Specificity vs. Transferability in Sports Performance Training

General strength training along with speed and agility training is some of the most important training an athlete can do to better him/herself (as discussed in the Hierarchy of Sports Performance).

However, there is something that MUST be considered when talking the “strength and conditioning” side of sports performance training: specificity vs. transferability.

SPECIFICITY, in the context of sports performance, refers to how specific a certain task is to a certain sport. For example, shooting free throws are incredibly specific to basketball, yet not at all specific to track and field.

We get asked all the time about specific training that we do for a specific sport. So, what someone is really asking is what sort of SPECIFICITY our training has to “X” sport. The answer (though more long winded as you will see): not at all specific.

The goal of strength training and speed and agility training is not to be specific toward any one sport. As we’ve said before, sport specificity in the realm of strength and conditioning can actually do more harm than good.

Oftentimes the technique of a given skill within a sport is so fine and so specialized that to do something even close to it without doing it exactly will do nothing but mess up the actual skill!

Could you imagine practicing 3-pointers with a 20-pound ball, getting it down, then going back to a regulation basketball? How off is that shot going to be??

Instead, the goal is for there to be high TRANSFERABILITY from what is taught to the specific sport. Getting faster will transfer very well to almost any sport. Getting stronger in the squat will transfer to all sports. Building better reaction time and change of direction skill will make you better at most sports.

The best part of transferability is that we don’t have to mimic any one sport in order to make an athlete better at that sport. By not getting too specific, we won’t mess up a specific skill the athlete has learned in that sport, but the athlete will be better equipped so that skill will be easier to perform.

Have high TRANSFERABILITY in the gym, keep the SPECIFICITY at (insert sport here) practice.

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