Principles of Training

Principles of Training

Principles of training

Over the past couple of weeks our posts have been about different training principles. Understanding these principles is key to not only compiling exercise plans but guides us in rehabilitation and making sure you reap the benefits of all the effort you invest in your training and rehabilitation programs. Today, we compiled a little summary on 8 principles of training to help you train smart and not only hard.


Every single person is different and therefore will respond differently to exercise. This principle accounts for the differences in the effect of exercises in people, why two people can have the exact same training program, train together at the same times but yield different results. Individuality is caused by a variety of things such as genetics, age, muscle fibre composition, lifestyle factors, occupation, stress levels, health status among other factors. For this reason, each training program needs to be designed specific to the individual and adjusted accordingly to achieve the desired results. This principle also dictates the effect of all other principles on each individual.


Body changes in strength, endurance, flexibility and skill are specific to the exercises and training performed. When we train, we should make sure that the exercises we include are specific to the goals we have set. If we want to get stronger, we need strength training targeted to the specific areas we want strengthened. For example, if you want to play cricket and want to improve your bowling, doing weights or cardio will improve your overall conditioning but it will not improve your bowling skills. This shows how important it is to set goals for training, and regularly revise them, so we can adjust training accordingly.


When we subject our bodies to a certain load in training, through continued practice, our bodies become used to that load over time and adapt. This means it becomes more efficient, requiring less energy and effort to do the same amount of work. This principle explains why certain exercises eventually become easier, for example what was once your training run is now your warm-up. Or why some movements become second nature, for example, when learning a sport such as tennis, we have to focus on grip, body positioning and posture all the time while focusing on hitting the ball right, after some we only focus on the ball.


To overcome adaptation, we have to increase the load that we subject our bodies to, this is the principle of overload. Overcoming adaptation is what allows us to become increasingly better, it may mean becoming stronger, faster, having more endurance, skill, or a combination and this is what guides most of our progressions in physical activity. So, if our goal is to lose weight, we have to increase the load either by increasing repetitions, frequency, resistance or another factor in order to keep losing weight as we did when we initially started training, or else we will simply maintain the weight. It is important to note that overload should be increased gradually and with correct guidance in order to avoid injuries as we will read below.


Progression works hand-in-hand with overload and adaptation. With continuous training our bodies progress to a new level of fitness and skill as adaptation occurs. Progression refers to this increase in fitness and to the process of gradually increasing the load in order to improve, injury free. Progression guides how we overload. For example in order to run a marathon, we should first be able to run 10km. Progression guides the increase in distance and speed (overload), allowing for the body to build up enough strength and endurance to be able to do more each time (adaptation) thus allowing us to get to the fitness level of running a marathon.


As our bodies get stronger and better with continuous load in training, our bodies also lose those gains if we discontinue the load. The saying goes “you lose what you don’t use”. The training load is the stimulus the body uses to adapt, it makes changes to our bodies systems on a cellular level that make our body more efficient to handle the loads. When we stop a certain activity, we remove that load and our bodies start reversing those changes towards returning to its previous state. This principle explains why if we stop training, we start losing our gains, for example, if we are body building and stop training after a while, we start losing our muscle mass as well as our strength. It also explains why when we do return to training we do not start where we left off. It also explains why athletes are encouraged to cross train and keep active during off seasons.

Diminishing returns

This principle refers to the fact that as our level of fitness and skill increase, the return for the input or training decreases. This means that to keep improving our gains from training, we have to increase our effort. For example, if in the beginning stages of our weight loss program we needed to work out 3 times a week for 45 minutes to lose 3kgs a month, as we increase our level of fitness and as our weight decreases we might have to increase how many workouts we have per week, the duration or both in order to keep losing 3 kgs a month (provided all other factors remain constant).


We define recovery as the process of restoring something to its former state of health and proper functioning or to an even better state. Recovery is the period of rest that we allow for restoration of our energy stores, rebuilding of different tissues that are affected during activity and also for integration of newly learnt skills. This period is crucial in order to avoid overuse injuries and to fine tune new skills. Recovery is directly linked to the amount of exercise we perform, and so the more effort we exert the more we are expected to rest in order to have effective recovery and safely continue with our activities.

We hope the principles above will give you some food for thought as you look at your training plan and help guide you in revising and adjusting your plans. These principles guide us on how to continue training after missing a session, season or upon returning from a holiday in the safest and most effective manner possible. Should you need any guidance or questions feel free to contact us.

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