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January 31, 2020

Generalist vs Specialist

Athletes typically train to be a specialist. They are training for one specific reason. Other athletes take a more general approach to fitness where they train for a movement diversity and general health. A specialist is someone with a specific goal in mind. For example, take an athlete who competes in powerlifting. They solely focus on lifting heavy to maximize strength gains. A powerlifter optimizes for a resistance-based program that only benefits strength in the deadlift, bench press and back squat. Or a marathon runner. This athlete’s only goal is improving the time it takes to run 26.2 miles. A marathon runner is typically focused on endurance exercise programs that only involve body weight exercises. While a generalist embraces a more diverse variety of exercise movements that involve strength and endurance as well as agility, mobility, and power.

Specializing in one specific aspect of fitness does have it’s bright side: making you an expert in that area of fitness. It helps create a routine, and there is more potential for higher level of competition. Becoming an expert means that you are now more knowledgeable in this specific area of fitness and other athletes would need to come to the specialist for training help. Specializing in one area fitness creates routine and that can be good and bad. Good, because you mentally and physically know what to expect, but this routine can also lead to over using muscles and increase your risk of injury. However, the risk of getting injures may be worth the reward. These are the athletes that make it to the highest of levels in competition. Making it to the highest levels of competition can lead to money and fame, which may be worth risking potentially injuring yourself depending on who you are. Another negative to being a specialist is that, due to being more susceptible to injury, because of the lack of exercise diversity and routine that your body is going through, your body will need more rest days to keep from over exhausting the same muscles every day. This rigid routine and sport-specific training is less transferable, meaning that if you asked the World’s Strongest Man to deadlift 1,000 lbs., they will be able to complete the task better than anyone in the world, but then asked him to run a mile in six minutes or less, there a very small chance they will be able to do both in the same day or same training cycle.

A generalist, on the other hand, embraces the idea of diversity of movement and encompasses their training sessions with a variety of exercises, for example functional fitness. Functional fitness is a type of training that prepares athletes for daily life. Squatting, lifting, pulling, pushing, falling and getting back up (burpees, everyone’s’ favorite). All of these aspects prepare people for what their daily life will demand of them. You get out of bed every day. That’s a sit up. Your car gets stuck and you don’t have cell service to call AAA. You’re strong so you push it out yourself. Good thing you trained with sled pushes and bench press! Your moving to a new home and you have to pick up 150 boxes. Deadlifts.

The list goes on and on, but incorporating more variety into your exercise routine, creates more transferability, because you are challenging your muscles in a multitude of ways including making coordination from multiple muscle groups at once, you are less likely to get injured, because and you are training all muscle groups rather than focusing on a specific muscle group. Also, the most exciting part, you do not have to take as many rest days. There is less of a risk of over training as a generalist, because every day is different. Functional fitness incorporates endurance, strength, mobility, agility and power so that any individual will be ready for what life as to throw at them!


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