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CSEC PHYSICAL EDUCATION LECTURE SERIES - Principles and methods of training and conditioning

Published:Tuesday | January 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jennifer Ellison-Brown, Contributor

Training is a process based on principles which try to improve physical fitness and motor skills. It involves a balance between work, rest and recovery. Without proper rest, overtraining and burnout can occur.

This, in time, causes performance and motivation to decrease. Therefore, for steady progress and to avoid injury, the basic principles should be followed in planning an effective training programme. These five principles are designed to guide the achievement of fitness in a safe way.

  • Principle of Specificity

This is choosing the right training for the sport or specific exercise for specific muscle groups. The type of training or exercise must be right for the type of improvement we need. Training should focus on the physiological and the psychological factors special to the activity for which the person is being trained. For example, sprinters must include a lot of speed work in their training to develop their fast twitch muscle fibres.

  • Principle of Progression

The body needs time to recover and adapt to training. Therefore, the stress placed on the body must be gradual or progressive. If the stress is built up too quickly, the risk of injury is great, also if the challenge is too difficult, it could lead to demotivation. The body training threshold informs us when training is at the optimal level. Progressive loading with the right amount of rest period for recovery should result in performance improvement.

  • Principle of Overload

The body will adapt to extra stress. Therefore, allowing the systems to work harder than normal will increase fitness. This is done by basing the training on the FITT principle, that is, increasing frequency, intensity and time for the type of activity or exercise. For example, running more times per week, completing the run in a shorter time or increasing the distance, will aid in improving aerobic fitness. Each method will overload the aerobic system, which will gradually adapt to cope with the overload, hereby improving fitness.

  • Principle of Reversibility

Fitness cannot be stored for future use. It will disappear if training stops. It takes only three to four weeks for the body to get out of condition. For example, strength training makes the muscles thicken. This is called hypertrophy. If the training stops, the muscle shrinks, leading to atrophy. Therefore, to maintain any improvements, exercise or training has be repeated regularly.

  • Principle of Variation

Training must be varied to avoid tedium (boredom). This is done by using a variety of different training methods to keep the enthusiasm and motivation. For example, follow a long workout with a short one, a high-intensive session with a relaxed one, or a high-speed session with a slow one. Varying training methods also helps to avoid injuries.


There are a wide variety of training methods based on the ways in which the body adapts to regular exercise. All the methods can be adapted to suit particular training programmes.

  • Continuous Training

This involves the aerobic system and improves endurance. The aerobic system includes the heart, lungs and vascular system. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, running, dancing, cycling, swimming and rowing are ideal examples of aerobic training. The oxygen demand must be matched by oxygen intake. Continuous means you do not stop to rest. It is sub-maximal, meaning you do not work flat out.

This type of training should last for at least 12 minutes in order to achieve adaptations. The intensity of training can be judged from the heart (pulse) rate. Therefore, if you train within certain target heart rate training zones during aerobic exercise, the most efficient gains in aerobic fitness will be achieved, without starting to work anaerobically and developing an oxygen debt.

The target heart training rate zone is worked out by subtracting your age from 220, and then aiming to keep your heart rate between 60% and 85% of this maximum figure. For example, for a person of 45 years, who wants to exercise for 20 minutes, three times per week:-

Max Heart Rate = 220 - 45 = 175

60% of 175 = = 105 85% of 175 = = 150 approx.

Therefore, the person should aim for a target heart rate of 105-150 beats per minute during exercise.

  • Interval Training

This involves exercising at a certain rate (work interval) for a certain time, then resting for a certain period (rest interval) in order to recover and then repeat the process. Sessions of interval training can be organised into sets with longer rest intervals between sets. For example, running 200 metres in sets of six with a minute jog round between each one, then resting for a longer period of 10 minutes before repeating the whole process another two times. This is represented by (6x200) x3.

  • Fartlek Training

The name Fartlek comes from the Swedish meaning 'speed play'. It involves 'run as you please', alternating fast and slow effort over varied terrain, such as grass, sand, flat, hills, etc. Fartlek training doesn't precisely control the work and rest periods. This is very good for game players since games have many changes in speed. The mix of fast and slow work can be changed to suit the sport and energy system.

  • Circuit Training

This involves a number of different exercises at workstations which affect the different components of fitness. A circuit usually involves six to 10 exercises or activities which take place at the stations. Circuits should be designed to avoid working the same muscle groups at stations that follow one another. The number of workstations, repetition and the rest periods should add up to 15-20 minutes for one complete circuit. Repeat three to six times depending on their length.

  • Strength Training

This is used to develop strength, power, muscular endurance and speed. Methods used include weights and plyometric.

Weight training - the amount of weight, the number of repetitions and the recovery periods can all be adjusted to progressively load muscles. Training for strength involves high resistance (weights) and few repetitions. Training for muscular endurance involves low resistance and many repetitions.

Plyometric - this is a method for developing power. This involves rebound jumping, bounding and hopping. Exercises that involve the contraction of muscles from a stretch position are known as plyometric. Plyometric should only be attempted as part of an organised training programme.