The 8 Training Principles are research-based guidelines that can help you speed up your training progress and optimize your results. Knowing how to apply these principles gives you an informed basis on which to make informed decisions about the design of your fitness or sports training program. The principles can also help you evaluate the merits of fitness equipment and personal training services.
All the principles complement each other. For best results, they should be applied together in all phases of training.
1. Principle of specificity It suggests that your body will make adjustments based on the type of training you do and on the 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 fitness level, you should design a comprehensive program that builds both endurance and overall body strength. If you want to increase the size of your biceps, you would increase the weight loads in bicep curls and related exercises.
2. The principle of overload means that you must continually increase training loads as your body adapts over time. As your body develops and adjusts to your existing training regimen, you must gradually and systematically increase your workload for continuous improvement.
A generally accepted guideline for weight training is to increase resistance no more than 10% per week. You can also use percentages of your estimated maximum or maximum level of performance and exercise within a target training zone of approximately 60-85% of maximum. As your peak performance improves, so will your training loads.
3. The principle of recovery assets that you must get adequate rest between workouts to recover. The amount of rest you need depends on your training program, fitness level, diet, and other factors.
Generally, if you do a total body weight workout three days a 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 occurs after you stop training. Over time, you will return to your pre-workout 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 produces detraining effects that can be noticeable within a few weeks. Significant levels of fitness are lost for longer periods of time. Only about 10% of strength is lost 8 weeks after training is stopped, but 30-40% of endurance is lost in the same period of time.
The reversibility principle does not apply to abilities. The effects of not practicing motor skills, such as weight training and sports skills, are very different. Coordination appears to be stored in long-term motor memory and remains nearly perfect for decades. A skill once learned is never forgotten.
5. The principle of variation It implies that you must constantly 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 and phased training program offers built-in variety to workouts and also prevents overtraining.
6. The transfer principle suggests that training activities can improve the performance of other skills with common elements, such as sports skills, work tasks, or other exercises. For example, performing explosive squats can improve vertical jump due to their common movement qualities. But deadlifting would not transfer well to marathon swimming due to its vastly different qualities of movement.
7. The principle of individualization suggests that physical training programs should accommodate 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 should be part of the exercise equation. There is not one size fits all training program.
8. The principle of balance it is a broad concept that operates at different levels of healthy living. It suggests that you should maintain the right mix of exercise, diet, and healthy behaviors. The imbalance can cause a variety of conditions (eg, anemia, obesity) that affect health and fitness. In short, it suggests all things in moderation.
If you go to extremes to lose weight or improve your fitness too quickly, your body will soon respond. You could experience overtraining symptoms until you achieve a healthy training balance that works for you.
For physical training, balance also applies to the muscles. If the opposing muscles (eg, hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper legs) are not strengthened in the proper proportions, injury can occur. Muscle imbalances also contribute to tendonitis and postural deviations.
Keep these 8 training principles in mind when designing and running your fitness training program. They can help you make wise exercise decisions so you can reach your goals faster and with less effort.
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