Specificity is for specialists 

It’s trendy lately to want to be something just to be something. Everyone wants a label. Everyone wants to be called something even if they aren’t. 

You’ll see people debating online on labels like powerlifter, bodybuilder, CrossFitter, strongman, athlete…. but let’s end that here and say if you don’t actively compete in said activity on a competitive level, those labels don’t apply to you. 

There’s nothing wrong with that. The act of participating in training is noble and worthy in itself, and a mere label means nothing in the scheme of things. 

All this brings me to my next point, what the hell are you doing specializing in a sport you don’t compete in or have a plan to? Why go through the rigors of restrictive dieting if you don’t want to be on stage? Why plan peaking cycles just to test a 1RM when there are many other ways to determine how much stronger you are getting? Stop and think about this for a second if you specialize without planning to use it… either shit or get off the pot. 

For those that say, “you’re right. What next?”

Here’s what to do. 

1. Analyze your plan, create balance. If you’re worried about top end strength, work on rep maxes and add muscular endurance to it. If you live and die by the squat, bench, and deadlift, add other lifts like front squat, overhead press, unilateral work, chin-ups, etc. become stronger overall and you’ll see a difference in a matter of weeks. 

2. Get in better shape. Cardio never killed anyone. Take some brisk walks, work up to a light jog, buy a bike and pedal around for a while, push some sleds, do some bodyweight conditioning, anything. All of this will benefit the overall package in the long run. 

3. Eat well. Avoid the traps of restrictive dieting. Some of you may enjoy this but it’s honestly not sustainable long term unless you really enjoy it. That’s ok if you do but I’ll wager that the vast majority of people don’t truly enjoy eating like they want to be 8% body fat (and let’s face it, that’s an unsustainable number for most of us to stay at long term). The 80-20 rule works well here. Consume whole good 80% of the time, lean meats, vegetables, good carbs, etc. 20% of the time don’t stress it. If you gain fat, lighten up that 20%. If you need more size, eat more. Simple. You can follow macros, a meal plan, eyeballing it, whatever; don’t get trapped into restricting yourself just for the sake of it. Man was not killed by a Twinkie every so often. 

4. Embrace the process. You want to squat 700 pounds but you don’t want to compete. That’s ok. Work towards that but keep balance in mind. Test yourself in the gym every so often with rep maxes and one day your 700 pound squat may be attainable. Don’t stress the process, it’s part of the fun. 

5. Specializing is still ok. This is not to say you shouldn’t compete and if you choose to, plan it accordingly. If you have no immediate plans to compete for whatever reason, create some well rounded goals and work towards them. Stuff like:  drop 5% body fat, increase squat by 50 pounds, run a mile in 7 minutes, run a 100m dash in 13 seconds. Reach for some well rounded goals and if that time comes that you want to compete, you’ve just built a better well rounded base to build from. 

Don’t be that guy to label yourself just because you think it’s cool. It’s not. It’s just a label. Chances are that the vast majority of those specialists you admire in their sport all started off with the intentions of “getting stronger and looking better”. 

This can be seen in children who play multiple sports instead of one or two. 

A study published in the journal Sports Health found that “for most sports, there is no evidence that intense training and specialization before [age 13 or 14] are necessary to achieve elite status. Risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury . . . and quitting sports at a young age.” (Source). 

Granted, we are not children, but it isn’t a far stretch to think the same can’t apply to adults with jobs, families, bills, and stresses of life. 

If you don’t plan to specialize at this time, become more well rounded and maybe one day you will want to test your limits in a sport of your choice and all that variety in training will only help you, not hurt you. 

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