Training Principles

Major Training Principles

A good acronym for remembering the major training principles is FITTO which refers to the Frequency,Intensity,Time(duration),Type(specificity) and Overload of training.


Relates to the number of training sessions per week. Usually to improve aerobic capacity at least 3 sessions per week are required,  elite athletes they may participate in as many as 5 sessions per week.


Is commonly measured as the percentage of max heart rate. Max heart rate being around 220- (the individuals age).

  • To train the ATP-CP system individuals should work at 95%+ of max heart rate.
  • To train the anaerobic glycolysis system individuals should work at around 85-95% max heart rate.
  • To train the aerobic energy system individuals should work at around 70-85% max heart rate.

Specificity (Type)

For a training program to be effective it must be specific to the activity being trained for. For a training program to be specific it must target the same:

  • Muscle groups used in the original activity. This is usually determined via activity analysis.
  • Predominant energy systems
  • Fitness components used
  • Skills used in the activity.
  • Specificity should apply to both the training program and the testing of fitness components.

Duration (Time)

Is the length of the training session. For training to be effective the individual should be training for 20 minutes at the right intensity( % heart rate), however this is less important for training the ATP-CP and anaerobic glycolysis energy systems as they will require repeated bouts of high intensity efforts over the twenty minutes, whilst the for the aerobic energy system the intensity must be maintained throughout the twenty minutes at least.

Duration can also relate to the length of the training program for an aerobic training program it should be at least 6 weeks long to see improvements but usually around 12 weeks, anaerobic training also requires a minimum of 6-8 weeks.


For there to be improvement in an athlete’s ability the difficulty of the activity must be progressively be increased for there to be improvement. Typically the 10% rule is used, this means an increase in one variable by 10% each week. The body will then adapt to this changed variable and this will lead to improvements in that factor. Overload must be applied carefully as if you change one variable too much you may be altering the energy system or fitness component being trained making the program no longer specific to the activity you are training for.

Overload is usually applied to one of the other four major factors of exercise which is frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise. Therefore overload may be applied by increasing the duration of activity, increasing weight, reducing recovery periods, increasing number of repetitions or sets and increasing the number of sessions per week.

With overload it is important not to cause overtraining which is a decrease in performance brought about by severe fatigue brought about by a poorly managed training program. Overtraining can be avoided by not training when ill, incorporating sufficient recovery in-between training sessions and by not increasing an element of training by significantly more than 10% each week.

Minor Principles of Training


This can refer to two different aspects in group or team situations this may refer to the different physiological demands and fitness components used by players in varying positions for example in a soccer team a midfield player will rely heavily on their aerobic capacity and aerobic energy system whilst a goal keeper would participate in more quick sharp movements to protect the goals which would require training of the two anaerobic pathways.

Individuality can also refer to the fact that individuals will respond to training differently, this is mainly due to genetic differences.


To maintain chronic adaptations that occur as a response to training frequency can decrease slightly but intensity must remain the same as before when the chosen component was being improved. Typically to maintain an aspect a frequency of 2 sessions per week is required.

Diminishing Returns

As an individual’s fitness level increases the improvements they make in response to training decreases in other words the rate of improvement decreases. Hence diminishing returns refers to the fact that the return for training diminishes(slows) over time with continual improvement. The graph below may help to understand this concept as to why less fit people make rapid improvements initially whilst fit people will be slower to make improvements as they are already beginning at a higher level.


Training can become boring if aspects aren’t changed, by incorporating a mix of different sessions into a training program it makes it more interesting for the individual and makes the program as a whole more comprehensive .It can also enable the athlete to train using different movements, however it is still very important that specificity is maintained.

Detraining (Reversibility)

Refers to the loss of athletic ability or muscle achieved from training due to inactivity . A loss of fitness typically occurs at much faster rate than any gains of fitness.

  • Most fitness is lost around 4-8 weeks
  • Aerobic loss is quicker usually occurring around 2-4 weeks