For most lifters, specificity is an overused training philosophy. I know this is a controversial statement in strength training communities, but I'm still not sorry I said it. It's the truth, and this quarantine gives us a unique moment to test this theory.
Let's talk about what specificity is. In short, it is the training principle that says you master a certain skill better by performing that skill, not other related exercises, but repeatedly perfecting that particular thing. If it is not yet clear, I believe that the specificity in strength circles has become too dogmatic.
When specificity is needed
But the people who benefit from the specificity are top athletes who have to be exceptionally good at their sport. This applies to elite weight lifters and powerlifters as well as elite sprinters and professional running backs. Most athletes that fit in this category already have solid overall strength, are genetically freaked out, and physically fit for their sport. The only thing left to do is to become more and more efficient with details.
But just liking a sport or even being good at it doesn't make you a top athlete who needs to be too specific in your training. And I would argue that even the best lifters could benefit from spending some time building non-specific power. The problem is that they never listen.
When the gyms were closed
But one day when we Americans thought we had found out everything, the government decided to shut down the country, including our beloved gyms, and no dumbbells were found at once. There are no garage gyms here in NYC, so we all had to lift in our tiny NYC apartments. This meant that my gym had to transform from a barbell gym to a kettlebell, barbell, and odd object gym overnight. But that was a blessing in disguise.
So what we did differently from most others is that we didn't kill people with senseless metcons.
When Yuri Verkoshansky said, "Any idiot can make another idiot tired." We believed him.
So we threw burpees overboard in favor of light speed work. We focused on individual limb movements and trunk stability work as well as sensible, measurable methods to improve the condition of our athletes. At times, this included things like AMAP sets, which were not used as finishers, but were incorporated into training cycles that were aimed at building up work capacities. There is a difference.
More important than anything else, we have developed programming that targets where we knew our lifters were defective. By definition, these movements are not specific. But I'm going to tell you what's going to happen, not because I'm a clairvoyant, but because I've been here for a while. You will come back better.
To be able to better define it, we have to be clear: these athletes have neither additional weight for their primary lifts nor larger muscles. That doesn't mean better here. What will be better is that they return to training with:
The long-lasting effect of this phenomenon is that in the long run they become better, healthier and, yes, stronger. Not seeing training in this regard means neglecting one of the most basic principles of human strength.
We can only accumulate until we need a delay. This should be done in your training at both the micro and macro levels. So let's do a favor and Use this time to do what we should have done a long time ago – stop exaggerating the details.
If you are in New York or are ever in the area, drop by and visit me at JDI Barbell, one of the few standalone barbell boxing gyms in town.