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Consistency in Exercise

By Dave Gleason

In the past I have written articles about the importance of consistency in your workouts. Consistency of frequency, or how many workouts you accomplish per week.

Consistency of intensity, or how difficult you workouts are; and consistency of volume, or how many sets and reps you perform in any given workout depending on the stage of your conditioning. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly outline some of the principles your trainer uses that serve as the backbone or foundation for all of your programming. The following list is intricate to the planning behind your workouts not only in terms of the “big picture” but the actual day-to-day exercise prescription.

There are (at the minimum) 6 universally accepted scientifically based training principles that must be adhered to in order to improve your conditioning and get your to your goals. The common thread of all of these is consistent, unfailing, dependable, and regular exercise. (Get the hint!?)

These principles are:

  1. The Principle of Individual Differences.

    Because every human being is different, each person’s response to exercise will be different. A sound training program has to take in to account these differences and be modified to suit that individual. Common sense will tell you that if your trainer does not have the opportunity to evaluate you on a consistent basis, many differences will never be exposed. Therefore you are not receiving a customized program or enjoying results!

  2. The Principle of Overload.

    The Overload Principle says that a greater than normal stress or load is required for a training adaptation to take place. Once the body has become stronger for example, another stimulus is needed to continue this pattern. The same works for any muscle including the heart. In order to breathe easier during 3 mile run, the training has to tax the cardiovascular system enough to ‘make it’ change to a stronger system. Again, without consistency physical improvement cannot possibly be accomplished.

  3. The Principle of Progression

    The Principle of Progression states that the overload we just reviewed must be done at an optimal level and at the right time. Simply put, the weight or resistance cannot be increased to quickly; advanced exercises cannot be performed before their easier counterparts are mastered; and the proper amount of rest is required to allow for recovery. In the absence of consistent workouts no advancement can be made safely. No goals will be attained.

  4. The Principle of Use/Disuse

    I love this one! This principle says that you “use it or lose it.” Enough said. The Principle of Adaptation also ties into the Principle of Progression because there needs to be periods of low intensity as well as high intensity to let your body recover from all that hard work!

  5. The Principle of Adaptation

    When adaptation occurs the body has responded to exercise in a positive way that may result in increased strength, speed, stamina, suppleness and skill (sound familiar?). Much of the adaptation in the first 4-6 weeks of an exercise program comes almost exclusively from what I call “software issues.” In other words your brain sends better messages to your muscles allowing them to do what you are asking of them. Unfortunately this is where much of the soreness from exercise comes into play. After this period your body actually begins to change!

  6. The Principle of Specificity.

    Also known as the SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) states that your body will become what you train it to be. Common sense tell us if you want to be a great baseball player you probably won’t shoot baskets on a basketball court 3-4 times per week for your workouts. Allow me to give you another example: If a 72 year old grandmother would like to work in her garden pain free for 1 hour per day, her training protocol will progress her to the point where she can get up, down, bend and twist with and without resistance (weight).

I hope this article gives you an inside look at the “method to the madness” as well as why I believe consistency is your biggest advocate.

I strongly believe if you feel like you have a working understanding of the “why behind the what” you will stay consistent and reach goals you never thought attainable!

About the Author:

Dave Gleason owns Movement 4 Life Personal Training serving clients in Massachusetts' South Shore and Metro West areas. His website is