Amy Williams, assistant manager of Little Rock Racquet Club, demonstrates the Towel Pullup With Negative Rep. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CELIA STOREY)
"Training specificity" is a broadly used term that can apply to athletic training, strength training or rehabilitation. In a general sense, it means that one's results will mirror the actual training one does.
In my experience, people begin an exercise program with one or two primary goals in mind. These goals can be very personal and range from weight loss to stress relief. As a fitness pro, part of my role has been helping them understand how the right training program will lead to the achievement of their goals. So we go through the process of setting one or two goals and then match a training schedule to them.
The key to making the right match is training specificity. I choose exercises that will lead to the desired outcomes, even if the association might not be obvious. For example, people interested in weight loss are often under the impression that cardiovascular exercise combined with a low-calorie diet is the answer. They are surprised to be given a strength-training program.
As many readers know, strength training increases muscle mass, which in turn increases metabolic rate. If metabolism speeds up, long-term weight management is a much more successful proposition when compared against a strategy of caloric restriction and never-ending cardio workouts.
This is just one example of matching training specificity to one's individual goals.
Likewise, training specificity applies within the training program itself. If a corporate worker is interested in better posture or more core strength, I'll suggest exercises that not only challenge those muscle groups but challenge them in a way that mirrors how they are used in everyday life. For postural and core muscles, the key is endurance — and we train them accordingly.
This week's exercise is a great example of a postural and core exercise designed with specificity in mind. The Towel Pullup With Negative Rep is not about building brute strength or huge muscle mass, it's designed to create functional strength and endurance.
1. Position a Smith machine bar 3 to 4 feet off the floor and grab two towels. Wrap the towels around the bar and grasp one with each hand.
2. Extend your legs straight and lean back so you're inclined underneath the bar. Your hands (and the towels) should be about shoulder-width apart.
3. Lift your torso by pulling on the towels until your chest almost touches the bar. Hold for a beat.
4. Slowly lower the torso until your arms are fully extended. The lowering phase should take five to six full seconds.
5. Pull the torso back up quickly, then slowly lower again. Continue until you've done six negative repetitions.
6. Perform two sets of six.
The takeaway message is to analyze your workout for training specificity from a broad perspective — "are these activities going to help me achieve my overall goal?" Then from a narrow perspective: "Does this exercise challenge the right muscle group?" Doing so will help to ensure that your time is spent wisely, and you achieve your goals more quickly. Enjoy!
Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Style on 08/12/2019
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