Training 101 part 1

In this training series, you’ll learn everything from basic training, to constructing your own personalised workouts, how to increase the intensity so you never hit a ‘training plateau’, and what to focus on during your workouts to get the most out of them. In this first part we’ll focus on the most important training principles and the essential role they play in the achievement of your ultimate training goals.

Training principles

There are 5 principles of training that you must follow if you’re serious about developing a good, healthy and toned body, they are:

  1. Specificity
  2. Overload
  3. Recovery
  4. Adaptation
  5. Reversibility

Specificity refers to doing certain exercises and training in certain specific ways to target the muscles you want and achieve definite results. We don’t want to waste any time when training, we want results as fast as possible.

Overload is a foundational principle for anyone who wants to build muscle. Basically for your muscles to grow and develop, you must constantly force them to work harder by progressively adding the amount of resistance and increasing the intensity of the workout.

Overload can be progressed by:

  • Increasing the intensity (eg having less resting periods between sets)
  • Increasing the number of sets of the exercise
  • Increasing the number of repetitions in a particular set
  • Increasing the resistance (eg adding 5kg to 10kg to the barbell)

Recovery is another vital principle for anyone trying to develop muscle quickly. People who train their biceps almost every day at the gym, often have the smallest and weakest biceps. Why? Because they don’t give their muscles enough time to recover. The only way your muscles will grow and be able to function at peak performance, is by giving them time to rest and rebuild all those little muscle fibres. With proper nutrition, some good supplementation and one to two days recovery per muscle group is sufficient. During the recovery phase, your body repairs and builds new muscle fibres. In doing this, your body adapts to the increased resistance and intensity.

Adaptation occurs as the body learns to adjust to the pressures you’re putting it under. Your body will eventually adapt to your exercise routine and it is possible to hit a training “plateau”, unless you change your routine and use the overload principle to increase the intensity of the workout. By doing this you will shock your body back into the anabolic growth phase.

Reversibility is the principle by which the body goes back to its natural form and strength level if it’s not continually challenged. Improved range of motion, strength, muscular hypertrophy and improved blood circulation are just a few of the amazing benefits of regular exercise. If you stop exercising, you will notice slight muscle atrophy and newly acquired strength gains will decrease. If you miss 2 weeks of training and still stick to a good nutrition plan, you should not lose too much strength, but if you ignore training and ignore your nutrition, you will have to start from the beginning again.

Constructing a workout

First things first, terminology: a rep (repetition) is one complete movement through an exercise. A set is a group of repetitions. Now setting up a training program is really easy. For the beginners there are a few basic workout plans that are very easy to follow. One of the most basic programs to follow would be a full body workout three times a week working the major muscle groups by doing 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps per exercise. A one day example of a beginners training program could be:

Day 1:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps at light to medium resistance
  • Wide Grip Lat Pull Down: 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Tricep Push Down: 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Dumbbell Curs: 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Free Weight Squats: 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
  • Lunges: 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Another example of a basic training program could be an upper and lower body split workout.

  • Monday: upper body and cardiovascular work (a 20 minute jog)
  • Tuesday: lower Body
  • Wednesday: rest
  • Thursday: upper body and cardio
  • Friday: lower body
  • Saturday and Sunday: rest or an extra cardio session 

There are many different types of workouts. It’s just a matter of trial and error until you find and construct the one that works for you. Some people might find that the common three day split body part, with 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps works for them, while others might find that monotonous and boring. Some need a three day full body workout, some might need a 5 day split muscle group workout and some people may need to train six to seven days a week to achieve their desired results. You must find what works for you.

Some great ways to increase the intensity and enjoyment of a workout is to include lots of supersets, drop sets, descending sets and ascending sets.


  • Superset- a superset is performed when two exercises are performed in a row without stopping.
  • Drop set - a technique for continuing an exercise with a lower weight once muscle failure has been achieved at a higher weight.
  • Descending set- while decreasing the weight of an exercise, you increase the amount of repetitions.
  • Ascending set- while increasing the weight of the exercise you decrease the amount of repetitions.

(Kilo2kili, Ariel Navarro, December 2011)

Read more:

Training 101 part 2

Training 101 part 3

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