Specificity refers to how specific the training is for an athlete and how well it transfers to their sport. When looking to create a program that will be specific for an athlete, there are several variables that must be looked at to ensure a well-balanced program. These variables include the energy systems used in the sport, what parts of the body are most likely to suffer injury, what plane most movement occurs in etc.… However, with the rise of the fitness industry, and the increase in number of trainers, we have lost the importance of specificity in training.
There are times where specificity is less important than others. During the post season of offseason, it may be beneficial to become less specific with your training. Post season is generally a time where you give your body a break from intense competition, so if you would like to experience other types of training, feel free to do so if the intensity is low to give yourself ample rest and recovery. The off season is normally a time where you can work on your biggest weaknesses, build the most strength, or add the most muscle mass. Specificity will matter most during the preseason and in season training periods, and these periods are crucial for success on the field.
So, what exactly happens if your training lacks specificity? In short, you will be ill prepared for your season. A training program lacking in specificity will open you up to a multitude of injuries you could have escaped. You could also see deficits in performance you did not expect, and once you are in season, it becomes extremely difficult to sure up your skills. If your sport relies heavily on and acceleration and deceleration, and you have only trained speed over distance, you will not end up having very much fun. If your sport relies on creating power, yet you only train for muscle growth, you may get tired of getting smoked every competition.
If you are training for a sport, you must break that sport down to learn the specifics. Learn what injuries you are most prone to. Learn what energy systems are most important to your sport. Learn what aspects of the sport are most important to give yourself the greatest chance of success. If you need help determining these things, find a reputable training or strength and conditioning specialist and they will gladly lead you in the right direction.
BS Exercise Science