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Exercise planning

Updated: Apr 14

Training principles are fundamental concepts that should be used when planning and implementing training programs. These principles help to make training more effective and efficient and to achieve optimal performance. There are several training principles that target different aspects of the training program, including intensity, volume, frequency, and progression.

We also use these principles in physiotherapy and in the care of athletes, whether you have just had an injury, are in a seasonal break, are just pregnant or have given birth, are celebrating your 80th birthday or are running your first marathon in two weeks.

In this text we will explain the most important ones.

The first and most important training principle is progression.

Progression refers to the gradual increase in training load over time. This means gradually increasing the training volume and intensity to challenge the body and adapt to the demands of the workout. Progression that is too fast can lead to injury, while progression that is too slow will not provide a sufficient challenge to the body.

Ex: You don't feel much fatigue with 8 reps of 65kg deadlift, it's time to increase the weight.

Results indicate that progressive overload is necessary for maximal muscle fiber recruitment and consequently increases muscle fiber hypertrophy and strength.

The second training principle is overload.

Overload refers to the demand placed on the body to achieve an increase in performance. To achieve overload, the loads must be greater than what the body is already used to. Overload forces the body to adapt and improve its capabilities.

Ex: You run at a faster average speed of 5.5km/h per minute during your next running session, instead of 5 as before.

The third training principle is specificity.

Specificity refers to the requirements of the training program, which should be specific to the goals and needs of you. Each sport and goal requires different types of training and movements. Therefore, it is important to tailor the training specifically to the requirements of you, your sport or activity.

Ex: as a soccer player, it makes sense to train sprinting units, among other things, in order to have the ability to sprint short distances in the game better and possibly without injury. When planning, think about precise goals (SMART).

The most effective resistance training programs are those that focus on specific training goals.

The fourth training principle is variation.

Variation refers to variety in the training program. By incorporating different training methods and exercises, you can prevent injuries, avoid boredom and promote continuous performance improvement. However, too much variation can lead to a lack of focus and hinder performance improvement.

Ex: In team sports, we often work with periodization. Macro and micro cycles. The components will be changed regularly.

The use of periodization is not limited to elite or advanced athletes, but has been successfully used as a basis for training individuals from a variety of backgrounds and fitness levels.

The fifth training principle is regeneration.

Regeneration refers to the recovery periods between training sessions. It is important to give the body enough time to recover and prepare for the next training session. Lack of recovery can lead to overtraining, injury and fatigue.

Ex: Remember to give your body rest. Take walks, saunas, light stretching and mobility sessions, and alternate the type and parts of your workout to give certain areas a break.

Robinson et al. found that there was a 7% increase in squat performance after 5 weeks of training when 3-minute rest intervals were used, compared to only 2% with 30-second rest intervals. It is important to note that the length of rest intervals will vary depending on the goals of that particular exercise, meaning not every exercise will use the same rest interval.

The sixth training principle is the continuity.

Continuity refers to the regularity of the training. Regular and consistent execution of the training program is crucial for continuous improvement of performance. Interruptions or longer breaks in training can lead to a drop in performance.

Ex: Your muscle mass is suddenly at 35%, you were at 41% a few weeks ago, but had too few training sessions in between due to vacation and illness.

Overall, training principles are an indispensable part of an effective training program. Using these principles will allow you to achieve your goals more effectively while avoiding injury and overuse.

What does it mean for our physiotherapeutic exercise training?

We try to successfully incorporate these principles when giving and implementing exercise programs. It is important that you give us constant feedback so that we can adapt and change the principles. If you no longer need physiotherapy sessions with us, discuss your programs with your trainers, e.g. from luxor fitness.

In how far should an adult be active (at least)?

Adults should exercise at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity

Physical activity recommendations can be achieved through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of intense exercise (three days per week)

Both one continuous session and several shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are acceptable to achieve the desired daily physical activity level

It is recommended that the duration, frequency, and intensity of exercise be gradually increased to achieve high adherence to therapy and reduce the risk of injury

People who cannot meet these minimum requirements may still benefit from some activity

And what about strength exercise training?

Adults should exercise each major muscle group two or three days per week, using a variety of exercises and equipment

A very light or easy intensity is best for older individuals or adults who were previously sedentary and are beginning to exercise

With two to four sets per exercise, adults can improve their strength and power

For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions will improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions will improve strength for middle-aged and older individuals beginning exercise, and 15-20 repetitions will improve muscular endurance

Adults should wait at least 48 hours between strength training sessions

Using the tables below, you can get to know different parameters regarding strength and endurance training. Please keep in mind that the numbers may vary slightly depending on the literature. There is also more and more evidence and therefore recommendations to go to fatigue in strength training, especially when training only with your own body weight. This assumes that quality is maintained during execution. We will give a little detour on that below.

*calculated for a male 30 years old

You can find out your maximum heart rate (HRmax) in a test. Polar shows you how, but make sure a medical expert is present during the test: Calculating maximum heart rate | Polar Blog | Train Better. With the calculation "220 minus your age" you can also find out your maximum heart rate, but this calculation is a bit inaccurate.

You can also calculate and/or test your one rep max: 1RM Calculator: Maximum Strength Calculator for your One Rep Max (

Detour: training to failure?

"Training to failure" refers to a weightlifting technique in which a person lifts weights until they are unable to complete another repetition with proper form. This method is often used to push the muscles to their limit, with the aim of increasing muscle hypertrophy and strength.

While training to failure can be an effective way to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth, it can also be risky if not done properly. Lifting weights to failure can lead to excessive fatigue, increased risk of injury, and longer recovery times.

Additionally, training to failure may not be appropriate for everyone. Beginners, individuals with pre-existing injuries or health conditions, and those who are not used to high-intensity exercise may need to gradually work up to training to failure, or avoid it altogether.

It's important to note that training to failure should not be the sole focus of your workout routine. Incorporating a variety of exercises and reps ranges can help prevent plateauing and overuse injuries. Additionally, allowing for adequate rest and recovery time is crucial for maximizing gains and avoiding injury.

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Oliver and Anneke Penny

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1. Kasper, Korey MD. Sports Training Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports 18(4):p 95-96, April 2019. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000576

4. Kasper, Korey MD. Sports Training Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports 18(4):p 95-96, April 2019. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000576

5. KRAEMER, WILLIAM J.1; RATAMESS, NICHOLAS A.2. Fundamentals of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 36(4):p 674-688, April 2004. | DOI: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000121945.36635.61

7. Izquierdo M, Ibañez J, González-Badillo JJ, Häkkinen K, Ratamess NA, Kraemer WJ, French DN, Eslava J, Altadill A, Asiain X, Gorostiaga EM. Differential effects of strength training leading to failure versus not to failure on hormonal responses, strength, and muscle power gains. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 May;100(5):1647-56. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01400.2005. Epub 2006 Jan 12. PMID: 16410373.

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