When focusing on resistance training, and overall athletic performance for that matter, there are seven overriding principles that govern improvement. When training, try to keep these principles in mind when looking for improvement. Often people find that they reach performance ‘plateaus’, however if they review their program, they will find that they are most likely neglecting one or more of the following principles:
1. Principle of Overload
2. Principle of Progression
3. Principle of Specificity
4. Principle of Variation
5. Principle of Individuality
6. Principle of Diminishing Returns
7. Principle of Reversibility
Principle of Overload
This is one of the fundamental basics of resistance training. It basically means that if you want to get stronger or make the muscle grow, you need to work or ‘overload’ the muscle. When you overload the muscle, you are actually tearing the muscle tissue at a microscopic level. When this occurs, the body tries to over-compensate, anticipating that it needs to be done again. In doing so, more muscle tissue is laid down, causing muscle growth.
Principle of Progression
Again, this is one of the basic principles of weight training. This means that as you get stronger, it is no point continuing to lift the same weight – you need to ‘progress’ by lifting heavier weight, or pump out more repetitions. If the progression is too great, the weight will be too heavy to lift, however if there is no or little progression, there will be no performance improvement.
Principle of Specificity
The concept of specificity is that if you want to improve your performance in a certain area, train in that area. In other words, train how you play! If you want to improve athletic performance in basketball for example, there’s no use running laps around an oval – Do athletics based on basketball, such as suicide runs, ball drills etc. Resistance training is the same – if you want to improve your push-ups, do push-ups and exercises that mimic that movement.
Principle of Variation
Some people get confused that variation and specificity conflict each other. In fact, they absolutely do not! The idea of variation is that you mix up your training routine so your body doesn’t adapt too efficiently to what you’re trying to achieve. Again, using the push-up as an example, you can vary your push-up workout by changing it to incline or decline push-ups, putting a clap in the middle or moving your hand closer to make it a triceps push-up. Alternatively you can try a bench press – Biomechanically it’s nearly identical.
Principle of Individuality
The principle of Individuality covers the differences of people with the ‘X’ factor -and those athletic freaks who seem to get stronger just by looking at weights! More seriously, individuality acknowledges that all people train at different rates. This individuality can be influenced by age, gender, race, nutrition, genetic predisposition and sleep factors. This is why it is important people follow their individual training routine rather than copy what everyone else seems to be doing.
Principle of Diminishing Returns
The Principle of Diminishing Returns means that as someone gets fitter or stronger, it takes more effort to continue to get fitter or stronger. A beginner who is morbidly obese will lose a significant amount of weight when they begin, but as they lose more and more weight, it becomes more and more difficult to continue to lose the weight. Strength gains are the same. This is why world class athletes train for hours and hours every day to try and gain a 1-2% improvement!
Principle of Reversibility
This is the ‘move it or lose it’ rule. It means that exercise needs to be continued to maintain athletic and strength bases, or the results will be reversed. Generally speaking, the elderly are not as strong as when they were in their youth, partly because they are not as active as when they were young. It has been estimated that an athlete at bed-rest will lose approximately 10% of cardiovascular performance per week! This is why many sportspeople will maintain their strength and fitness in the off-season – It’s much easier to maintain fitness and strength than lose it and try to get it back.
These are the seven principles of resistance training. Try to remember these and take them into account when writing your next training program!