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Now for the article....
There are many fitness principles in existence. Some are sound and workable while others are less important and are more of a helpful tip than an actual principle. A principle is something that is a guiding philosophy, something that goes towards making up the core of all training for all people.
The fitness principles here are the Personal Evolution guiding principles by which all our training is ultimately based.
Foundational Conditioning/Layered approach
Foundational conditioning is non-specific training, or rather broad training, designed to start with a solid foundation from which to build a solid level of fitness for a specific goal. This is similar in nature to various methods of periodisation, where training is conducted in phases depending on where an athlete is in their season and what level they are at.
This principle, put simply, is about beginning with essential skills such as a base level of strength in very broad movement patterns and any other aspect of fitness that will provide a foundation, or a bottom layer from which to further build more and more specific skills. From there a person is able to build upon these basic foundational requirements and add in further layers of complexity and specificity.
Developing a heavy squat is a good example of a foundational movement, as this is a broad movement that applies to just about everything in both sports and in every day life. This is the type of movement that needs to be maintained or improved year round, whereas a higher, more specific layer might include some kind of specific throwing conditioning drill for a javelin thrower using medicine balls.
In order for a person to increase fitness, become a better athlete, lose more body fat etc, he/she needs to consistently progress. That means lifting heavier weights, getting better running times, throwing a further discuss, performing better on the indoor rowing intervals etc. However the main issue is focusing on such things instead of on the smaller training related improvements that occur from one workout to the next.
Progression can be rather simple to understand and apply, but it’s also one of the most complex of all fitness principles. Progression can be measured from one day to the next. It can be measured from one performance to the next, which may be weeks or months. Progression can be technical skill related or it can be progression of raw physiological ability.
In order to apply this principle you need to understand what is required for your chosen goal and how to measure it. I recommend focusing on both skill development as well as raw physiological ability. Measure as frequently as possible, such as increased weight on a deadlift or a deeper overhead squat. However you do it, this is a key factor in performance and in general fitness and cannot be overlooked, as obvious as it may be.
If a training adaptation is to occur then there needs to be sufficient stimulus for the desired adaptation to respond to. If you run marathons frequently then you will not become a world-class sprinter. By the same token, if you want to develop anaerobic capacity then you need to train for it.
There are various aspects of specificity that apply here…
Energy System Specific
Energy systems need the right stimulus to make an adaptation. If the anaerobic system is not pushed beyond its limit then it will not adapt to anything high than the intensity you are using during your training. Applicable here is also muscle fibre types. Fat twitch muscle fibres are lazy, they need quite a high level of stimulation compared to slow twitch, which just come into action by the very lowest physical demands. Training needs to be appropriate to the energy system most appropriate to the desired end-state.
Movement Pattern Specific
If you want to be a better runner then you need to run, that has to be at the core of your training regime. Going for a daily swim will not do a great deal for your running ability, even if it is of similar duration and intensity. The reason being that movement patterns are ingrained into your nervous system and your body becomes more efficient at performing them. The higher the layer of training the more specific the movement patterns need to be.
Intensity is what determines the end result more than any other factor such as volume or frequency. If you train at a low intensity that is around 50% of your maximum effort and you do so for several hours a day then the intensity is going to produce endurance abilities. At the other end of the spectrum, if you need maximum strength and power then the intensity has to reflect that. The closer to 100% effort you get for that particular goal the better the adaptations.
The reason this is a principle is because it needs to be determined before doing a given session. What is the purpose of the session? Structure the intensity based on that.
Frequency and consistency are self-explanatory. This refers to how often you train over a given period of weeks, months or years. Frequency needs to be relatively high, while keeping volume rather low by comparison. Strength and fitness are a skill, not just a physical ability. Keeping your training consistent ensures this skill is ingrained into the nervous system as a pattern. This principle also lends itself to the principle of progression. The more consistent and frequently you train, the more continuous the progression will be.
Functionality and Applicability
For the average athlete machine weights with plate-loaded stacks are next to useless as far as transferable function is concerned. Take a chest press for example; what outside the gym could the strength developed with this exercise be applied? Not much at all. All movements taught by Personal Evolution Training Systems are done with purpose and are either foundational, meaning they provide a solid and necessary base from which to work from, or they are highly specific and apply specifically and directly to the activity being trained for.
Working Outwards From a Central Goal
This principle is contrary to specificity, however it is an essential part of complete athletic development or regular Joe fitness. In order to be effective you need a specific set of skills and abilities with minimal interference from detrimental training modalities. Having said that though, you also need to possess a certain level of fitness that spans outside of your normal focus on either side.
Crossfit is a popular training philosophy and concept. They promote complete broadness and the act of not specifying and specializing. This can be a good thing, however it’s not best practice to just dive in and do whatever workout each day. With a lack of planning and vision in this area you are spreading yourself thin and probably not seeing major improvement.
I like to take the broadness approach and refine it into something that is scientifically valid. If your focus is 100m sprinting then most of your training will be focused on track sessions, strength sessions, plyometrics and various other speed and power drills. So in order to develop any level of broadness you need to start with training that is highly related to this purpose then make very slight adjustments towards, for example, developing endurance for longer distances.
Planning and Adaptability
Ok, so I recommend a fairly free-flowing programme that changes frequently yet ensures continuous progression on a specific line of focus. I also promote a planning process, even if that’s something that is loosely done inside your own head. You need an idea of where you want to go and what sort of training, diet and lifestyle factors are going to produce that result and which ones will have a detrimental effect.
So in order to predict the chosen outcome you need to plan, but this is flexible. In addition to having a broad template and a very basic training schedule you need to be adaptable. You aren’t to know if you will be sore on Tuesday after a Monday squat session. For this reason a programme needs to be adaptable, with changes being made daily and weekly to suit the most up to date feedback from your body, your performance, your schedule etc.
So forget a completely set programme, just have a template, a basic idea of where you are going with each session and be prepared to change at the last minute as need demands.
In order to achieve peak physical form of any aspect of fitness a person needs challenge. Every workout should have a goal or an intention for a certain result by the end of the session. Set challenges against yourself, other athletes and against your own perception of what is high performance. Challenges are a way to measure progress and to continuously keep on the upper edge of your own current limitations.
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