6 Principles of Exercise to Max Out Your Fitness Potential

Updated on June 17, 2018

Some common fitness goals you may have are weight loss, stronger muscles, or the endurance to run a marathon. Whatever your goal, there are some common principles to remember to become physically fit. These principles are the principle of overload, the principle of progression, the principle of specificity, the principle of recovery, the principle of individuality, and the principle of reversibility.


The Principle of Overload

The principle of overload means that if your body is pushed beyond its normal limits, it will adapt to the change and become stronger. To overload your muscles, you should go just beyond your comfort zone by increasing the frequency at which you do a move, the intensity of your movements, or the amount of time you are working the muscle. If you want to keep improving, overload your muscles again once you are used to the new amount of reps, until you are satisfied with your level of fitness. Remember, though, you have to maintain that amount, because doing less than normal can result in a loss of muscular strength.


The Principle of Progression

The principle of progression ties in to the principle of overload. Progression means that you should gradually increase your overload to become stronger. Increasing overload too quickly can make you very tired and sore and looking for the exit! It may also cause injury, so carefully monitor your progression. If you're just starting out, it's better to increase the frequency and duration of a movement before you try to bump up intensity. If you aren't progressing, you may not be exercising often enough, or maybe there isn't enough overload. Carefully examine your workout to see what you can change in order to progress. Eating habits may be a culprit, so monitor your diet as well.

The Principle of Specificity

If you have a specific goal, you'll need to perform exercises that assist that goal; this is the principle of specificity. If you place a certain demand on your body, it will react to that particular demand, improving the targeted muscles. Tailor your workouts to your goal to see the most improvement in that area of fitness. If you want to develop strong arms, do push-ups and pull-ups to empower those biceps and triceps. If you'd like to lose weight, aim for a mixture of cardio, to burn fat, and strength training, to develop lean muscle mass, which helps your metabolic rate and makes you look toned and strong. For weight loss, it's more important to work large muscle groups than smaller muscles, as more muscle is gained for your time. If you are a runner, vary the intensity and bump up your duration to increase your agility and endurance.


The Principle of Recovery

Exercise is very important, but rest and recovery time are also necessary to any program. Like with your diet, moderation is the key with exercise. If you overload your muscles too much, you may get injured, or develop chronic problems like shin splints or joint pain. Take rest days every now and then, and don't work the same muscle group every day; try working your legs one day and then abs the next, instead of just focusing on legs every day, or abs every day. Change up the moves that you do to work different muscles on a body part, and allow the others to rest. Variety in an exercise program can also help you get past plateaus, because your muscles are not used to the new movements and work harder to do them.

The Principle of Individuality

The principle of individuality is the fact that everyone has a unique physical and mental response to exercise. People lose weight and become fit at different rates, so the only person that you can compare yourself to is yourself. Maybe you are progressing at a slower rate than your friend Sally, despite the fact that you work out together and follow the same diet. That's okay, because you're still progressing, and changing your lifestyle to become a better person inside and out. Don't be hard on yourself, and don't try to match people rep for rep, as this may lead to overtraining and injury. Go at your own pace and be happy with yourself.


The Principle of Reversibility

Use it or lose it, that's the principle of reversibility. If you stop exercising for two weeks, your body will start to reverse its progress and go back to the way it was before you started exercising. You will lose cardiorespiratory endurance and flexibility first, and then your muscular strength and endurance. This will happen unless you keep working out regularly. Stick with your program and keep moving, and you will be on your way to a stronger, happier you!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Melissa Clason


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