Training Principles for Performance◆ ☕️ 6 min read
- Task determines structure determines function.
- Specificity has a cost.
- Extensive leads, intensive follows.
- Competency precedes capacity precedes performance.
- Minimum effective dose is the name of the game.
- Experience drives adherence drives adaptation.
- Speed kills, but force is king.
Solid training principles are what lay a foundation to a training program. They provide structure to your plan of action and allow you to thoroughly consider the context. Reliable principles help you choose specific tools and methods to achieve the overarching goals.
Below I have listed some of the principles I use. The intent with this article is not to provide an extensive scientific list of universal training principles everyone should follow. No such list exists. The ideas to follow are subjective and just an insight into my coaching process. In the best-case scenario, this would allow you to better define your personal approach to training.
The insights offered here have been in many ways stolen over the years from some of the brighter minds in this industry. I have reshaped the ideas I’ve gathered to fit my own approach to training. Originality is overrated. Authenticity is a priority.
Task determines structure determines function. #
The task in hand is the first consideration when designing a training intervention. What is your goal? What are the sport’s requirements? This will provide insight into the structures involved. Consider joints involved, their positions, their movements. That will, in turn, dictate the muscle functions, integrations, and potential injury sites. Follow a step-by-step process to get a good grasp of what underpins the identified goal. Don’t leave a stone unturned. What you miss here will ultimately take away from your ability to prepare for the task in hand.
Specificity has a cost. #
Undoubtedly, training must be specific to improve your performance in the task you’ve set your eyes on. When targeting specificity, you need to realize that specificity and variation are at the opposite ends of a sliding-scale. A degree of variation is necessary to break the linearity of training and prevent staleness to maintain adaptive sensitivity to the stimuli. Variation might also be utilized to target weaknesses and reduce injury risk. But if you want to be truly good in something, you have to train for that exact thing. Becoming great in a set specific thing means you will have to give up on some other training adaptation to achieve that. When setting specific training aims and goals, it’s never only about what will be gained in chasing this goal and added on to the list of existing qualities. Something will also be lost. Don’t overlook that. You can’t have it all. Alternatively, you could be mediocre in many things. But the jack of all trades will always be a master of none.
Extensive leads, intensive follows. #
Training intensity refers to the level of resistance presented during a movement. Training volume refers to the amount of work done in terms of sets, repetitions, and load within a training session or any other measurement of training time. Volume and intensity will always follow an inverse relationship. Driving extensive training volume will mean that intensity has to come down and vice versa. In a periodized training plan or a cycle, training volume is often accumulated early on in the process to build up work capacity. Work capacity refers to the ability to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body (as defined by Mel Siff). In other words, you’re better able to tolerate heavy volume and loads. As such, the extensive work is done to be able to sustain the more intense work to follow later in the training process.
More broadly, this idea relates to how a periodized approach to training is often warranted. Depending on your goals, you might be targeting training qualities that are better developed in a periodized manner as improving them concurrently could cause interference.
Competency precedes capacity precedes performance. #
Technique always comes first. Good luck getting anywhere without the ability to adequately execute whatever movement you might encounter. Technical competency will allow you to safely build up work capacity (refer back to the previous point). This, in turn, will allow you to push intensity further down the line in your training plan, effectively progressing on to more task-specific work. Ultimately, task-specificity would lead to improved performance.
Minimum effective dose is the name of the game. #
Push yourself just enough to keep on progressing. Overload, the degree of homeostatic disruption caused by training, is essential for progress. Overloading just as little as necessary will allow you to play the long game. It’s not always “no pain, no gain”. It hardly ever is. Some people actually need to pull the brakes with training, so they don’t wreck themselves. There is nothing tough about smashing into the wall and going all out in every single training session. Quite the contrary – it’s fucking stupid. That’s the fast lane to overtraining, getting injured, and stalling your progress. Whereas there will be fatigue accumulation occurring so long as an overload is being presented (and you need overload to improve), targeting the minimum effective dose will allow you to keep fatigue down at a level you’re able to safely recover from. Figure out what capabilities require your attention in relation to your goals. Then figure out the minimum effective dose for those capabilities that brings about a positive response. It’s better to underestimate the workload you can manage. You can always take a step forward. If you overestimate, however, you will have to take a few steps back to allow for sufficient recovery and fatigue dissipation before you can continue.
Experience drives adherence drives adaptation. #
The ability to consistently show up to training is dependent on more than just how good the training program is. Consider the potential impact of the surrounding environment and the overall training experience. Some would prefer to get their strength training done in commercial gyms that feature fake plastic plants in the reception area and soft background music that could be played to put your child to sleep (you know who you are). Others like nothing more than a dusty garage gym with Rammstein on full blast. Some like to train alone, others like to train with friends or have a coach around to push them. There are many sides to this. Figure out which setting works for you or for your athletes. Consider what might improve the overall experience. Try to replicate that in training. This will add to adherence. Adherence will drive training adaptations.
Speed kills, but force is king. #
For most sports, the ability to complete specific movements and complete them fast is what contributes towards success. High velocity often crowns the winners. But force always precedes velocity. A stationary object will remain stationary unless acted upon by an external force (thank you Isaac Newton, you absolute legend). If the object to be moved is your body, force has to be produced to accelerate it in the first place. That would result in a change in velocity. Sport-specific speed is the quality we are eventually after, but we have to be competent force producers first to even have a chance at creating the necessary speed.
This should help you better think over your individual training approach. Steal some or all of the ideas listed here if you want. Add to or remove from this list as you see fit. I don’t care. If I’ve managed to create even the slightest bit of value my work here is done.
As always, get in touch if you have questions. Criticism and feedback facilitate learning and are therefore more than welcome.