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Training Principles Explained

Marcus Sladden

Marcus Sladden

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When you hear the term training principles what do you think it means? The way that you train? A cool training plan? In order to get the maximum out of your training, you need to apply the five key principles of training. – specificity, individualisation, progressive overload, variation and reversibility.

The principles of training are the five key areas that you need to focus on and are as follows:

1- Specificity – Arguably One Of The Most Important Training Principles.

This training principle revolves around being specific with your training. Your training has to be specific to the goal you are setting out the achieve. There is little point in training for a marathon if your goal race is a 5K.

The stresses that are applied to the body in training must be the same as those experienced in your chosen sport or adventure. So going back to the point above. Your time is better spent focussing on speed rather than chugging out a 20-mile long run.

This doesn’t negate the fact that some of the training that you do for both will overlap one another. The best marathoners I’ve seen are the ones that have transitioned from fast 5K runners moving up through the distances to then tackle the marathon. The training is going to be similar but with tweaks depending on the distance you are training for.

This principle can apply to any training that you do and you should always adhere to this training principle when training for anything in particular, even general fitness.

The training has to be specific to YOU, don’t try to train like elite runners and think that you will get a lot of gains from that. They have been training for years to get at the level they are at now, learn from the best instead!

2- Individualisation

This is a crucial training principle. The fundamental fact that everyone is different and not all training is going to be suited for everyone! Different people respond to training in a different way.

If you are walking or cycling with a friend, and doing exactly the same amount of training. Don’t be concerned if one of you gets fitter faster than the other – this is what individualisation is all about. The same goes for training with someone who is fitter than you, it may come to a point where you are starting to overtake them instead!

Lifestyle can play a big part in this. You are going to feel more rested for exercise and able to recover more if you work from home on a laptop, compared to someone who does a lot of hours and manual labour daily with minimal rest.

Some days your training can go really well and the next day, even though it was exactly the same length workout, it can be a nightmare. This is what individualisation is all about.

3- Progressive Overload

This is all about the need to gradually increase the workload that you put your body through. An example of this is in weight training. You wouldn’t stick to the same weight constantly otherwise you won’t make any gains, so you would safely increase the weight to gain strength throughout the weeks.

It is essential to combine training and rest whilst at the same time increasing the stress that the body is put through. This so-called ‘stress’ is a combination of the frequency, intensity time and type of the workout:

Frequency: This is the amount of time you are going to be exercising throughout the week, or the number of reps/sets you are going to be doing of a given exercise.

Intensity: How hard you are going to be pushing is going to determine what kind of session you are going to be doing. If it feels like a 7 on the RPE scale if you are training by effort.

Time: This is how long you are going to be working out for. This again can relate to how long a certain rep is as well as how long you are going to be exercising for as a whole.

Type: The type of exercise you are going to be doing, dictates what you are going to be training. Are you relying on your cardiovascular endurance with a longer run? Or your strength with a weight lifting session?

Progression is all about small increments. It is not a case of doing a thirty-minute run one day and a two-hour run a couple of days later. You should only progress gradually, by around 5-10 per cent at a time.

4- Variation

Variation of training adds spice to your training. It keeps you motivated and keeps your exercise regime fresh. Nine times out of ten the variation exercise can have a positive effect on your main sport.

This doesn’t strictly mean a different exercise completely it can be just a variation of your training as a whole. Incorporating different sessions into your training. Take a runner for example, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just running for the sake of running but why not add a speed session into the mix?

5- Reversibility – One Of The Training Principle That Often Gets Overlooked

Overtraining is a very common problem and comes about when you don’t get enough rest during your training schedule. You overdo it thinking you are making more gains by workout out more but this could actually be having an adverse effect. This should not be confused with overload which is the planned exposure to an increased workload and the right amount of rest between each session.

Without the correct amount of rest, you will suffer from overtraining. With the correct amount of increased training and the right rest. You get overload which will lead to an increase in performance.

You can also be a victim of reversibility when you don’t train as often as you are used to. This is why you always hear the term ‘consistency is key’ floating around.

Without consistent training your body will start to lose its fitness gained in those few weeks where you were exercising 3-4 times a week. If you suddenly drop that to once or none a week then your performance and fitness starts to decline.

Training Principles Summarised

Use these training principles to apply to your own training and make goals from them. It can be easy to just run and have time goal but you may see some gains from breaking down your training principles for each aspect of your sport. 

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