The Principles of Training

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The Principles of Training

If physical fitness and skills are to be maintained or improved then training has to take place.

There are four recognised principles that have to be applied to training schedules if training is to be effective:

  1. Specificity

  2. Overload

  3. Progression

  4. Reversibility

Different sports make different demands of the performer and so the training should take into account those demands.

Training for squash will not improve shot-putting ability and improving aerobic capacity will have little effect on those sports that require anaerobic respiration.

Training, to be effective, must be targeted at the specific sport in which the individual is participating. This is known as the Principle of Specificity. So, you train for the sport you want to do.

However, aerobic fitness, muscular endurance and flexibility are common to many sports therefore specific training of the fitness elements for one sport may be of benefit to another.

Overloading body systems with higher work rates and increased loads causes the body to respond to these extra demands by improving its performance.

This is known as the Principle of Overload.

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There are three ways in which overload can be attained:


Frequency is the number of times training occurs.

As levels of performance raise then the frequency of training is often increased.

The higher the physical demands in training, the less frequently they occur, so allowing the body to recover.


Raising the workload increases intensity.

This could be achieved by increasing the distance run during a training session, or the number of repetitions. Increasing the weight of an object such as in weight training is a form of overload.


Duration, or how long training takes place, is determined by the activity and the fitness of the performer.

Increasing the duration of training is another way of overloading the body systems.

Two things will determine the duration of training:

  1. The type of event: for example, shot putting or other activities that make excessive demands on the body.

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  2. Mental pressure: where the event is intricate, difficult to perform and dangerous, such as rock climbing, might mean the training sessions are short.

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Although overload is necessary to improve physical fitness and skills level, this overload has to be progressive.

During a weight-training programme there is no advantage to biceps curling 10kgs during one session and then biceps curling 50kgs the next training session.

The chances are that the performer will fail in the attempt and become de-motivated or injure them self in the attempt.

As muscle strength increases then there is a gradual, progressive increase in the amount of weight being curled and so improvements are made accordingly.

The same is true when learning new skills and developing those skills to an advanced form. There is no point in trying the advanced form first; failure is almost sure to occur and so de-motivate or injure the performer.

This is the reverse of progression. Once training and performances are reduced, the body naturally adapts to new circumstances.

The aerobic capacity can quickly reduce through lack of exercise.

Muscular endurance diminishes when muscles are no longer used over extended periods of time.

Skills levels however, can often remain high, but performance in skills might be reduced because of physical decline.

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