4 Guiding Principles for Designing Effective Training Programs

Ultimately, the main objective of any training program is to drive specific adaptations based on the demands imposed upon the athlete by his or her sport to improve performance. This is the basis behind the SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) Principle and should be the coach’s guiding principle in anything he has his athletes do.

For weightlifting in particular, the objectives and measurements of improvement are very binary and straightforward – what are you snatching and clean & jerking and are you progressively lifting more?  For field sport athletes, however, the objectives and measurements of improvement are not as black and white because the specific demands are going to vary. However, once you determine the metabolic, physical and emotional demands of the sport, it will help to provide you a clear pathway to improve performance.

Performance will start to progress when the athlete is dosed with a stress that the body is not accustomed to and therefore needs to adapt to.  Whether you’re training a beginner or advanced athlete, here are 4 principles to use to help drive adaptation and improved performance:

OVERLOAD: The principle of overload is key when it comes to increasing performance in strength and power development. If you do not progressively overload an athlete above his or her regular threshold with either intensity (weight) and/or volume (sets and reps), stagnation will occur.  The body is an incredible organism. It will eventually adapt to most of the stresses imposed upon it, so the baseline threshold must continually and systematically increase.

SPECIFICITY: The exercises and training load must be specific to the main sporting exercise or the demands of the sport. You must be able to very specifically answer the question WHY for anything you incorporate into the training plan.

What are you trying to improve technically?  What training quality or physiological change are you trying to improve upon or develop?  Where do technical and/or muscular deficiencies exist, and how will certain exercises and training loads improve those deficiencies?  Ultimately, these answers should all travel back to the underlying goal of improving performance on the platform or the field of play.  Be specific and purposeful in your exercise and training load selection.

VARIATION: When the same exercise with the same training load is used over an extended period of time, stagnation sets in and performance gains decrease because the body has adapted. In order to avoid this and continue to drive further adaptation, both the exercises and the training load should vary.

There are various ways to approach this, but we typically block our training into 4-week segments with very specific focuses, e.g. speed strength, explosive strength, etc.  During these 4-week blocks, the training load will vary daily and weekly, but the core group of exercises will stay the same.  To avoid stagnation in exercises, we vary exercises every 4 weeks to correlate with and maximize the training quality or qualities of the new block.

INDIVIDUALIZATION:  We are all human, but we are all different.  Training programs must be adjusted individually to maximize the performance of each athlete.  This may be something as simple as keeping the same exercises for a group of 5 athletes, but adjusting either the sets and/or reps for each depending on their level of fitness, experience, or possible competition schedule.  It is important to note, however, that the more advanced and trained the athlete becomes, the more individualization they will require.

As discussed in previous posts, we’ve developed a Daily Map that provides a general template to use. It provides structure for a group of athletes but can also provide a framework for individualization based on individual needs.


When you structure training, it’s paramount that everything you include has a clearly defined purpose that will drive specific adaptations to improve performance, whether that be on the platform or the field of play.  Adhering to the four principals outlined above will set a stronger foundation and clearer path to sustained improvement and success for your athletes.


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Want to see what our programs look like? Check out some of our training templates here.

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