The 8 Training Principles are research-based guidelines that can help you accelerate your training progress and optimize your results. Knowing how to apply these principles gives you an educated basis on which you can make informed decisions about designing your fitness or sports training program. The principles can also help you evaluate the merits of fitness equipment and personal training services.
All of the principles complement each other. For best results, they should be applied in concert throughout every phase of training.
1. Principle of Specificity suggests that your body will make adjustments according to the type of training you perform and in the very same muscles that you exercise. How you train determines what you get.
This principle guides you in designing your fitness training program. If your goal is to improve your overall level of fitness, you would devise a well-rounded program that builds both endurance and overall body strength. If you want to build the size of your biceps, you would increase weight loads on bicep curls and related exercises.
2. The Principle of Overload implies that you must continually increase training loads as your body adapts over time. Because your body builds and adjusts to your existing training regimen, you must gradually and systematically increase your work load for continued improvement.
A generally accepted guideline for weight training is to increase resistance not more than 10% per week. You can also use percentages of your maximum or estimated maximum level of performance and work out within a target training zone of about 60-85% of maximum. As your maximum performance improves, your training loads will increase, as well.
3. The Principle of Recovery assets that you must get adequate rest between workouts in order to recuperate. How much rest you need depends upon your training program, level of fitness, diet, and other factors.
Generally, if you perform a total body weight workout three days per week, rest at least 48 hours between sessions. You can perform cardio more frequently and on successive days of the week.
Over time, too little recovery can result in signs of overtraining. Excessively long periods of recovery time can result in a detraining effect.
4. The Principle of Reversibility refers to the loss of fitness that results after you stop training. In time, you will revert back to your pre-training condition. The biological principle of use and disuse underlies this principle. Simply stated, If you don’t use it, you lose it.
While adequate recovery time is essential, taking long breaks results in detraining effects that may be noticeable within a few weeks. Significant levels of fitness are lost over longer periods. Only about 10% of strength is lost 8 weeks after training stops, but 30-40% of endurance is lost in the same time period.
The Principle of Reversibility does not apply to skills. The effects of stopping practice of motor skills, such as weight training exercises and sport skills, are very different. Coordination appears to store in long-term motor memory and remains nearly perfect for decades. A skill once learned is never forgotten.
5. The Principle of Variation implies that you should consistently change aspects of your workouts. Training variations should always occur within ranges that are aligned with your training directions and goals. Varying exercises, sets, reps, intensity, volume, and duration, for example, prevents boredom and promotes more consistent improvement over time. A well-planned training program set up in phases offers built-in variety to workouts, and also prevents overtraining.
6. The Principle of Transfer suggests that workout activities can improve the performance of other skills with common elements, such as sport skills, work tasks, or other exercises. For example, performing explosive squats can improve the vertical jump due to their common movement qualities. But dead lifting would not transfer well to marathon swimming due to their very dissimilar movement qualities.
7. The Principle of Individualization suggests that fitness training programs should be adjusted for personal differences, such as abilities, skills, gender, experience, motivation, past injuries, and physical condition. While general principles and best practices are good guides, each person’s unique qualities must be part of the exercise equation. There is no one size fits all training program.
8. The Principle of Balance is a broad concept that operates at different levels of healthy living. It suggests that you must maintain the right mix of exercise, diet, and healthy behaviors. Falling out of balance may cause a variety of conditions (e.g., anemia, obesity) that affect health and fitness. In short, it suggests all things in moderation.
If you go to extremes to lose weight or build fitness too quickly, your body will soon respond. You could experience symptoms of overtraining until you achieve a healthy training balance that works for you.
For fitness training, balance also applies to muscles. If opposing muscles (e.g., hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper legs) are not strengthened in the right proportions, injuries can result. Muscle imbalances also contribute to tendinitis and postural deviations.
Keep these 8 Training Principles in mind as you design and carry out your fitness training program. They can help you make wise exercise decisions so you can achieve your goals more quickly with less wasted effort.