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Principles of Strength Training

There are numerous principles of strength training that are used today. The validity of many of these principles, however, is called into question because few strength training professionals agree on the majority of them.

All strength training professionals, however, adhere to a few principles: the principle of specificity, the principle of progressive overload, the principle of individuality, the principle of variation, the principle of maintenance, and the principle of reversibility.

One of the foundational principles in designing strength training programs is the principle of specificity. SAID, which stands for "specific adaptation to imposed demands," is a common abbreviation for it. In its most basic form, it means to train in a specific way to achieve a specific result.

For example, if the immediate goal is to increase 1RM strength, then training with the appropriate range of repetitions, appropriate rest periods, and appropriate frequency is required to maximize strength gains.

If the goal is to improve athletic performance in a specific sport, the exercises should mimic the types of movements used in the sport and be performed at a similar speed.

This is one of the most important principles in strength training because if it is not met, all other principles are null and void.

The principle of progressive overload refers to the practice of gradually increasing the intensity of a workout as the muscle becomes accustomed to it.

This can be accomplished by increasing the weight lifted, the number of repetitions performed, or the total number of sets, or by decreasing the rest between sets.

Increasing the stress placed on the muscle on a regular basis allows the muscle to gain strength and prevents stagnation.

This is one of the most important principles of strength training and one of the first to be developed. Continuous adaptations in muscle strength and size would cease if the muscles were not subjected to progressive overload.

For example, performing three sets of 10 reps on the bench press with 135 pounds at the start of a strength training program may be difficult. After a few weeks of training, performing three sets of ten reps on the bench press with 135 pounds will become second nature.

Training adaptations will stop at this point unless the weight is increased above 135 pounds, the reps are increased above 10 reps, the sets are increased to more than three, or the rest between sets is reduced.

Principle of individuality— The theory that any training program must take into account the specific needs, goals, and abilities of the individual for whom it is designed.

A beginner bodybuilder with the goal of adding muscle mass, for example, would have a very different training program than an advanced bodybuilder with the same goal.

Their training programs differ not because of their desired training outcomes, but because of their training experiences.

To achieve the same goal as the beginner, the advanced trainer would need to use more volume and high-intensity training techniques.

An advanced lifter with the goal of gaining muscle mass, on the other hand, would train very differently than an advanced lifter with the goal of gaining muscle strength.

The distinction between their training programs is based on their different goals. In general, the advanced lifter whose goal is to gain muscle strength would train with fewer reps, heavier weight, and lower volume than the advanced lifter whose goal is to gain muscle mass.

The principle of variation states that no matter how effective a program is, it will only be effective for a limited time.

Once a person has experienced the specific adaptations that a specific training program is designed to provide, a new stimulus must be imposed on the muscles or further progress will be stalled.

This is the basis for periodization and the reason that training cycles must be used.

The principle of maintenance — As a person achieves his or her goals, it becomes easier to maintain that level of strength or muscle mass. If he or she is satisfied with that level, training frequency can be reduced.

This is typically a good time to incorporate more cross-training to develop other fitness components.

The principle of reversibility states that if a strength training program is discontinued or not maintained at the bare minimum of frequency and intensity, the strength or hypertrophy adaptations made with that program will not only stop forward progression but will also revert to the starting level.

Final Words

These principles are so important that few would argue that they should be considered strength training laws. So before starting any strength program make sure you have a good understand of these principals.



My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Consistency leaves clues

Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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