Using Specificity As A Tool To Improve Technique
I post a lot of content in regards to technique, cues, and variations, but a major tool in regards to improving movement is specificity. There are not too many things that will help improve your competition squat, competition bench press, or competition deadlift form more than just doing those movements over and over again. I think this is especially the case with lifters who may have a tendency to overthink, and the slightest cueing can completely throw them off. Some lifters tend to not process internal or external cues as well as others. And that’s not necessarily a negative, as everyone learns and processes things different. These lifters tend to do better with higher specificity as it gives them more time to learn and process the movement through the increased practice.
As a coach, it’s my job to figure out how to communicate effectively with an athlete. With many, cueing or variations may be the answer. With others, it may be through increasing specificity to allow them to have more time to practice, learn, and develop position awareness through repetition. The downfall of specificity can be the wear and tear of consistently heavier loads, or the general monotony of the same lift over and over, leading to decreased focus/motivation. Variations act to self limit and reduce average intensity. Some lifters can easily transition from a Safety Bar Pause Squat to a Competition Low Bar Squat seamlessly. But for others, it can create a regression in their competition squat form due to the decreased skill practice.
There are coaches that are known for high specificity, and typically part of the “why” behind that is the technique elements of the movements tend to start to take care of itself. At one point years ago I competition squatted 3 days a week. It ended up not being sustainable for me, but during that time I can say I never felt more in a “groove” with squatting. In hindsight my technique wasn’t great, but within the form I used I rarely ever misgrooved a rep or felt unpracticed within a session. I felt extremely comfortable and confident squatting. And this is the benefit of specificity when it comes to improving technique. It starts to self regulate technique improvement, it promotes consistency within movement, and it improves confidence through increased practice.
We just need to find the right balance of specificity and variation to promote long term progress, development, and health. For each lifter that is different, but just don’t underestimate the power of specificity to self-regulate technique when cueing or variations don’t do the trick. I have multiple lifters who respond better to specificity than any other tool in regards to improving technique. The general model of periodization says to increase specificity as we approach competition, but in my point I am trying to make, specificity may be what you even use far away from competition during times of technique improvement. Find how a lifter is able to learn, process, and progress based off of their learning style, and use that to formulate the correct ratio of cueing, variation, and specificity.