Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Foundation of All Training Programs

For any experienced fitness professional, the following principles should be a good review to make sure the training program is designed correctly.  If the following training principles sound new, applying these principles will definitely make a positive change to any program.
  1. SAID Principle:  SAID stands for "specific adaptations to imposed demands" which means that what you do is what you get.  All training programs should be specific to the goal of the individual.  Does the individual need to work on strength, power, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, mobility, agility or muscular endurance?  For example, a sprinter would not necessarily benefit from a program that focuses mainly on long distance running to improve muscular endurance.  A sprinter would need a program that focuses on strengh, power, flexibility and mobility.  After determining what component to work on, the metabolic demands of the activity must be known.  Does the activity require a lot of ATP-PC activity or more on the lactic acid and aerobic metabolic systems?  Finally, the movements used in strength training must also resemble the movements of the sport or activity.  For cyclists, they would benefit more from a plyometric squat (concentric phase only) than a plyometric split squat because the split squat fails to resemble the movement of the legs and feet on the pedals.  The closer the training program imitates the specific activity or sport, the chances are better that the program will produce positive results.
  2. Overload:  The overload principle refers to the amount stress placed on the body.  For a positive training effect, the overload needs to be greater than what the body is used to.  For example, performing a work interval at a recovery intensity is a good way to progress no where.  There are four ways to provide overload.  Frequency, duration, intensity and volume can all be changed to make the exercise program more or less challenging.
    • Frequency is the number of sessions trained per week.  By including 24 hours of rest in between session days, the max a beginner can train in a week is four days- a good reason to never miss a workout!  Once a strong athletic base has been built, seven days a week is possible with more opportunities to skip workouts if needed.
    • Duration is the length of time spent on the workout(s).  There is usually an inverse relationship between duration an intensity.  As duration goes up, intensity usually goes down, vice versa.
    • Intensity is the amount of effort required by the session.  This can be measured with a heart rate monitor, RPE or as a percentage of the maximal amount of weight an individual can lift for one repetition (1RM).  In aerobic exercise, intensity is often determined through percentages of maximum heart rate or target heart rates.
    • Training volume is the total time spent exercising throughout the week and may be calculated by multiplying frequency by duration (3).  For example, training 7 days per week for 30 minutes every workout has a training volume of 210 minutes per week.  On the other hand, training 4 days a week for two hours every workout yields a training volume of 480 minutes.  It is important to be aware how much volume was designed into the program.  Overtraining and overuse injuries may occur by failing to pay attention to the rise in training volume.
  3. Recovery:  To balance the principle of overload, the principle of recovery is absolutely necessary for allowing the body to recover and adapt to the demands it experienced after the training session or work interval.  Without a recovery period, the body will accumulate more damage than repair- a recipe for injury.  By allowing the body to repair damaged muscles/ fascia and replenish energy stores, this will ensure that the next training session can be performed at the same intensity or higher- better yet, there will also be a reduced risk of injury.  No pain, big gains!
  4. Progression:  The amount of overload and recovery may change throughout a training cycle.  Progression is a way to determine if the program has too much or too little of overload or recovery.  The steploading method used commonly in periodized programs produces optimal progression (1,2).  In steploading, training load is progressively increased until every third of fourth session where the training load is decreased to allow for recovery and adaptations (1,2).
  5. Variability/ Reversibility:  As the individual progresses throughout the training cycle, progression may begin to occur more slowly until a plateau is reached.  Once a plateau is evident, confirm whether or not the cause of the plateau is due to overtraining.  The principle of variability emphasizes the importance of varying the type of overload used in training.  In other words, try to avoid doing one type of exercise.  For example, competitive cyclists need strength, power, flexibility and endurance to become faster.  If the cyclist's program only focuses on bike-only exercises, a plateau will definitely occur as well as an increased risk of overuse injuries.  Although bike work is important, strength training and flexibility is key to preventing injury and correcting muscular imbalances caused by cycling.
  6. Maintenance:  Once the desired level of fitness is achieved, maintenance becomes the main goal to ensure that the adaptations gained through training is not lost.  In order to maintain a level of fitness, intensity must be maintained.  Duration and frequency may decrease without losing the positive adaptations; although the amount of the decrease depends largely on the individual (3).  For most endurance athletes, a rapid loss of cardiorespiratory endurance can be prevented with a minimum of three sessions per week at 75% VO2 max (4).
  7. Individualization:  Because of differences in gender, age, diseases, genetics, body type, stress, diet and amount of sleep, not everyone will adapt the same way to a training program.  With that being said, never use the same exact "one size fits all" program for everyone!  Some people may overtrain, plateau or even detrain to a same program.
  8. Warm Up & Cool Down:  Like the SAID principle, the warm up and cool down must be specific to main exercise of the session.  For example, before a hard cycling interval on an upright bike, the cyclists should warm up preferable on an upright bicycle rather than a recumbent bicycle.

  1. Bompa, T.O.: Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics (1999).
  2. Freeman, W.H.: Peak When It Counts: Periodization for American Track & Field (3re edition). Mountain View, CA: Tafnews Press (1996).
  3. Plowman, Sharon A., and Denise L. Smith. Exercise physiology for health, fitness, and performance. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011. Print.
  4. Mickelborough, Timothy. "Training for Sport." Exercise Physiology. Health Physical Education and Recreation. Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington. 10 Aug. 2010. Lecture.