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Out of the many key principles of weight and resistance training, one of the most important aspects and my biggest pet peeve is that of “specificity”: doing exercises and routines specific to the goal you are pursuing. It seems like an obvious statement, and for the most part, people try to do their best in accomplishing this principle. Programming a routine to accomplish this gets complicated when the goal is more complex than simply doing “something”. Even with a goal like losing weight or gaining muscle, programming is not as simple as many articles and trainers claim. Purposeful Training is key to the principle of specificity when utilizing weight or resistance training.
Let’s take a look at a runner. In the gym, if you look at the many different kinds of lifts and routines that exist and try to make a routine that mimics the muscle activation and load sequence of a person running or sprinting, ultimately you will fail in combining exercises to accomplish this. Too many runners look for routines to try and essentially make their weight routine a running workout. This is where purposeful training is a necessary concept to learn when looking for an effective routine. For a runner, weights can never mimic the repetitive nature of impact the muscles and propulsion create from ground reaction forces creating forward motion. Nor would you ever lift a weight in the same position as you would run. (Lifting on a flat foot is proper form, but you want to run on the front 2/3’s of your foot). Lifting will never replace a sport-specific activity, but in this case of running, lifting does accomplish some very important goals for runners: strengthens joints, increases power production and provides other Endocrine system benefits very advantageous to runners and other endurance athletes. Though the moves themselves are not “specifically” mimicking running, the result is purposeful to the activity.
Even with non-performance based goals, such as losing weight, weight training routines are not all alike. There are plenty of people guilty of asking for help losing weight and referencing Arnold Schwarzenegger or other top tier bodybuilders unaware of the contradiction they have found. Bodybuilders are in the business of gaining size, getting bigger and bigger: the opposite of what the average person wanting to lose weight is looking for. The average gym goer and recreational athlete would not benefit using a routine from these sources because of the emphasis put on gaining size. Weight loss would be minimized if even experienced at all.
Take a look at your goals when determining the routine you are thinking about following. Performance-based goals are going to require specific muscle groups trained for the purpose to optimally perform a certain task. These often require coordination and neurological adaptations to perfect technique, making lifting more of an addition ON TOP of your performance-specific training, not a replacement. Non-performance based goals can typically be accomplished by a range of exercises; however, the way the resistance is moved, the sets and reps, and rests in-between intervals need to be such that the body adapts and changes in the way that the exercises dictate (not training to gain mass while trying to lose weight).
The moral of this story is that your resistance training program needs to be specific to the purpose of your fitness journey. Be wary of a lot of lifts that are not necessary for your progress. Before you begin any routine, study it, criticize it, and find what will benefit you and what won’t. Consult a professional on the subject, and nail your routine down to something that will work specific to what you are looking for.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
Strength and Performance Coach