Training athletes and exercisers for a specific outcome is an important concept but how well does it translate to real-life situations on and off the pitch? Ask Derek Vandenbrink.

We impose strength training to achieve strength outcomes; cardio and endurance training to achieve cardio and endurance outcomes; and mobility training to achieve mobility outcomes. If we apply a specific stress, a specific adaptation will occur in response to that stress. This is the specificity principle (SAID – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) and it is a powerful concept.

We also take it a step further to specifically apply stress to our athletes that resembles the required demands of their specific sports; we ask hockey players to perform lateral bounds to mimic the skating stride, basketball players to perform vertical jumps to mimic shooting and rebounding, and American football linemen to perform every imaginable bench press to mimic the constant pushing, whether attacking or defending, that happens on the line.

On its own and on the surface, this sounds wonderful: apply the sport-specific stress to obtain the sport-specific outcome. And, while we’re at it, let’s extrapolate this into the real world – apply a life-specific stress to obtain a life-specific outcome for the every-day person who wants to lose weight, get stronger and otherwise feel better about their body and about themselves. This is functional training, right?

However, if we step back and think about every-day human movement and the science of training, it starts to feel as if we’re missing something very important about the specificity principle.

Real-life situations

Consider how most parents pick up their kids – they don’t set their feet to neutral, ask the child to position themselves to their midline and then, after bracing, symmetrically load each arm as they pull the child to their non-dominant shoulder while the child remains perfectly still. What parents actually do is pay no attention to their feet, bend over to wherever their child is, grab on however they can, and lift their child to whatever position is manageable at the time. Let’s also consider our athletes. No matter what sport, there’s a very good chance players do not actually perform the ‘specific’ movement we train them for as they react to opponents, teammates, their position on the ice, court or field, and the whereabouts of the puck or ball. The imposed demand on both the athlete and the every-day person is reactive, instinctive movement into ‘non-traditional’ positions as they adjust to their environment. It’s non-repetitive. It’s different every time.

This is the paradox inherent in the specificity principle: the movement demands of sport and life are, specifically, variable.

The health and performance of the body relies on our ability to move variably, and it adapts in kind. Our soft tissues (muscle, fascia, and other connective tissues) adapt specifically to the imposed demand (Davis’ Law1) so, if we want to produce strong, powerful and safe movements in variable, reactive directions, then we need to stress our connective tissue variably. Our bone tissue adapts specifically to the imposed demand through biomechanical and soft-tissue loading (Wolff’s Law2) so, if we want a solid, robust architecture we need to apply load variably. And let’s not forget about movement skill – our motor learning, development and ability adapt specifically to the imposed demand (Hebbian Learning3) – so, if we want to produce skilled and efficient movement in variable, reactive environments, then we need to move variably.

ViPR was designed to blend movement training with strength training, a concept known as Loaded Movement Training (LMT). LMT can seamlessly apply variability by manipulating one element, or a combination of the six elements, of movement design. For example, let’s consider a ViPR front-loaded squat at chest height and change the hold from a neutral grip to a right-offset grip – now more of ViPR’s mass is on the right side, which applies a different ‘imposed demand’ than symmetrical loading. What if we perform a lateral ViPR shift at chest height as we descend into the squat? Or if we perform that shift as we stand instead? What if we shift at head height, or even overhead height? Or if, instead of moving to the right-lateral, we shlift ViPR (combining a shifting and lifting action) rotationally to the left as we stand? Each of these movements is variable in comparison to each other, either obvious or subtle, as is each stride, each jump, each push ... and each and every time a parent lifts their child.

LMT is a powerful method to improve strength, endurance and mobility in a variable world. Specifically, in both sport and life.


1. Clark MA, Lucett SC (2010), NASM’s Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins: 199.

2. Frost HM (2001), From Wolff's Law to the Utah paradigm: Insights about bone physiology and its clinical applications, The Anatomical Record, 262:398-419.

3. Kalveram KT (1999), A modified model of the Hebbian synapse and its role in motor learning, Human Movement Science, 18:185-199.