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Principles Of Training. Progressive Overload. Implies that a training effect is produced when the system or tissue is worked at a greater level that it is normally accustomed to working. As the body adapts to these new levels, training should continue to be progressively increased.

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progressive overload
Progressive Overload

Implies that a training effect is produced when the system or tissue is worked at a greater level that it is normally accustomed to working. As the body adapts to these new levels, training should continue to be progressively increased.

It can be achieved by varying the frequency, duration and intensity of the training, with increases in intensity having the greatest effect. Considerable stress must be placed on the system or tissue so that improvements can occur. If there is too much overload, fatigue can result as well as potential injury; if training load is too little, the training effect will plateau or decrease. Athletes need to be aware that not all adaptations will occur in the same timeframe and that it is important to increase the workload gradually over a long period so improvements are maintained and overtraining is avoided.


The figure below shows that improvement in performance when overload is applied. The overload principle gains in fitness. Adaptations occur only when the training load is greater than normal and progressively increases as improvements in fitness occur.


Implies that the greatest gains are made when activity in the training program replicates the movements in the game or activity. That is, training should be specific to the:

  • task requirements
  • energy systems required in the task
  • muscle groups required in the task
  • components of fitness involved in the task.

For example, to be competitive in their chosen sport, long distance runners need to develop the aerobic energy system and leg muscles. A javelin thrower needs to develop the ATP-PC system to throw while, at the same time, developing shoulder, back and arm muscles specific for throwing and power. A squash player will benefit from playing tennis during practise sessions as there is a transfer of skill even though the technique is slightly different.


States that effects of training are reversible, even only after one or two weeks of stopping or reducing training. That is, the training effects will be quickly lost, and the person's performance will decline, and unfortunately often at a rate faster than gains were made. This is often referred to as the detraining effect. Reversibility is evident in all components of fitness such as aerobic and anaerobic fitness, power, strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and speed. Many athletes take part in off-season training programs to maintain their fitness until the next season begins or injured athletes may take part in other activities to maintain their fitness until recovery takes place.


Variety states that athletes need to be challenged by not only the activity but also by the implementation of the activities and this is often achieved by cross-training. Training can often become repetitious and boring, especially if done for many hours over many weeks over many years. This is particularly evident in endurance activities involving few technical skills, for example swimming and running. While the principle of variety is not essential to improve performance it does make training more interesting and enjoyable. Aerobic, anaerobic, strength and flexibility training can take many forms so it can be easy to incorporate this principle into training programs.

training thresholds
Training Thresholds

The principle of training thresholds relates to levels of exercise intensity that are sufficient to produce a training effect. Training thresholds are usually explained in terms of the maximum heart rate in relation to volume of oxygen uptake (VO2). During exercise, the following three factors become important in relation to training thresholds:

  • heart rate
  • Ventilation
  • Blood lactate
warm up cool down
Warm Up – Cool Down

Warming up and cooling down are important components of all training and performance sessions. The warm up aims to prepare the body in readiness for the activity that is to follow by:

  • stimulating the cardiorespiratory system thereby increasing blood flow to working muscles
  • increasing body temperature
  • making the muscles, ligaments and tendons more supple and elastic, and
  • reducing the possibility of a muscular tear causing injury.
warm up
Warm Up

A warm up should include three stages: a general warm up; stretching; and a specific warm up and should last for a minimum of 10 minutes. The general warm up involves a gentle use of the large muscle groups in a rhythmic manner that progressively increases in intensity. The stretching stage of the warm up involves stretching the major muscle groups in a slow manner, holding each stretch for 10-30 seconds. This is followed by stretching of specific muscles then dynamic stretching to prepare the muscles for the training or performance. The specific warm up stage involves practising performance-like activities and skills that progressively increase the heart rate and use the muscles and ligaments involved

cool down
Cool Down

The cool down, which follows the training or performance session, is effectively the same as the warm up, but in reverse, and is aimed at minimising muscle stiffness and soreness. The cool down, while not as intense or involved as the warm up, allows for the active recovery and gives the body time to return the blood to the heart, rather than letting the blood pool in the muscles. This allows the oxygenated blood to 'flush out' the waste products that form during activity and begin to rebuild the energy stores required for the next performance. The cool down should include a period of aerobic work, gradually decreasing in intensity as well as stretching aimed at reducing muscle soreness and aiding recovery.

Complete the table below to explore the application of the principles of training to aerobic and resistance training