American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise
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“If you build it, they will come….“

I love this movie quote from Field of Dreams. It can relate to many things in life, including fitness. When we train a certain way, our bodies adapt to that training and become stronger in the areas that are being worked. When you run, you strengthen the muscles of the legs and core that are utilized during running. When you perform push-ups, you strengthen the muscles that perform that particular movement pattern. This is the training principle known as specificity.

To create a beneficial training program that will enhance the strength and movement patterns for that sport, you must perform exercises that mimic those patterns and strengthen those muscles. When you play basketball, you move forward, backward, laterally and rotationally. Plus, you are using muscles of the upper body, lower body and core. When designing a training program, you must incorporate movement-pattern specificity so the athlete can adapt to those demands. The same is true for strength-training specificity. It’s important to incorporate exercises that involve multi-joint movements, such as squat jumps, for example, instead of leg presses.

It’s critical to remember this training principle of specificity to help athletes reach their full potential and to avoid injuries that could occur from poor preparation. For example, if the basketball team did not incorporate lateral shuffle movement patterns in their strength-training program, a pulled groin muscle or rolled ankle may result because of failure to strengthen the lateral muscle groups of the lower body such as the groin, abductors and lower leg stabilizers.

Fitness professionals and coaches who understand the demands placed on the body during performance realize how important training specificity is for their athletes. It should be considered one of the most important principles to remember when creating the training program.

Take a look at this training program, which uses good training specificity for a young basketball team. Notice that all the exercises add a variety of movement patterns and involve mulit-joint exercises.

Warm-up and Agility Work

Use a distance of 10 to 20 yards.

1. High skips – Skipping while trying to get a high vertical jump

2. Lateral skips – Skipping while moving sideways

3. Lateral shuffle – Lowering body into a semi-squat and shuffling laterally

4. Pogo hops – Hopping on two feet quickly

5. Single legged lateral hops – Hopping on one foot side to side

6. Ali shuffle – Quickly switching feet back and forth. Start with left foot forward and right foot back; switch so the right foot is forward and the left foot is back.

Strength-training Circuit

1. Medicine ball chest press – Using a wall and a 5-lb. to 10-lb. medicine ball, perform a chest pass into the wall. Repeat 30 reps quickly.

2. Overhead Med Ball Throws – With a partner or against a wall using a 5-lb. to 10-lb. medicine ball, perform an overhead throw into the wall. Repeat 30 reps.

3. Squat Jumps – Lower into a squat with correct form and explode off of the feet into a jump. Land softly and slowly decelerate back into a squat. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

4. Skater plyos – Slowly load the right leg and explode off the foot to land on the left leg. Land softly and keep the right leg off the ground; repeat back and forth, 10-15 reps off each foot.

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