There are a lot of principles and guidelines out there for training. Some new, some old. Some relevant. Some irrelevant.
A good starting point for a lot of people, including trainers and coaches when designing a training program, is the FITT principle. This acronym stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type and refer to variables in a training program that can be tinkered with and adhered to, to achieve a desired training outcome.
Other principles that also relate to training include Specificity, Progressive Overload and Reversibility. Whereas these are very relevant principles when designing a training program also, we will focus on the FITT principle in this blog post. Let’s look at the FITT principle in some more detail:
FREQUENCY: This variable relates to the number of times in a week one trains.
INTENSITY: This variable refers to the amount of effort invested into a training session.
TIME: This variable relates to the amount of time one trains for.
TYPE: This variable refers to kind of exercise selected to achieve the appropriate training response.
In my view, this starting point is where many people go wrong. 99% of people are not training enough, training too much, or doing the wrong thing to achieve their goals. Let’s look at some specific examples:
FREQUENCY: Like all of these training variables, they need to be determined by the goal of the program, so whereas training twice a week for one goal may be spot on, it would be not enough for another. A good example of getting Frequency wrong is something we experience in our gym quite often. We get people coming into our gym, ready to start doing CrossFit, with the goals in mind to lose weight, tone up, get stronger and fitter, amongst other things. However, they think that this is going to happen by training once or twice per week, or by jumping on one of our 2 day per week limited memberships. This is a prime example of getting frequency wrong.
The general guideline for aerobic conditioning is a minimum of 3 sessions per week but ideally 5-6 sessions per week. Likewise, the frequency of training in a resistance training program needs to be 3-4 days per week up to 5-6 days per week, depending on the goal. CrossFit combines both resistance training and aerobic conditioning and as a stand alone training stimulus should be done 3 x per week as a minimum up to 5-6 times per week.
INTENSITY: Once again, each program has a different goal. But it kills me when I go into a commercial gym, and see the average Joe Blow spending hours on a treadmill or stationary bike, walking or pedalling away, when the obvious goal is to lose weight, thinking that the fat is magically going to fall off. Where this could fall under time also, this is a big error in INTENSITY. Shorter duration workouts with high intensity, combined with resistance training 3-4 days per week is going to be a much more effective strategy in achieving that goal in a shorter time frame. Rather than walking on a treadmill for 60 mins, one 20 sec sprint every 2 minutes for 20 minutes is going to have a much greater physiological response, and will save you 40 mins where you can throw in one of the 3-4 resistance sessions.
TIME: This one grinds my gears! Do you know anyone who goes to the gym, for 2-3 hours per session, and spends a significant portion of that time looking in the mirror? Come on, we all know at least one person. What a waste of TIME! Don’t get me wrong, for some programs/sports/goals, spending many hours in the weights room is necessary. But for the average Joe Blow, it is not. Use a clock and stay accountable to the clock. Regardless of the type of program it is, rest periods based on the goal of the program need to be stipulated. If it is a resistance training program, these will differ depending on whether the main focus of the session is strength, power or endurance. If it is speed on the field it will also depend on whether it is maximum speed or speed endurance. Being accountable to a clock and sticking to the rest period can turn a 2+ hour session minus the mirror staring and occasional gym selfie and appropriate selection of exercises into a productive 60 minute workout.
TYPE: More often than not, this will refer to either cardio respiratory training, or resistance training, but even within those domains, can be broken down into many different types. When I think about getting this one wrong, my own training comes to mind before anything else. For so many years I spent many many hours per week in the weights room, doing exercises to get me stronger and bigger for my sport- Rugby League. If I am big, and I am strong, I will be a better player. Right? Not so FAST! In the sport of Rugby League, as an outside back, you need to be powerful, fast, and agile. Getting bigger and stronger doesn’t equal powerful, fast and agile. I was training myself to be SLOW! Slow muscular contractions in the gym, over and over and over again, day after day, week after week, made me a slower athlete. Yes, some of what I was doing was good for my sport, after all strength is a very important precursor in getting more powerful. But,my training needed more of a different type of strength training- power and speed based training. Olympic lifting and plyometrics, and sprints are three key ingredients which would have had a significant impact on my athletic development and therefore performance on the field. I believe there are a lot of guys out there making the same mistakes as I did.
So, when you are next thinking about what you will do in your training for the next few months, think about your goal, and what is needed to achieve it. If you do not know how, then do some research or speak to a professional who can help guide you in the right direction. Don’t get stuck wasting all your time on a treadmill or stuck in front of the mirror. This time could be put to much better use! If you need some help and want to improve your fitness in Hurstville, give us a call, we would love to help.