Principles of Training

There are the four components that underly all successful training programmes. Learn about them here….

    Principles of Training
    There are four main training principles that we need to consider when designing an exercise programme. The principles of training should provide the entire basis by which the programme is designed. By considering all of the principles we can ensure the exercise programme is safe, effective, realistic and enjoyable. To a very large degree, the success of any training programme will depend on how closely it adheres to the principles of training. This article will outline each of the four main principles.


    Specificity is perhaps the most important principle of training. When we refer to specificity in a training sense, we mean how specific is the training to the goal or event we are training for? Each athlete or casual exerciser should train specifically to their goal. There is no point in a marathon runner spending hours in the gym performing heavy Olympic lifts. Conversely, there is no point in a Power Lifter developing their VO² max with intense cardiovascular exercise. The purpose of specific training is to develop the physiological capability to cope with the event in question.

You need to consider…

  • Goals (Sporting or physique)
  • Nature of event (Strength-based, stamina-based, sprint-based)
  • Areas of weakness (Poor stamina, weak body parts, previous injuries)
  • Equipment (what equipment do you have access to?)
  • Time (how much training time is available)
    When all of these are considered, the exercises, the nature of training, length of programme and the training equipment can be finalised.


    Overload is the principle by which the trainee progresses in terms of their desired fitness. In order to make continual improvements, the training has to overload the body, forcing it to make adaptations which allow it to cope with the new stimuli. Consider the example of a marathon runner; It is highly unlikely the athlete was able to complete a marathon from their first ever day as a runner, regardless of their level of talent or capability. They are likely to have developed the stamina to cope with the distance by constantly overloading their body during the training.
    By adding distance to their running training, over time the body adapts and develops capability. The same applies to weight training- Olympic Lifters have built their strength over years of increasing the weight they lift in training, forcing physiological changes allowing them to cope with the demands of their sport.
    Ideally, progress will be made on a session by session basis. By carefully monitoring performance in sessions, overloading to a suitable level is possible, ensuring the safest and quickest progress in fitness achievable.


    The principle of recovery is very important for the well being of the trainee. Sufficient recovery time allows the body to repair completely, which means repair broken tissues and make physiological adaptations, better preparing the body for a similar stimulus in future. A well-designed programme will schedule in enough recovery time to ensure there is no risk of overtraining, which massively increases the danger of illness and injury to the trainee.
    The length of recovery time is dependent on the training and the individual, for example a long distance runner would need more recovery time than a high diver. Recovery time varies between individuals, so without experience of training in a particular way with an individual, it is impossible to put a figure on. Generally speaking, anywhere between 2 and 4 days recovery per week are seen as normal.
    There are various classic signs associated with over-training, such as……
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased immunity
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.


    Adaption is the principle that we see if the others are sufficiently executed. Adaption is the changes at physiological level that allow the trainee to cope with the demands of their training and in some cases, events. Adaption can be anything such as increased stamina, strength, flexibility, lung capacity, body fat reduction or even psychology. The success of any training programme will be measured by the adaption seen in the trainee.
    These are the four main principles of training. You don’t need to be an expert in exercise prescription to design a very basic programme, as long as you adhere to these principles as closely as possible.
    Good luck!

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