Five fundamental training principles and how they can impact your training

When it comes to training and exercise, there are some common principles that hold true. Exercise professionals have five basic principles that you can incorporate into your exercise program that will develop the adaptations we desire in a safe and long-term way.

Today, Annabel and the Longevity Exercise Physiology teams at Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleBalmainNeutral Bay, Coburg – Melbourne, and Barrie, Ontario – Canada  delve into some of the fundamental training principles that need to be included within your training program and examine how they can positively and negatively impact your training if not performed accurately.

1. Overload

For any adaptation to take place, the human body must be able to exert itself beyond the normal stress levels of training and the same goes for training sessions, you need to be able to challenge yourself to higher levels during the session to be able to see progress. In saying this, every session doesn’t need to be at 100% intensity, but you will need to check in regularly to ensure you are pushing yourself enough for the body to reset its current fitness levels. Improvements within the human body are driven by stress. Physical stress is applied to the system to stimulate an adaptive response.

As an example, in relation to exercise – if you are just beginning to weight-lift, physiological changes in the body would occur over time as a response to an increase in mass of weights lifted so that the body will be able to do the same workload for less effort in the future. This also means that more stress is required for further improvements, hence the need for progressive overload. Therefore, increases in stress is required for physiological change and to continue stimulating improvements.

2.     Specificity

It’s important to ensure that the training that is being selected carefully to ensure that it is specific for the event or goal in which they are training for. The physiological, neurological, and psychological adaptations that occur are directly related to the activity performed during training. For example, sprinters should be training in a manner that targets their sprint performance and whilst a sprinter may find benefit to their cardiovascular system with swimming, it may not necessarily improve their 100-metre sprint time. This means, the more specific the training is to a goal, the better. This put simply means that you’ll get better at what you do. If you want to improve your swimming, then swim more. If you want to improve your riding, then ride more. If you want to improve your running, then run more.


“This means, the more specific the training is to a goal, the better.”


There are many other modalities of exercise that will have some transfer regarding their benefit to you, but nothing beats training specifically for the disciplines you are trying to improve.

3.     Reversibility

You may have heard the phrase “use it or lose it”. This is exactly what the principle of reversibility is talking about. This is a highly accurate phrase when it comes to conditioning of the skeletal muscle. If you do not use your muscles, it will instigate a loss in strength, neuromotor recruitment, flexibility, and endurance. It is more than just about the size of muscle that you are losing. To be able to keep up the same level of adaptation, activity needs to continue at the same level.


“If you do not use your muscles, it will instigate a loss in strength, neuromotor recruitment, flexibility, and endurance.”

With respect to the body, muscles build strength with use which we call hypertrophy and lose strength with lack of use or in other words atrophy. This includes not only the skeletal muscles, but also the heart and even the brain. How quickly atrophy occurs is dependent on many factors and can happen in a matter of weeks.

4.     FITT Principle

To ensure that the body continues to adapt we want to consider modifying the following training variables: frequency, intensity, time, and type. By altering these four areas, we can produce a conducive environment for progressive overload by changing the amount of physical stress. Controlling the amount of physical stress is monitored through the frequency of your training, will ensure you are accurately overloading the body.

Frequency means how often an exercise is performed. After any kind of exercise, your body begins a process of repairing and rebuilding stressed tissues. It’s important to find the right balance of work and recovery that provides just enough stress for the body to adapt as well as recover for the next session.


“After any kind of exercise, your body begins a process of repairing and rebuilding stressed tissues.”


Intensity is the amount of effort or work completed in a specific exercise. For example, walking at a conversational pace is low intensity, whereas sprinting is high intensity. In strength training, factors that influence intensity are the weight itself (load), the number of sets and repetitions, the tempo of the repetitions, and whether a level of instability has been added. Once again, just enough intensity to overload without overtraining, injury or burnout is what’s important here.

Time is simply the duration of the exercise session. It’s a function of intensity and type.

Type means the type of exercise performed – strength training, cardio, or a combination of both. The type of exercise is tied to the Specificity Principle.


5.     Recovery

It is necessary to consider proportionate amounts of rest and recovery in relation to training to control the amount of stress on the system. Ensuring that you give your body enough time to recover is vital after training. The adaptation to overload occurs during this recovery phase of training. When you push your body to the limits, your body and muscles are breaking down as part of a process. During the recovery phase, the body experiences a super-compensation. During this time the body is readjusting to the new level of fitness. Therefore, you may not feel completely recovered after every session, and if you were to wait for your body to fully recover between every session you would get little training completed throughout the week. It is ok in the short term and normal to train if your body still feels a little tired and fatigued. When proper and planned phases of recovery are prescribed you are then able to feel great and achieve great results.

As well as this, it is important to have a systematic approach to exercise programming by dividing training into blocks to allow for optimal rest and recovery as a method to avoid over-stressing the system. Whilst this training principle of periodisation is more common with advanced to elite level athletes, it can still be applied to most training programs as well.

The best way to achieve optimum results in exercise and fitness is to follow a plan. But not just any plan. Your body is an amazing machine that responds to specific stimuli in distinct ways, and your brain is constantly working to protect the body from threats – like way too much stress on the muscles and tendons from continuous all-out hard exercise.


If you want a structured exercise plan outlined for you to achieve the best results, give Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleBalmainNeutral Bay, Coburg – Melbourne, and Barrie, Ontario – Canada  a call on 1300 964 002!


Written by Annabel Bergman 



Griffin, B. (2022). Your Guide to Basic Training Principles | TrainingPeaks. Retrieved 6 July 2022, from

The 5 Basic Principles of Fitness. (2022). Retrieved 6 July 2022, from

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply