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Principles of Training

12 important physiological principles that you should follow to make steady progress in your training and to avoid illness and injury.

Principle 1: Readiness

The value of training depends on the physiological and physiological readiness of the individual. Because readiness comes with maturation, physically immature individuals lack the physiological preparedness to respond completely to training. Physiological readiness refers to the commitment to delay gratification and make sacrifices involved in sustained training.

Principle 2: Adaptation

Training induces subtle changes as the body adapts to the added demands. Dr. Ned Fredrick, a noted sports scientist, calls training for a sport a gentle pastime in which we coax subtle changes from the body. The day-to-day changes are so small as to be measurable; weeks and even months of patient progress are required to achieve measurable adaptations. Try to rush the process, and you risk illness, injury or both.

Typical adaptations include:

  • Increased enzyme proteins or contractile proteins
  • Improved respiration, heart function, circulation & blood volume
  • Improved muscular endurance, strength, or power
  • Tougher bones, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue

Principle 3: Individual Response

  • Heredity: Physique, muscle fiber characteristics, heart and lung size and other factors may be inherited. But although we inherit certain characteristics, environmental factors such as diet and training also influence the eventual expression of the characteristic. So, although factors associated with aerobic fitness and endurance have been estimated to be approximately 50% genetically determined, the remainder is subject to change.
  • Maturity: Bodies that are more mature can handle more training. Less mature athletes don’t respond as well to training, and they need more energy for growth and development. (Refers to principle 1).
  • Nutrition: Training involves changes in tissues and organs, changes that require protein and other nutrients. Without proper nutrition, even the best training program will fail. Remember to eat adequate protein when you lose weight during training.
  • Rest & Sleep: Although young athletes may require eight hours or more of sleep per day, adults often get by with less. However, when training gets tough, it is wise to get more sleep or to take short naps. Inadequate rest minimizes the gains associated with training.
  • Level of Fitness: Improvement due to training is most dramatic when the level of fitness is low. Later, when fitness is high, long hours of effort are needed to achieve small improvements. Less fit individuals fatigue easily and are more prone to illness or injury.
  • Environmental Influence: Factors in the physical and psychological environment influence the response to training. Psychological factors might include emotional stress at work, home or school, while physical factors include heat, cold, altitude an air pollution. Learn to recognize your own ability to tolerate environmental stress, and slow down when condition are severe.
  • Illness or Injury: Of course, illness or injury will influence your response to training, the problem is to spot potential problems, before they become serious. Many problems are first noticed during hard effort, and coaches or exercise partners may be the ones to point them out. Try to listen to your body’s signals, and if you are injured or ill, be certain you have recovered before returning to routine.
  • Motivation: Individuals work harder and gain more when they are motivated and when they see the relationship of hard work to their personal goals. Your training will be easier if you are involved for personal reasons.

Principle 4: Overload

Training must place a demand on the body system if desired adaptions are to take place. To begin, training must exceed the typical daily demand. As you adapt to increased loading, you should add more load. The rate of improvement is related to the FIT acronym:

F: Frequency

I: Intensity

T: Time (duration)

The overload principle is used in all kinds of training. We gradually add more weight to the barbell to achieve increases in strength. Endurance athletes increase training time and intensity to improve race performances. The overload stimulates changes in the muscle and other systems, changes designed to help the body cope with future demands. These changes involve the nervous system, which learns to recruit muscle fibers more effectively; the circulation, which become better able to send more blood to the working muscles; and the muscles themselves, where the overload stimulates the production of new protein to help meet new future exercise.

Principle 5: Regression

To achieve adaptations using the overload principle, training must follow the principle of progression. When the training load is increased too quickly, the body cannot adapt and instead break downs. Progression must be observed in terms of increases in FIT.

  • Frequency: sessions per day, week, month, or year
  • Intensity: training load per day, week, month or year
  • Time: duration of training in hours per day, week, month or year

But progression doesn’t imply inexorable increases, without time for recovery. The body requires periods of rest in which adaptions take place. Make haste slowly!

The principle of progression has other implications. Training should also progress from the general to the specific; the part to the whole, and quantity to quality.

Principle 6: Specificity 

Exercise is specific. When you jog you recruit certain muscle fibers, energy pathways, and energy sources. If you jog every day, you are training, and the adaptations will take place in the muscle fibers using the exercise. The adaptions to endurance training are different from adaptions to strength training.

Endurance training elicits improvements in oxidation enzymes and the muscle’s ability to burn fat and carbohydrate in the presence of oxygen.

Strength training leads to increases in the contractile proteins that exert force, actin and myosin, but only in the muscles exercised.

This means that the type of training you undertake must relate to the desired results. Specific training begins specific results. You won’t get much stronger with endurance training and you won’t improve endurance much with strength training. Cycling is not the best preparation for running, or vice versa. Performance improves most when the training is specific to the activity.

Of course, every rule or principle can be taken to the extreme. Specificity does not mean you should avoid training opposite or adjacent muscles. In fact, you should train other muscles to avoid muscle imbalances that could predispose the body to injury. And you can train adjacent muscles to help you adapt to changes in conditions and to provide a backup when the primary muscle fibers become fatigued. So, some cycling may be good for a runner, it will provide muscle balance, train adjacent fibers, and provide some relief from the pounding of running.

Principle 7: Variation

The training program must be varied to avoid boredom and to maintain your interest. The principle of variation embraces two basic concepts work/rest and hard/easy.

Adaptation comes when work is followed by rest, when the hard is followed by the easy. Failure to include variation leads to boredom, staleness, and poor performance. Successive sessions of hard work, if not followed by adequate time for rest and recovery, and certain to hinder progress in training.

Achieve variation by changing your training routine and drills. When possible, conduct workouts in different places or under different conditions. Follow a long workout with a short one, an intense session with a relaxed one, or high speed with easy distance. When workouts become dull, do something different. Use variety (cross-training) to diminish monotony and to lighten the physical and psychological burdens of heavy training.

 

Principle 8: Warm-Up/Cool-Down

A warm-up should always precede strenuous activity to

  • Increase body temperature
  • Increase respiration and heart rate
  • Guard against muscle, tendon and ligament strains.

The warm up should consist of stretching, calisthenics, and gradually increase exercise intensity. Stretching may be more effective after the warm-up.

The cool down is just as important as the warm-up. Abrupt cessation of vigorous activity leads to pooling, sluggish circulation and removal of waste products. It may also contribute to cramping, soreness, or more serious problems. High levels of the hormone nor-epinephrine are present immediately after vigorous exercise, making the heart more subject to irregular beats. The cool-down helps remove excess nor-epinephrine and lower the body temperature. Light activity and stretching continue the pumping action of muscles on veins, helping the circulation in the removal of metabolic wastes.

Principle 9: Long Term Training

Changes resulting from the gradual overload of body systems lead to impressive improvements in performance. But it takes years of effort to approach high-level performance capability. Long-term training allows for growth and development, gradual progress, acquisition of skills, learning of strategies, and a fuller understanding of the sport. So don’t rush the process, too much training too soon may lead to mental and physical burnout and an early retirement from the sport. Excellence comes to those who persist with a well-planned, long term training program.

 

Principle 10: Reversibility

Most of the adaptations achieved from months of hard training are reversible. In general, it takes longer to gain endurance than it does to lose it. With complete bed rest, fitness can decline at a rate of almost 10 percent per week! Strength declines more slowly, but lack of use will eventually cause atrophy of even the best trained muscle. To avoid this problem, maintain a year round program, with periods of hard work followed by periods of relative rest and variety.

 

Principle 11: Moderation

The principle of moderation applies to all aspects of life; too much of anything can be bade for your health. Temper dedication with judgement and moderation. Train too hard, too long, or too fast and the body begins to deteriorate. Practice moderation in all things.

Principle 12: Potential

Every individual has a potential maximal level of performance. Most of us never come close to that potential performance. The highest potential performances are still to be achieved. Regular participation in physical activity will help you achieve your potential and improve the quality of daily living.

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