How Specificity Plays a Role In High Performance Sports

Specificity links training to performance in high-level sport. Training to improve general fitness is necessary for the early stages of an exercise program, but exercise selection, rest interval, volume and intensity should become more specific as competition becomes closer.

What is Specificity?

Specificity is when your training is tailored to match the needs of competition within your sport.

The Principle of Specificity states that exercises closely resembling the movement or intensity of the skill trying to be improved should be performed during training.

For example, a centre in basketball that needs to constantly jump for rebounds would have high volumes of jumping in their training.

How To Make Your Workout Sport Specific

Each sport is different and requires very different training stimuli to yield maximum results.

Take a deep look at the position you play in your sport and dig out these important factors:

  • What movements are performed regularly?
  • How fast is each movement?
  • When do you get to rest and how long does it last?

Once you have completed that, tailor your training to each specific factor.

For example, the time between plays in the NFL is 40 seconds and each play is a very fast and powerful 5-10 seconds. Specificity in this sport says that a majority of a football player’s training should be roughly 5-10 second sets of very intense exercise with 40 seconds of rest between.

If the player in the above example is a defensive lineman, exercises should include the squat, bench press, and different medicine ball throw variations to mimic the strength and power needed to push past a 300lbs human.


Specificity plays a role in high performance sports as athletes will perform better at a given skill or exercise when their training mimics that particular movement and intensity. Athletes at the highest levels need specificity in their training to achieve peak performance.