your tennis game you might want to focus on specific exercises for racket strokes such as the dumbbell fly, reverse fly, and the wrist flexion and extension. This probably seems obvious, but we are always surprised by how often fitness programs are undertaken without considering what the desired end result is. The better we can define this, the more likely we’ll all be pleased with the results.
Our trainers and therapists are adept at helping to identify key joint actions, muscles, energy systems, and injury sites most relevant to a particular sport. The more similar the training activity is to the actual sport movement, the greater the likelihood that there will be a positive transfer to that sport. Running can be improved with unilateral lower body exercises such as lunges. Jumping can be trained through power cleans and back squats. Ball passing and dribbling is trained with upper body exercises such as the bench press with various width grips, triceps pushdown, and reverse curl.
Working with a qualified trainer can make putting together a good program much easier since the mechanics of the human body can be complex and can start seeming overwhelming very quickly. Leveraging specificity begins with a strong understanding of the human body’s anatomical planes of movement. The sagittal plane, for example, is an anatomical boundary that runs parallel to the longitudinal axis from the head to the feet, dividing the body into left and right sections. Joint actions that occur in the sagittal plane are flexion and extension. Some examples of sagittal plane sport activities are sprinting, kicking, and throwing. Frontal plane is a vertical plane that divides the body into front and back sections. Joint actions that occur in the frontal plane include abduction and adduction. Laterally shuffling the legs and feet when playing defense in basketball is a sport related movement occurring in the frontal plane. Transverse plane bisects the body perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis creating upper and lower sections. All joint actions involving rotation occur in this plane. The tennis forehand and backhand swing are example movements taking place in the transverse plane. If all this last bit sounded a bit complicated to you, you aren’t alone, which is why it’s always great to have an expert’s assistance when you are crafting a program.
Specificity isn’t just for competitive athletes. In fact, older adults can really benefit since they need to be more efficient and set aside more time for recovery. Fewer sets or reps means that each has to be as focused as possible on delivering the desired improvement. Any individuals seeking quality of life improvements among daily living activities can benefit from the concept by applying the same principles to their training. Specificity can be applied very successfully to address some of the unique challenges and requirements of fitness for older adults.
Sport-specific training exercises are designed to provide resistance to relevant movements through the appropriate range of motion. This can also be applied if one’s goal is to train weak areas that may be susceptible to injury. The exercises aren’t always the same, but the goals are. In fact, many older adults must modify exercise range of motion due to degenerative conditions associated with age. Older adults should always be careful with end range of motion activities to minimize the risk of injury and also be concerned with movement speed. With care, explosive exercises that generate higher power outputs can be incorporated into training programs for older active adults with excellent results. Medicine ball throws from various angles are one great way to include power training into your fitness program.
Specificity is just one of the many ways to make a fitness program more impactful and effective. It might seem complex, but the benefits can be enormous and a certified expert, like one our Ageility therapists or trainers, can help put together a program that is objective driven and focused on delivering the results you want. Our team members are passionate about helping adults of all ages to unlock their physical potential and enjoy the benefits of a healthier and more active life. Contact us to see how we can help craft a fitness program for your specific goals and personal needs.