Part 2: High Performance – Training for specific adaptations

Last time we discussed performance, it centred around the principles of progressive overload and periodisation to maximise adaptation and timing of peak performance for competitions.

Today, Nate and the Longevity Exercise Physiology teams at Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay  locations discuss a third principle, that of specificity.


“Adaptations that occur in training are specific to the type of training that is performed.”


To maximise performance in our chosen sport, or towards our specific goals, training conditions must work towards the conditions of your sport, or activity. For example, the training demands of a cross-country runner will be vastly different to the preparation of a basketball player, or a power lifter.


The five domains that particularly define the needs of a sport, and an athlete are strength, muscular endurance, power, speed, and agility. These domains are commonly underpinned by a sound foundation of aerobic conditioning and hypertrophy training.



In sports where increases in body weight, or strength are advantageous for performance, training for hypertrophy, or growth of muscle mass can be particularly beneficial (Hedrick, 1995). For athletes, hypertrophy training in specific muscle groups is usually targeted in the off-season to develop a sound muscular base while sport-specific trainings/competitions make up less of the exercise routine (Sands, Wurth & Hewit, 2012).

Training guidelines: 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps at a moderate to high effort

Hypertrophy appears to be attained across a spectrum of intensities (as low as 20-30% 1RM if done until muscular fatigue), provided effort is high (Schoenfeld, 2013; Schoenfeld et al. 2017). The variation in intensity may code more for specific hypertrophic adaptations to slow or fast twitch muscle fibres.


The ability to exert maximal force in one contraction. More specifically, it is defined by the rate and amplitude of an impulse being sent from the nervous system to target muscles. Strength training will make up a large portion of pre-season training, preparing the body neurologically to learn to exert maximal force while reacting to the conditions of a specific sport.

Training Guidelines: Sets of 6 reps at high intensity

Evidence shows strength benefits can be obtained across a range of intensities, although these gains are maximised in higher intensities, particularly in trained individuals (Schoenfeld, 2013; Schoenfeld et al. 2017).


Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance refers to the ability to perform high quality, repetitive efforts over time. These longer efforts target type I muscle fibres which slowly contract over longer periods (Wilson et al., 2012).

Training guidelines: Sets of 12-20 repetitions at low to moderate intensities.


Aerobic Endurance

Commonly known as cardio, training will focus on improving the ability to use oxygen/exchange gas, clearing lactate, allowing the body to maintain higher intensity efforts over longer periods of time. The majority of structured work to build aerobic endurance will be done in the off-season to build a foundation before sport-specific game play is introduced.


Power training focuses on delivering the greatest force production over a short period of time and is particularly applicable to sports that involve fast-twitch muscle fibres in explosive efforts, such as jumping or sprinting (Wilson et al., 2012).

Training guidelines: Sets of greater than 6 reps at  greater than 85% intensity.



A combination of speed and power, combined with mobility. The deciding factors of speed are essentially the combination of stride length and stride speed. Therefore, athletes looking to improve their speed will use a combination of:

  • Strength: predominantly in compound movements
  • Sprinting: repetition and technique to improve stride speed
  • Mobility: development of stride length


Agility movements are defined by rapid, whole-body movements that require changes of direction through one, or multiple planes. The approach is similar to speed development but with some complexities in regards to how that speed is used. Agility training has three primary goals:

  1. Enhanced perceptual–cognitive ability in various situations and tactical scenarios through sport-specific, reactionary training drills
  2. Deceleration: Effective and rapid braking of one’s momentum through plyometrics and strength training (eccentric force)
  3. Rapid re-acceleration toward the new direction of travel through plyometrics


In terms of programming for these specific adaptations, the first step is to develop a comprehensive needs analysis for the sport, or functional task with which the athlete’s goals are built around.

This sport-specific analysis looks at movement patterns and muscular involvement that need to be maximised with an analysis of the physiological work that underpins those movements. Finally, an injury analysis of the most common sites of injury, as well as the causative factors can inform protective strength, or body positioning work in a program.

An athlete-specific analysis will then be done to determine the primary training goals that can maximise their current strengths and develop their current weaknesses through a combination of analysis of training history and physical testing of the sport-specific movement and physiological needs.


“Each athlete’s program will be different based on their individual and sport-specific needs. Combining the principle of specificity discussed today with a structured program that correctly uses the principles of periodisation and progressive overload will help to maximise performance at the right time for competition.”


Watch the video below to learn more about the exercises and training for Specific Adaptations:


If you want to an exercise program to target specific adaptations call Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, and Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to book in a session today!


Written by Nate Sutton



  1. Hedrick, A. (1995). Training for hypertrophy. Strength & Conditioning Journal17(3), 22-29.
  2. Kavanaugh, A. (2007). The Role of Progressive Overload in Sports Conditioning. Conditioning Foundamentals. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal6(1).
  3. Sands, W.A., Wurth, J.J. and Hewit, J.K., 2012. Basics of strength and conditioning manual. Colorado Springs, CO: National Strength and Conditioning Association.
  4. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Is there a minimum intensity threshold for resistance training-induced hypertrophic adaptations?. Sports Medicine43(12), 1279-1288.
  5. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(12), 3508-3523.
  6. Wilson, J. M., Loenneke, J. P., Jo, E., Wilson, G. J., Zourdos, M. C., & Kim, J. S. (2012). The effects of endurance, strength, and power training on muscle fiber type shifting. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research26(6), 1724-1729.

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