The Specificity Continuum Part I: What is Specificity?

A few months ago I was asked to speak at the Sounders FC mentorship weekend and the topic I chose to speak on was “Specificity.” The reason I wanted to talk the principle of specificity was simple – there’s a ton of questions, confusion and debate out there on the subject! Which exercises are “sports specific” and which aren’t? What determines if something is specific or not?

Is everything outside of practicing one’s sport always going to be “non-specific”? Should we just train as specific as possible all the time? In this three part video lecture series, I’ll answer these questions and more. In this first part, I start with answering the simple question of what specificity really is and give examples of what I like to call the “specificity continuum.” Feel free to leave comments below, I’ll try to address questions in next parts.


  1. Joel,

    This is excellent series and I cannot wait for the part 2 and 3. I really love your (I mean, it is not ‘your’ per se, but also by other experts like Francis, Bondarchuk, Verkhoshansky, etc) approach to specificity and transfer. People are stuck in those two groups (HIT and Functional).

    One addition I would love to make is that movement cannot be ‘separated’ from perception (in ecological psychology it is called perception-movement couplings…. there is not movement without perception and no perception without movement), thus ‘perceptual’ factors are also one huge factor in specificity continuum and often forgotten. We can mimic the movement, but if we lack ‘perception’ (or situation/context) we are missing the boat. Take for example SAQ drills, especially cone agility drills. We can say they are movement specific to what happens in the game, but we are missing the perception and thus they are not ‘specific’ enough. This goes back to the idea by Charlie Francis, that in team sports one should develop ‘potential’ (or in the language of Verkhoshansky – Specialized Morpho-Functional Structure) using more ‘general’ methods and means (btw, to ‘overload’ certain factor of performance – SMFS, one cannot utilize specific means, he must use general means) and allow the game and game specific drills to ‘transmutate’ them to skill. This approach can also reduce injuries rate due overloading of the specific movement pattern.

    Looking forward to the next parts! Keep up the great work Joel

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