There are numerous reasons to exercise and more different workout types than you can count, but regardless of your goals and your preferred method of exercise, there are some things that must be incorporated into your program if you want it to be effective. One foundation of every effective workout routine is the SAID Principle.
SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands and the SAID principle provides the necessary direction to your training. Even if you always train at the perfect intensity level, it does not guarantee that you will achieve the results you want from your training program. The SAID principle explains that various types of training will each result in specific adaptations, depending on the type of stress or demand they put on your body.
I’m sure you have heard the saying “you are what you eat” and there is a similar truth with exercise that you improve based on how you train. I would be nice if one type of exercise could simultaneously improve every aspect of your body, but that is simply not possible. A single workout can benefit multiple aspects of fitness, but some aspects will improve more than others and some may even regress. Therefore it becomes necessary to prioritize and create workouts to maximize improvement in the areas that are most important to you.
For example, if you want to focus on increasing your strength, you need to lift weights that are significantly challenging for your muscles. Lifting light weights for many reps may lead to some strength increases, especially if you are just starting out, but this type of training actually causes strength trained individuals to lose strength. However, lifting lighter weights for many reps does increase local muscular endurance, so it has uses for people looking to improve the endurance of specific muscle groups.
The same principles apply for other sports and activities as well. For instance, if you want to become a better marathon runner, your training should focus on running long distances. Resistance training and other types of workouts are still important in your overall routine, but a training program based on running sprints will not result in successful marathon running. The physical qualities that are important to you will affect how often, if ever, you use each type of training in your overall program.
The SAID principle does a good job of explaining why particular types of training result in specific physiological improvements, but it also goes beyond your physical attributes, such as strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, etc. Perhaps more importantly, the SAID principle has implications for how a specific type of training will carry over to activities outside of your exercise program.
It is natural to assume workouts improve performance in any other activity, but improvements are most significant when training is similar to the activity(s) you will perform. The way you train (exercises, weight, tempo, etc.) affects how your body adapts and this goes well beyond just determining if you increase the strength or endurance of particular muscles. The real goal is not only to improve your muscles, but also to train specific movement patterns and improve the way your muscles work with each other.
When it comes to training for specific sports or activities, the closer your training is to an activity, the more your performance will improve in that particular activity. For example, if you want to increase how high you can jump, a leg extension exercise (straightening your legs against resistance while sitting) will not be as effective as a squat, where your leg muscles lift weight in a standing position, because this position is closer to the position and movement used to jump.
To go a step further, a regular squat exercise is not as beneficial for increasing jump height as weighted squat jumps. Weighted squat jumps are basically squats performed at fast or explosive speeds, where your feet come off the ground during the exercise. Since this exercise does a good job of replicating both the movement and speed of a jump, it is more effective than a regular squat, which replicates the movement, but not the speed of a jump.
While most types of exercise can lead to some general benefits, such as maintaining or improving cardiovascular health, each different exercise and training choice you make also has implications for specific performance improvements in other activities. In short, you can fine tune your workout routine to maximize the improvements that are most important to you.
Fine tuning an exercise program does take time and effort and is most useful for people wanting specific performance improvements. If you are more interested in general health and fitness, this level of specificity is probably not required, but the SAID principle has uses in these cases as well.
When training for general improvements, it is still important to improve multiple physical characteristics. For instance, you should include exercises/workouts to improve strength, endurance, stabilization, balance, power, etc., even when you are not training for a specific activity.
The purpose of general wellness programs is to improve all aspects of health and fitness, so as the SAID principle suggests, you should include exercises and training styles to work on each major component of fitness if you hope to achieve overall physical development. It is not uncommon for people to only focus on one component of fitness, such as cardiovascular health or muscle strength, but training this way does not result in total health and fitness improvement.
The important thing is to figure out what components of health and fitness are most important to you. Then when you know what you want, you can evaluate your workouts and see if your training program is really designed to accomplish what you want it to.
The more specific your goals are, the more specific your training should be and if you are interested in general fitness development, just make sure you are not neglecting any major fitness components. It is also important for you to train all your major muscle groups to some degree, regardless of your goals.
Baechle, T.R. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Human Kinetics, 1994
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness