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What Makes a Great Training Programme?

There are hundreds of different training plans out there some work, some do a little and some are rubbish.

The hundreds of different training plans, methods or programmes (whatever you want to call them) that work well although different to one another will follow the same principles that make a plan successful or a load of old s***. I cannot stress this point enough to you. It is not the one amazing method that everyone should do. It is the principles that are most important.

If you can learn the principles that will follow you will be able to sift through good and bad programmes or better still, create your own! Once you have the principles grounded, you realize how complicated trainers and coaches sometimes make it for you. A successful and well principled plan can often be the most basic and simple.

Even when it comes to the principles there is some contention. There are different variations and acronyms for the principles of training. Rather than sit here and sift through all of them to show you the difference I will just tell you this, they are pretty much all saying the same thing in different ways. So let’s get things underway with the first principle;

Specific -

The training that you do needs to be specific to you and the goal(s) you are looking to achieve. You have to stress and stimulate your body in specific ways in order to get specific adaptations to occur. If you are looking to increase muscular strength, you need to stress the amount of tension muscle groups can withstand. If you are looking to increase aerobic capacity, you have to perform training that will challenge your cardiovascular system and specifically your aerobic endurance. Match the training to the desired adaptation.

Progression -

You are looking to create a change in your body. Your body is smart, it will adapt to demands of the environment that it is in and no more so than it needs to. If the body is not stressed it will not adapt. You may initially create stress at the beginning of your training, your body will adapt to that stress it will get used to that stimulus. If that stimulus isn’t progressed than no more adaptations will occur.

To elicit continual adaptations you have to continue to stress the body. You have to continue to challenge your body's state of homeostasis. It will then adapt as it needs to. Your body gets used to the stresses of its environment and adapts to it, if the environment doesn’t change the body doesn’t change. The environment has to get more difficult and stressful.

Overload -

Closely linked to Progression we have Overload. The principle is to create a stress or stimulus that is greater than what your body is used to. You have to challenge your body’s state of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of equilibrium, multiple variables within the body all working together to create optimal function. If you challenge these variables the body has to adapt in order to return to a state of equilibrium.

For example if you challenge your bodies ability to resist a force, it will have to adapt by increasing the strength of muscle fibres/increase fibre recruitment/rebuild broken fibres bigger and stronger in order to be able to function optimally in its new environment. If you do not stress the body enough it will not adapt.

Reversibility -

The principle of reversibility is linked to overload and homeostasis, however this time it is an expression of the opposite effect. If training stops then the adaptations that have occured will be reversed. If you are no longer stressing the body it has no need to be in the adapted state of the previous stresses. It will again adapt to its current stresses or in this case lack of.

If muscles are no longer being put under an overload of tension they will cease to grow or get stronger and will reduce in size and strength. If you stop challenging your aerobic endurance then you lung capacity and efficiency of the cardiovascular system will be reduced.

Because of this if you were to take a considerable amount of time off training or sustained an injury you will not be able to return to training as you were previously. The training will have to be adapted and made specific to you and your current fitness levels.

Tedium -

This is very much a psychological principle and I want to pose the question, if the individual is finding the training programme tedious is that the programmes fault or the individuals problem?

Firstly you have to determine if the individual is truly finding the training programme boring or if it is actually a lack of desire and they are using the programme as a scapegoat.

However if the desire to improve is clearly there but they are bored then that is the fault of the programme and the coach. If the programme has to be adapted because of tedium then one rule must apply. Any adaptations to a programme have to adhere to the previous principles. A programme cannot be changed if the new version doesn’t adhere to the principles of training.

The common roots of a plan being found tedious is if the previous principles aren’t being applied. How tedious would a programme be if you were not being stressed, not progressing nd not going in the direction specific to you?

One aspect to consider is variety. Variety isn’t necessary but can be enjoyable. When it comes to including variety into a plan it depends on the individual and will come under the principle of specificity. If the individual likes variety or their goal requires it then it clearly needs to be implemented. So long as it doesn't go against any of the other principles.

Ultimately tedium is a principle because generally speaking if you are enjoying your training you are likely to be making the improvements you desire. If you don’t enjoy it, you are less likely to do it and adhere to it.

SO whenever you are scouring the internet for a training programme or your coach hands you a plan you can check if the principles of training are in place. Ask the following questions of the training programme.

Is it specific to me and the goals I wish to achieve?

Does it show progression?

Will it stress my body and stimulate an adaptation?

If I do this and stop will i lose its adaptations?

Will i enjoy it?

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