Training Specificity – The Key to Year-to-Year Improvement

Here we GO!

With the University Football training camps opening soon, I’ve been asking some of my former teammates about their off season goals. Not only was I curious about their preparations going into camp, but I wanted to get some real world proof for something I’ve been thinking about, Training Specificity. More specifically, I wanted to point out the need for the testing of progress while focusing on specificity.  See, a lot of athletes have an idea of where they want to improve in their off season training but don’t go much further than pointing it out. There are so many areas that can be changed (speed, strength, power, quickness, mobility, skill development, etc.) that most people end up spreading themselves too thin making only small strides. The closer an athlete gets to elite level, the greater the need for training specificity.

Pick a measurable goal.

This is where I think some athletes get distracted. Keep in mind that I’m speaking from a physical training standpoint. For this purpose, your goal has to be something physical that you can measure. If you say something like “I want to try harder”, or “be more aggressive” then that’s fine, but you need to also pick some physical goals to steer your training. Those subjective goals are very difficult to actually recognize or quantify.  The reason it’s very important to pick something measurable is so that you can adjust/alter your training based on your results. This can be done by either: you (If you know how to adjust it properly), or your strength coach . A quotation from Kelly Starrett comes to mind, “if there’s no change, there’s no change”. This is true for strength training as well. If your goal is to get faster, “feeling” faster doesn’t actually demonstrate improvement, especially if your testing didn’t demonstrate results. Be sure to test your 40 (or whichever distance you choose) multiple times throughout the off season to see if your training is actually yielding results.


I just mentioned this concept, but I want to elaborate a little bit more. Any time you isolate a variable, you need to be able to test it and retest it to truly know if a change is being made. Sometimes we take certain measures or results from different activities and try to relate them where they don’t belong. Let’s take an example of upper body explosiveness. Maybe a defensive back really wants to work on his jam, so this is his big off-season goal. Way too often, I see people say something like…’yeah, my bench went way up, so I definitely reached my goal!’. Unfortunately this isn’t true. You do need strength in order to build power, but strength doesn’t guarantee power. Unless you are actually testing power, either with a Myotest or medicine ball chest pass, etc. then you don’t actually know if you’ve improved your explosiveness, which carries the biggest impact in a game. So once you pick a specific goal to work on, make sure you also have a specific test to insure that you are tracking progress appropriately.

whatever this is, it looks like he's improving!

Ask Other People

Some people have a knack for looking in the mirror and figuring out what they need. Most people don’t. Training to improve a weakness quickly becomes ‘practice your strongest lift’ without appropriate guidance. When entering the off-season, try to really go out of your way to determine what your biggest need is. Ask coaches and fellow players. Check your stats to see if there are certain numbers that jump out more than others. Compare testing scores to other people around the league at your position, or better yet, to the numbers at the CFL and NFL combines. Get a feel for what you truly need to improve on, then target it specifically.

Getting to the next level

Although this advice is good for anyone doing any type of training, it’s more tailored for athletes looking to get swole to the next level. You need to understand that all of the physiological adaptations which can take place through training (i.e, strength, power, speed, endurance, conditioning…) can all have a negative on one another. I’m sure you’ve realized how working on strength has hurt your endurance or vice versa, working on your size can have a negative impact on your speed and so on. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you need to decide what element of your training is needed the most to get to the next level. Once you’ve established that, your training has to be programmed to improve that one aspect. If done properly, you may even see improvements across the board.

Find out that ONE thing that’s holding you back and take yourself to the next level!

It’s About Getting Better!


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