The 5 Principles of Fitness Training should be the foundation of your workout plan, whether you are designing it for fast weight loss, strength training or something more specific, you should always adhere to them. In this post, I will discuss what they are, and why you need to be including them in your workouts.
The specificity principle is a simple and yet extremely underappreciated factor in a successful workout plan, it dictates that any training carried out should be specific to the goal that the athlete is trying to achieve (I know… shocking).
On the face of it the principle may seem pretty obvious; if you want a bigger chest – train chest, if you want to run faster – do sprints. However, in the context of the sporting world, the specificity principle is perhaps the single most important aspect of a good workout routine and is arguably considered the most valuable of the 5 principles of fitness training by strength and conditioning coaches.
To correctly apply the principle in the context of a tailored workout program, you must first identify what the key muscles involved in the desired movement are and how to exercise them in a way that is relevant to the task you wish to carry out.
For example, if an athlete wanted to improve their ability to perform a chest pass in basketball or netball, they would first need to identify that the muscles responsible are the triceps and (hold your breath for another jaw dropper) the chest. However, it is not specific enough to merely go and start bench pressing as much weight as possible, the chest pass needs to be explosive and you need to be capable of performing it a high number of times in a match, therefore, the ability to exert a large amount of force from the chest and triceps in one movement with a low rate of force development is not efficient or useful for the task.
A more specific and thus useful method of developing the muscles associated with the skill is to get a slam ball and stand two meters from a wall, then perform the pass at maximum velocity with increasing weights to develop the explosivity and muscular endurance required to perform the movement well.
The second of the principles of fitness training I will be discussing is individualization. This principle relates specifically to how YOU get the best workout YOU can, this means organizing your workout plan based on your characteristics of physical fitness and such as age, training history, gender, existing injuries etc.
To allow you to visualise the principle in a practical setting I want you to imagine yourself as a personal trainer with two clients who both have the same goal to run a 10k race; a 60-year-old man, with no previous history of sport or fitness and a 25-year-old woman who enjoys recreational weightlifting.
Whilst both clients have the same goal, they have vastly different individual characteristics of fitness, that require you to build and prescribe different workout routines based on where they are at and at what pace you think it is safe for them to progress at.
This training principle will be of extreme importance to any of you who have a friend or training partner that you go to the gym with every week. Whilst a workout partner is great for motivation and support – you should discuss each other’s goals and decide if every single exercise you do together is beneficial for both of your individual needs.
Without a doubt my favourite out of all of the principles of fitness training and probably the most simple and widely implemented by the training population, progressive overload.
The progressive overload principle dictates that you be progressively increasing the amount of work you do in accordance with how you develop – this ensures that you are constantly and consistently improving. As discussed in a short video by Dr Jack Daniels (no, not him..), there is a proposed ‘half-life of training’, in which the amount of physiological adaptations your body makes to a set workload decreases little by little each time you carry out the workout until eventually, your body has fully adapted to that frequency and intensity, and no more adaptations are made.
To avoid this you should be organizing your workout plan to steadily increase intensity and/or frequency, to make sure that your body is constantly having to adapt to handle a more challenging stimulus.
For a great story that I can’t help but bring up whenever I am in a discussion about progressive overload, I would recommend reading about Milo of Croton, whom it is said to have owned a calf which he carried around with him every single day – and as the calf aged and grew bigger, so did Milo. If you do take the time to read into him, please recommend the story to your friends, I would love nothing more than to see a trend of people carrying around cows everywhere, to work, to the pubs, to weddings, it would just make the world a better place.
This is an interesting one, as technically it has 4 components, some of which fit into the principles of fitness training discussed prior to a degree. However, I think there are some that don’t and collectively it should be an acronym that you go through every time you create a new workout plan.
Frequency – This relates to how often you exercise, and more importantly in my opinion, how much you rest. To be able to get the best workout you can every time you must allow your body ample time to rest and recover, thus giving you more energy and less chance of injury.
Intensity – Be sure to make your workout routine intense enough to provoke a physiological adaption – to get a response from the system you are targeting, the stimulus must be sufficiently strong.
Time – How long do you want to / can you spend exercising each day, if you are spending longer in the gym tone down the intensity; if you have less time available amp the intensity up.
Type – What type of exercise do you need to do to provoke the desired adaptation, and if your body has become habituated to that type of exercise, how can you mix it up to shock your system and keep improving.
If you thought the principles of fitness training were all fun and games (don’t lie, you definitely did), you couldn’t have been more wrong. Reversibility is a principle that we have all fallen victim to at one time or another.
It simply states that all of us are susceptible to a decline in athletic ability if we stop or decrease the amount of fitness we are doing. Whilst it is not an outright rule to implement in the structuring of your training routine, if you want to be able to consistently improve and not fall victim to a huge set back then the reversibility principle is something that should always be in the back of your mind.
Above all else, think of reversibility as a method of encouragement to include the other 4 principles of fitness training in your workout plan so that you are able to consistently make quality gains and hit your goals.
If after this year’s lockdown situation you are like me and have been a victim of reversibility due to inactivity, and you are feeling apprehensive about returning to the gym – please check out my Back To Gym Workout Post for some tips on how to hit the ground running!
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