Specificity Trap (Part One)

I. Introduction

The principle of specificity relates to improvements or adaptations that are a direct product of the demands encountered during training activities (1). Within the field of strength and conditioning (S&C), a point of confusion often stems from a lack of distinguishing between skills (technique, coordination, rhythm) and capacities (force production, aerobic capacity, tissue quantity e.g. tendon stiffness, muscle cross-sectional area) in regards to the investment of training time (2). Consequently, one may have a coach trying to force technical change when the athlete doesn’t have the capacity to achieve that change. On the other hand, it may be that the S&C coach is pressurised to implement ‘sport specific’ drills that at face value replicate the movement patterns of the sport (e.g. incorporation of a ball during the warm-up). Yet, this is insufficient to overload the physical capacities that underpin expression of sport specific skills. Whilst collaboration between the S&C and skills coaches is essential to maximising time on task for the player, the writer contends that such an approach may produce a diluted outcome whereby development of neither skills nor physical capacities are maximised.

Nonetheless, lessons drawn from the aforementioned specificity trap can be applied more broadly to multiple realms within the field of S&C and beyond. This article will follow a logical trajectory whereby principles derived from the specificity trap will be progressively expanded across multiple constructs. Specifically, the specificity trap shall be interpreted within the following constructs: i) Training; ii) Early Specialisation; iii) Professional Development.


(1) Gamble, P. (2006). Implications and applications of training specificity for coaches and athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 28, 54-58.

(2) Yessis, M. (1982). The role of all round, general physical preparation in the multiyear and yearly training programs. National Strength Coaches Association Journal, 4, 48-50.