8 Sports Training Principles

Coaches rely on well-established sports training principles to build fitness training programs and develop sport skills. Principles are generally agreed upon guidelines that consistently apply to training athletes successfully. They summarize the best information from the sport sciences and good coaching practices.

When training athletes, it is advisable consider these principles collectively and interpret them with flexibility, rather than with rigidity. Wisdom from experience as well as good judgment are essential for optimizing the benefits of these guidelines.

The commonly known training principles (Specificity, Overload, and Recovery) are heavily grounded in exercise physiology--the study of the effects of exercise on the human body--but are sometimes misapplied in athletics. Regardless of the fields in which they are studied, it is most important for coaches to understand how they operate in practice and competition.

While it is important to know how to use these principles, skill learning, movement mechanics, and other areas that strengthen sports performance must be integrated into the training programs of athletes at their respective levels of competition.

The 8 Key Principles for Sports Training are:

The Balance Principle is a broadly applied principle that concerns achieving the right proportions of training activities.

The Individualization Principle concerns adjustments in training based on needs of individual athletes.

Overload Principle provides guidance about training intensity and progression.

The Recovery Principle concerns rest and recovery between training bouts.

The Reversibility Principle provides guidance about detraining when athletes stop working out.

The Specificity Principle dictates how training changes athletes' bodies to prepare for the demands of their sports.

The Transfer Principle provides guidance on how training activities can speed up sport learning and performance in competition.

The Variation Principle provides direction about training cycles that prevent problems such as plateaus and overtraining effects.


For principles about the rules of sport technique, refer to Newton's Laws of Motion and Mechanical Principles.

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