It goes without saying that running is primarily a lower body exercise. So when we train for a marathon, we would ideally perform exercises that uses those leg muscles. But our exercise selection and programming can make a big influence on race-day performance!
If I squat and lunge 6 days/week, and show up on race-day to run a marathon, I would be ill-prepared despite my high training frequency and despite training the same muscle groups used in running.
We have to run if we want to get better at running!
This advice may seem obvious, yet there continues to be many coaches who don’t consider the specific goals of an athlete and there are many athletes who are training without their goals in mind. So how do we apply the training principle of specificity for powerlifting?
If someone wants to improve their bench press strength, we have to get them to bench press. Accessory exercises can be great for injury prevention, addressing weaknesses, and adding extra volume in lieu of fatigue, but they rarely should be a complete replacement for the main movement pattern we are trying to address.
Example: A coach has identified that his athlete’s limiting factor with the bench press is a sticking point that occurs 2-inches above the chest when handling >90% 1RM. The coach postulates this is due to a relative weakness of the chest in relation to the other agonist muscles in the bench press (triceps and deltoids).
Some great accessory exercises to remedy this may be, hex press, DB chest press, Wide grip push ups, DB flyes, Cable flyes, because they use the chest muscles and may improve the hypothesized muscle imbalance. (See Example 1 below)
However, none of the aforementioned exercises are specific to the bench press movement pattern.
Some better exercises may include, paused Bench Reps, Spoto Presses, Wide Grip Bench Presses, and/or Benching from Pins. Whichever the exercise, or combination of exercises we choose, this should follow the actual “competition grip bench press”. (See Example 2 below).
Adhering to this principle is paramount when it comes to improving your training. It is the number 1 most important principle to follow. Luckily, the concept of specificity is easy to understand and implement. Just remember to begin with the end in mind!