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When I began training, I’d always hated working so hard yet still seeing lackluster results. I soon realized that I wasn’t the only person with this problem and that there were – and still are – many others who struggle with this. However, once I discovered the principles of fitness training, everything changed.

The principles of fitness training can guide your training and give you the tools you need to learn, grow, and eventually succeed. While there are numerous different principles of fitness training, several of them are repetitive and don’t necessarily apply to the everyday athlete. For this reason, I’ve boiled them down to the fundamentals.

These are the essential principles of fitness that will take your training to the next level!

Individuality

The first principle we’ll focus on is individuality. The basic idea of individuality is that everyone’s body is unique and will respond to different methods of training in different ways. For this reason, it’s we test out different training methods to discover which method(s) your body responds best to.

Another important aspect of individuality is enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy a certain type of training, it will be significantly more difficult to be consistent and to succeed. For example, some people respond better to and enjoy bodyweight training more than lifting in a weight room. Unless you are exceptionally gritty, it will be very difficult to succeed if you don’t enjoy the training you’re doing.

Bottom line: Find a method of training that is both effective and enjoyable for you.

A female athlete who enjoys boxing.

Specificity

The next essential principle of fitness training is specificity. Specificity refers to training that is specifically tailored to your goals. For example, the training necessary to finish a marathon requires general strength and high aerobic fitness and endurance. Training for a Spartan Race, on the other hand, consists of aerobic and muscular endurance as well as very specific obstacle training.

Different goals require different types and methods of training. Training that is specifically customized to fit your unique goal is one of the best things you can do for your training. Whether you are an elite athlete or a parent trying to lose a few pounds, training specificity will help you achieve your goals.

Progressive Overload

The principle of progressive overload is a very important principle when it comes to lifting heavier, running faster, and everything in between. While it is a simple and straightforward principle, progressive overload is one of the most important when it comes to achieving your goals.

The basic idea of progressive overload is that when you increase your training load, your body will adapt by getting stronger. The concept is simple. If you want to get stronger, lift heavier. If you want to run farther, run longer.

There are a few basic ways to increase your training load – or your training volume. When you’re lifting, this is pretty basic; increase the weight, reps, sets, or time per rep. Just don’t increase them all at once;  that can be dangerous. If you’re running, try running harder, farther, or longer. This simple principle of fitness training is likely the most important for taking your training to the next level.

Increasing weight in order to get stronger is a key principle of fitness.

Variation

The principle of variation is another principle that can keep you progressing and break through a plateau. The human body is an impressive piece of machinery; if it does something for long enough, it will eventually adapt to do that task more easily and efficiently. While this ability to adapt is beneficial in a functional sense, it can oftentimes cause our training to stagnate.

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid and overcome this common training obstacle.

The easy fix is to simply change up your training routine every once in a while. You can easily alter your routine by including exercises that you haven’t been doing regularly. These exercises work because they force your body to use the same muscles but in different ways.

Reversibility

The principle of reversibility is less of an actionable principle of fitness training; however, it is important to understand. Reversibility dictates that any muscle mass, endurance, or hypertrophy developed can be lost.

When muscles go unused, the body notices. It takes a substantial amount of energy to maintain lean muscle mass, so if these muscles aren’t being used, the body gets rid of them to save energy. This phenomenon is often called muscle atrophy or muscle wasting.

Don’t freak out just yet, though. This won’t happen if you miss one day’s workout or even a whole week of training. Muscle atrophy generally occurs after weeks or even months of inactivity and undertraining. Additionally, muscle mass that is lost can always be regained with hard work and dedication – and by using these principles.

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Rest & Recovery

Although they are just as necessary for success as the other principles, rest and recovery are often overlooked when it comes to training. Proper recovery techniques are crucial for maximizing gains and avoiding burnout, or worse, overtraining syndrome. As the saying goes: train hard, recover harder.

There are plenty of ways to allow your body to rest and recover after an intense workout or even after several days of training or events. The first – and most important – of these is sleep. A good night’s sleep allows your body to relax, rebuild, and reenergize so that you are ready to go the next day.

Stretching and foam rolling, otherwise known as myofascial release, are also very important. Both of these prevent your muscles from staying too tight. As a result, this reduces the likelihood of injuries and improves recovery.

A much needed rest after a hard workout.

Principles of Fitness in Your Training

The importance of these principles of fitness training cannot be overstated. When you apply these principles to your training, you give yourself the power to maximize your results and minimize your risk of burnout and injury.

If your training has hit a wall, chances are that one of these principles can help you break through it. Individuality, specificity, progressive overload, variation, reversibility, and recovery are only a few of the many different principles out there. Once you’ve mastered the basics, there will be so much more for you to explore.

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