Principles of Training

Fundamental Principles of Training

    1. Progressive overload
    2. Super-compensation
    3. Recovery
    4. Specificity
    5. Frequency
    6. Periodization
    7. Maintenance
    8. Fatigue

Progressive overload

The principle of progressive overload states that, for athletes to improve they must slowly and methodologically encounter workloads and stresses (physical and mental) that exceed their current abilities. This overload does not necessarily occur on a daily basis, but should span successive days, months and years. Overload will result in fatigue (principle 8), which in turn will trigger fitness super-compensations (principle 2). If an athlete’s abilities (physical, technical, and
psychological) are not overloaded, they soon and more improvements occur.


The principle of super-compensation is based on the fact that an athlete will adapt to training stress. In order to experience super-compensation, an athlete will pass through a period of fatigue
(principle [8]), then a period of enhanced fitness once recovery (principle 3) is allowed.


The principle of recovery states that for fitness to improve and even be maintained, a period of reduced effort is necessary. The need for recovery is inherent at all levels of training;

    within workouts,
    between workouts,
    between days of training, etc.

By allowing differing amounts of recovery, a program can direct an athlete’s preparation towards a specific goal; be it psychological, aerobic, anaerobic or technical.


Specificity is an expression of how close your training is to your competitive requirements.

Paddling is part of a unique group of sports (including swimming, rock climbing, and cross-country skiing) that require unique and unnatural movements. Consequently, only a limited amount of non-specific training will enhance performance and as athletes become more experienced, the benefits of non-specific training are greatly diminished. Thus, the specificity of fitness training increases in importance for the moreexperienced and elite athletes.

In other words, to become a better paddler you need to paddle.


The frequency with which an athlete trains is always important. Frequency needs addressing both within and between workouts. Within a workout, frequency is defined by the duration of work and rest intervals. The frequency of workouts in a given day, week, or month will be important in more advanced athletes, not so much with novice paddlers unless fatigue (principle 8) plays a role.


One of the most important aspects of training is the systematic assembly of training into a cohesive unit. Periodization is the process by which a season or year is broken down into a number of phases that address specific training needs or goals.


The ability to maintain fitness and performance between training bouts is essential for top athletic performance. Modified and reduced workouts administered at the appropriate time will allow an athlete to maintain performance levels with minimal training.


While not a principle of training in itself, fatigue is a consequence of all training programs. However, chronic fatigue or overtraining is more often attributed to poorly designed or poorly
monitored programs.

Overtraining is defined as a chronic and long term decrease in both performance and fitness that requires a long time to overcome. The causes and symptoms of overtraining are often interwoven so tightly that identifying causalrelationships is nearly impossible.

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services


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