Training Principles

The aim of physical training is to facilitate and improve performance in specific physical tasks by stimulating structural and physiological adaptations in the body. The best approach to stimulate adaptations is to perform tailored exercises (prescribed using FITT parameters), governed by a set of training principles that activate specific energy supply systems.

The key principles of training (1) to consider when planning/designing an exercise program are:

  1. Overload: The structural and physiological adaptations in the body can be stimulated only when an individual does training at a greater than normal total workload.
  2. Specificity: Specific forms of exercises stimulate specific adaptations in the body that eventually improves performance on specific physical tasks. For example, If you want to improve your walking ability, you have to perform a specific training that activates the set of muscles and neural tracts that govern walking.
  3. Adaptation: The structural and physiological systems in the body will adapt according to the training loads placed on them. Gibala et al (2008) report that the adaptation may be faster for high-intensity power training compared to the high-volume endurance training. The type of adaptation may depend on training volume, frequency and intensity. Granata et al (2017) report that “all-out” sprint interval training is significantly more effective in increasing nuclear p53 phosphorylation and PGC-1α protein content immediately than performing moderate-intensity continuous cycling.
  4. Progression: The training workload has to be increased gradually to induce training adaptations.
  5. Reversibility/Detraining: The training adaptations in the body are bi-directional. We know that the training increases one’s performance. On the other hand, the effects of training decline over time, after the training stops.
  6. Variation: The variation in training parameters (frequency, intensity, type, time and other related factors) will help tailor exercises to achieve a specific goal.
The key parameters of training to consider when prescribing an exercise program are:
  1. Frequency (F): sessions per week
  2. Intensity (I): a relative workload (individual specific) or an absolute workload (equipment specific power output)
  3. Type (T): aerobic, anaerobic, resisted/strengthening, combination (eg.,interval)
  4. Time (T): minutes per session
  5. Duration (D): time during which the exercise continues (eg., for 6 weeks)


  1. OBE, Frank W. Dick. Sports Training Principles: An Introduction to Sports Science. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.
  2. Gibala, M.J. and McGee, S.L., 2008. Metabolic adaptations to short-term high-intensity interval training: a little pain for a lot of gain?. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 36(2), pp.58-63.
  3. Granata, C., Oliveira, R.S., Little, J.P., Renner, K. and Bishop, D.J., 2017. Sprint-interval but not continuous exercise increases PGC-1α protein content and p53 phosphorylation in nuclear fractions of human skeletal muscle. Scientific Reports, 7.