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Principles of Training

Robert (Bob) Gurney, PhD

Are you searching for training programs for a specific sport or for good practices of staying fit? If you search on the internet you will be overwhelmed at the amount of information and plans developed by people that claim to be experts (but are not) and those that are accredited experts with recognized certifications to support their expertise. So let’s keep it simple and start with the foundations of training principles and then let us know if we can help you apply them to sport or fitness specifics. The principles of training in this article include: specificity, overload, overtraining and the taper.

Specificity refers to the training be devised to ‘train’ those muscles and systems of the body that require the demands of the sport or activity you wish to engage in. In other words, all the movements and system needs of the sport need to be trained for optimal performance.

Overload is the principle that addresses the need to train above stimulus threshold (a stimulus or activity strong enough to elicit a response of ‘tough to do’ but no pain). This will facilitate the development of chronic training adaptations. The nature of the overload principle follows the ‘FITT’ formula: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Frequency refers to training 3 to 5 times per week; Intensity refers to monitoring your heart or pulse rate (see training heart rates guides or use the following formula: 220 – age = estimated max Heart Rate. Starting a training program for the first time should elicit a Heart Rate of 60% to 70% of estimated max Heart Rate …. Slowly progress over time to working in the 75% to 85% zone; if you are swimming use 205 – age = estimated max heart rate … this adjustment is linked to the buoyancy factor of the water). Time or duration refers to specific activities (for example aerobic training sessions should be at least 30 to 60 minutes of continuous work in your training heart rate zone), Type is the mode or type of activity (walking, running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, etc … what do you like to do?)

Overtraining is associated with overload in terms of – you don’t want to overstress yourself, meaning doing too much training above your limitations and without sufficient rest intervals. In other words, overtraining is noticed when the training causes excess overload and the body is unable to adapt, which tends to result in decreased physical activity performance.

Taper refers to a period of reduced training weeks before a competition. You will need to experiment with this one as it varies among individuals. If you are a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner, the taper does not decrease your conditioning … it has been proven to increase muscle power, psychological state and performance.

For more specific applications of training principles to various body systems (Cardio-respiratory, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, power …) contact us with your specific questions of interest.

Note: it is strongly recommended that you consult with your family Physician and discuss your training plans, before commencing your training plan.

Author: Bob Gurney


You can connect with me on Linkedin – Robert (Bob) Gurney



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