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Training Principles

General Training Principles

All effective exercise programs are based on these general training principles. A program that attends to only one or two of the three principles can result in un-met client goals, poor adherence, and possible litigation due to injury.

Designing a safe and effective resistance training program…

involves the consideration and manipulation of certain variables that make resistance training programs more complex than aerobic exercise programs. The process begins with an initial consultation and fitness assessment to determine a client’s resistance training status, exercise technique experience, and primary resistance training goal. The personal trainer then needs to consider what exercises to include in the program; how often the client will resistance train; the sequence of the selected exercises; the load, repetition, and set assignments; and the length of the rest periods. To promote the client’s ongoing improvements and minimize overtraining, the personal trainer can apply the principles of variation and progression to the resistance training program.


An important training principle was first identified 50 years ago [17] and is the foundation of every effective exercise J1program refers to training a client in a specific way to produce a specific change or result. For example, if a client wants to strengthen the muscles of the hips and thighs, he or she must perform an exercise such as the back squat that recruits the muscles of the hips and thighs, not the lat pulldown exercise, which trains the upper back. Specificity also applies when a personal trainer needs to design a program for a client’s activity or sport. The movement patterns of selected exercises should be very similar to the movements of the activity or sport. For example, if a client is a basketball player, the personal trainer should recognize that basketball involves repeated jumping movements. To mimic the lower body movements of jumping, the client could perform the power clean or the front (or back) squat exercise.


Even the most muscle- or activity-specific resistance training program will produce only limited results unless the client experiences overload (a training stress or intensity greater than what a client is used to). The most common application of overload is the amount of weight lifted in an exercise, but a personal trainer can also increase training stress by scheduling more workouts in a week, by having a client perform more sets of exercises, or by shortening the rest periods between sets.


A client’s training status will improve over time, the personal trainer needs to apply the principle of progression so the L3training stress or intensity continues to be greater than what the client is accustomed to. The personal trainer, however, needs to be careful to overload and advance a client’s program gradually and at a level that is proportionate to the client’s training status. All effective exercise programs are based on three general training principles: specificity, overload, and progression. A program that attends to only one or two of the three principles can result in unmet client goals, poor adherence, and possible litigation due to injury.

Components of a Resistance Training Program Designing a resistance training program requires a personal trainer to manipulate or make decisions about the program design variables—certain components that create a safe, effective, and goal-specific exercise program.