Fundamental Training Principles – A Review

These are the principles upon which a sound program is based. You MUST observe these principles to achieve optimum adaptation to training. They are very basic and fundamental.

Principle of Progression

This is the most often violated principle. Progression in its simplest form moves from simple to complex, easy to hard and general work to specific work. These simple steps give way to complex interactions. All training variables do not progress at the same rate nor do all individuals progress at the same rate.

To insure proper progression, we must clearly define each step. Begin by articulating specific goals and objectives for each step. Then develop evaluative criteria to assess the achievement of each of the goals and objectives of each step. I would go so far as to say that at certain levels of development it should be necessary to show mastery before moving on to the next step. This is especially true in refinement of technical development.

Progression is not linear. We need to begin with a clear picture of what we want the athlete to achieve or look like at the end of a training program as a goal. But we must remember that progression toward that ultimate objective will proceed in a staircase like progression. Constant progress should be made toward the goal, but some of the incremental steps along the way will be smaller than others. It also helps to think of progression as fitting pieces together.

The Principle of Accumulation

Adaptation to the stress of training is a cumulative process. You do not do a workout and gain an immediate positive training response, unless it is a relatively small technical adjustment. Often you will see the true results of a significant investment in training up to a year after the initial training stimulus.

The effect of training accumulates over time, provided training has been consistent and the athlete has been able to stay injury free. Adaptation to different training demands occurs at different rates and the ultimate training adaptation is the synergistic accumulation of the collective training responses. Remember one workout cannot make an athlete, but one workout can break an athlete. Be patient, wait for training to take effect.

Principle of Variation

The variables of training volume, intensity, frequency and exercise selection must be constantly manipulated in a systematic manner. Because the body adapts to training stress so quickly it is important to vary training to insure continued adaptation. This variation should not be random, but systematically planned to measure the effect of the variation. If training is not varied the body will adapt quite quickly and the training effect will be dulled. If no variation is incorporated there is a significant risk of staleness and eventual overtraining.

Principle of Context

Before we incorporate something into training we need to see where it fits into the context of what is already being done and what is planned. Perhaps the biggest violation of the principle of context is to take one component, for example speed or strength and train those to the exclusion of all other physical qualities. This is fundamentally unsound. It is possible to design program where a component is emphasized for a phase, but it should be kept in proportion to the other components and put into the context of the whole training plan.

Principle of Overload

For the athlete to progress they must be subjected to a load at a level beyond which they have adapted. Overload is achieved through manipulation of the training variables of volume, the amount of work, intensity, the quality of the work, and frequency of application of the training stimulus. Because there is a reciprocal relationship between volume and intensity it is important to be careful about increasing both at the same time. It is easy to fall into a trap of overload through volume. This happens because it is easier to quantify training in terms of volume, more runs, more jumps or more throws. This quickly becomes a trap because you cannot keep adding volume without quickly reaching the point of diminishing returns. It also happens because at the start of the athletic development process volume loading results in rapid and sometime spectacular gains. Remember that volume is not a biomotor quality. As training age advances that paradigm must shift and the overload must come more from intensity.

Principle of Recoverability

The ability to recover both short term and long term from a workload is crucial to positive adaptation to the training stimulus. If the athlete is unable to recover from the training stress then it is not an appropriate load. Different athletes have different abilities to recover. No two athletes are the same in ability, nor are they the same in the ability to recover. Of all the training principles, this is the one that is most easy to overlook because it is so easy to get caught up in the work and ignore the ability to recover.

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