Sports Training Principles

Coaches rely on well-established sports training principles to design programs and make educated coaching decisions. Principles are generally agreed upon guidelines that are grounded in the sport sciences and hold true in practice and competition.

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. However, other sport sciences also support these principles.

For example, the Specificity Principle concerns how the athlete's body adapts to the stress placed on it. Specificity also applies to practice conditions and the environment in motor learning literature.

Regardless of the fields in which they are studied, it is most important for coaches to understand how to effectively apply them in practice and competition.

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

The 8 Key Sports Training Principles are:

The Balance Principle is a broadly applied principle that concerns achieving the right proportions of training activities. It also relates to the body's tendency to return to normalcy, or homeostasis.

The Individualization Principle concerns adjustments in training based on differences between individual athletes.

Overload Principle provides guidance about intensity of workloads and how to progress regimens.

The Recovery Principle concerns rest and recovery between exercises and time between workouts.

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

The Specificity Principle dictates how workout regimens change athletes' bodies to prepare for the demands of their sports.

The Transfer Principle provides guidance on how workout activities can speed up the athlete's results in competitive performances.

The Variation Principle provides direction about variations in exercises, rest time, intensity and other variables. Varying programs can prevent problems such as plateaus and overtraining effects.


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You will find that various authors list and describe sports training principles in different ways. For example, Rainer Martens presents these guidelines in essentially the same way in Successful Coaching, while others may offer fewer that are more narrowly rooted in physiology.

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