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The 3 Principles of Training: Overload, Specificity & Progression

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  • 0:00 Principles of Training
  • 0:42 Overload
  • 1:22 Progression
  • 2:21 Specificity
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the three principles of training and how to apply them to any fitness program. You'll also gain a clear understanding of why incorporating these principles into your exercise routine is necessary to improve fitness.

Principles of Training

A cyclist named John comes to you, a personal trainer, with two fitness goals: to improve his leg strength and to become a better climber on the hills when he is out on the road. He says he has been doing the same workout - circuit training with light weights and high repetitions ('reps') - but his legs aren't getting stronger and his climbing hasn't improved.

The best fitness training programs are built on three principles: overload, progression, and specificity. By using these principles, you can design an exercise program that improves performance, skill, ability, and physical fitness. Let's take a deeper look at each principle as you create a better training program for John.

Overload

You tell John that if he wants to develop strength in his legs, he must focus on the principle of overload, which means that he must work his body, in particular his legs, with a greater workload than normal.

John's body is used to his workout of light weights and high reps. If he wants to develop strength in his legs, he must increase his weights and workload to an intensity that enables him to only be able to complete three sets of eight reps. Exercises such as leg presses, leg curls, and squats are examples of exercises that can be used with overload to improve John's leg strength.

Progression

As John's fitness level improves and his workouts become easier, he will need to make more adjustments to his leg routine. The principle of progression says that he must progressively or gradually increase the workload for improvement to continue. Now that John's legs have adapted to his new workout, he must use the overload principle once again to progress to a new level of fitness. He might add more weight, increase the number of reps, lengthen the amount of time he does the workout, or try more difficult exercises.

Both progression and overload can be achieved by using the FITT approach to guide your changes.

  • Frequency - how often you train (once or twice per week)
  • Intensity - how hard you train (workload, high or low intensity)
  • Time - how long you train (20 min or an hour)
  • Type - the kind of training you do (circuit training or cardio)

Specificity

John's second goal is to become a better climber on hills. You recommend that he apply the principle of specificity, which means that, through specific practice, his body will adapt to whatever he wants it to do. If John wants to become a better climber, he must climb hills. Although the leg exercises will improve John's strength, they will not do as much to improve his climbing compared to him jumping on his bike and practicing climbing.

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