The Principles of Training


Torsa Studios



In the modern age we’re bombarded by contrasting information from the fitness industry. With so many differing opinions based on different research and personal experience, it can become overwhelming to evaluate the best approach to you own individual training.  The principles of training are a great place to start, in essence, the building blocks to building a solid training block. These training principles are;

  1. Specificity
  2. Overload
  3. Rest
  4. Progression
  5. Recovery




If you want to be good at something, you have to be specific to it. The principle of specificity is a simple one. If you want to become a faster runner, you’re going to work on exercises specific to building to that goal. Specificity is important in strength training and ties in closely to another principle, overload. If you want to build the size of your legs for example, your programme is going to focus more on squats than it would on bench press. Of course, that’s common sense, but it’s important to discuss with your coach or PT what your goals are. Are you training for a specific sporting event, do you just want to improve your endurance, do you just want to be functional day-to-day?

principles of training




The fundamental principle of gaining muscle and strength, overload refers to adding more stress on the muscle over a period of time. The body is always adapting to certain stimuli. For muscles to grow, the body must be put under physical stress which challenges the body.


This stimulus can be achieved in various ways; higher intensity, frequency, volume, complexity and so on. This is why sticking to training blocks is so important to muscle growth. If you want to build stronger legs, adhering to the progressive overload principle is the most effective way to reach your goal. If you squat 80KG for 8 reps in week 1, you want to aim to add load or reps in week 2 e.g., 85KG for 8 reps, or 80KG for 10 reps. This ensures that you’re adding ‘progressive’ stress to your body.


It's also important you’re training with sufficient load; a good rule of thumb would be performing sets 1-to-3 reps shy of failure. If you want a more in-depth look into the role of intensity in training, read our article on strength in numbers.


Remember, there are various ways you can incorporate overload into your training;

  1. Increasing resistance (adding 5KG to the bar)
  2. Increasing reps (adding 2 reps from the week before)
  3. Increasing number of sets (week 1: 3 sets of 8 reps, week 2: 4 sets of 8 reps)
  4. Increasing intensity (more work in less time, ie: reducing rest period)


If you want a breakdown of each, we previously wrote an article on progressive overload here.principles of training


The body adapts when resting and therefore it is crucial to allow the body to adjust to the rigours of training. If you’re adhering to the principle of progressive overload, the muscle in the body breaks down, only to build back up stronger than before. The optimal time for the body to repair is during rest, and hence why overtraining can actually be detrimental to your strength and muscle gain.  You can’t expect to be fully rested before every session, but allowing for sufficient rest will ensure you get the most out of your training.

principles of training



Progression is linked closely to overload. Overload refers to the stress of a single session, progression relates to the short, medium and long-term development of an athlete. In a well-periodized program, the athlete should be challenged regularly to attain new levels of fitness to ensure better performance is given.


An athlete can progress in various ways, through technique, performance, complexity of exercise and so on. The principle refers to becoming a better athlete, not just getting bigger and stronger.




Reversibility simply refers to the fact that if you don’t train, your body will revert back to the foundational fitness level that you have. Unfortunately, if you add 20KG on your squat over a 12-week training block, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to come back to the same weight having taken weeks or months off. You must continue to challenge the body in a way that adds sufficient stress to ensure you improve, or at least maintain your training performance and fitness levels. 

The principles of training are a simple way to understand the building blocks of improving as an athlete. With this information, you should be able to put in place the foundation to implementing a training programme.

If you want further resources which help you on your path to becoming a better athlete, check out some of the articles below:

  1. Programming for Success
  2. 3 Ultimate Lower Body Exercises
  3. Strength in Numbers