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Creating Positive Adaptations

Positive adaptations (in lay terms 'results') are what every client wants and needs. Learn how to apply the exercise principles correctly (as shown) here and expect positive results to occur for every client.

When we stress our client’s with exercise their bodies go through several phases in order to adapt.  The adaptation model below shows the phases that a client goes through after a training session in order to ‘adapt’. 

Personal%2525252520Training%2525252520GAS%2525252520Model%25252525203A client’s fitness has a ‘normal’ level to begin with.  We then introduce some exercise stress which will ‘fatigue’ their body’s system(s).  During this phase (immediately after a workout) if you fitness tested the client they would appear less fit than they were immediately prior because you have fatigued their body (think of climbing the stairs the day after doing squats!)  The duration of the fatigue stage is dependent on how long and hard you train your client.

The next phase is the repair phase.  This is where the body starts to repair any damage that was done during the training session, and re-stock the energy stores.  The duration of this phase depends on how well your client looks after themselves in the hours and days post workout.

The adaptation phase is when their body is changing to cope with the stress it’s gone through so that if the stress was to recur they would be better equipped to handle it.  The degree of adaptation that occurs is dependent on the initial fatigue, the ability of the body to repair itself and the time and resources available to the body to adapt.

The total amount of time, from the time of the initial overload until the peak of adaptation, can be called ‘recovery’ time.  The total duration of the recovery time depends on the general health and lifestyle of the client and the volume of the overload (workout) just completed (more on workout volume shortly).

Generally a client will recover more rapidly if they:Personal%2525252520Training%2525252520GAS%2525252520Model%25252525203

  1. Get adequate sleep
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Stretch / warm down
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Have lower stress levels
  6. Receive massage
  7. Get adequate rest before exercising again
  8. Are free of illness or disease
  9. Use performance enhancing drugs



How does the correct application of the exercise principles create positive adaptations?


Personal%2525252520Training%2525252520GAS%2525252520Model%25252525204Overload is created by manipulating the four FITT principle variables; frequency, intensity, time and type.  Frequency is how often the client exercises, intensity is how hard they exercise, time is how long they exercise for (sometimes called duration) and type is the sort of activity we select for our clients (sometimes called ‘mode’).

 As an example I may get a client to run on the flat around the park (type), three times a week (frequency), at a pace that is comfortable for them – a 6/10 say (intensity), for about 30 minutes every run (time).

Each mix of FITT variables will create a certain type of fatigue, repair and therefore adaptation.  So, when we try to create change for a person we usually focus on a fitness component or two and use the FITT variables to ensure the fatigue we are creating will cause the changes we want and will eventually get them to the result they are after.

Click here for a table that can be used as a guide when prescribing training for various fitness components.


What principles apply to creating overload?


Specificity – you must know your client’s goal, and know the fitness component you are focusing their training on, and understand their current fitness level, to get them toward their results.  Knowing these things allows you to select the FITT that will produce optimal results without being too little or too much.Personal%2525252520Training%2525252520GAS%2525252520Model%25252525204

Individuality – you must conduct great consultations with clients to identify their personality, situation, preferences, barriers and exercise history so you can modify the FITT you’ve selected to suit them so they are most likely to complete the training prescribed.

Trainability – you must interpret the progress the client has made before and monitor the client’s progress against your prescription as they complete it, so you can change the FITT to suit them.  Some people will need less training to cause progress, others will need more.  Some will need the same with more rest, whilst others will need the same more frequently.  Some will respond differently to the same FITT and therefore may be more suited to shorter and harder workouts or longer and easier workouts even though they are trying to achieve the same thing. 

Rest/Recovery – when working out how often to train clients you can use the guidelines in the table but you should monitor your clients progress (are they lifting more in training, running further etc) and modify the rest/recovery period to ensure they are improving nearly every workout.  If they’re not, it’s likely they are training too often and are still fatigued/repairing when you have them prescribed that they train again.

Progressive overload – as clients adapt to training the overload needs to progress (add a little more volume to each successive session) otherwise the ‘fatigue’ becomes too little to cause positive change.  The volume of overload of any workout can be calculated as the average intensity (Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or Heart Rate (HR)) multiplied by the duration.  In this graphic all the volumes are the same.  For example all of them when multiplied out equal the same number.

  1. 9 RPE x 20 minutes = 180
  2. 6 RPE x 30 minutes = 180
  3. 3 RPE x 60 minutes = 180

same training volume

Reversibility – if your clients don’t train often enough or with enough overload their bodies will eventually lose the positive adaptations they have gained.  So while you may change the focus of training for clients you need to ensure you maintain both the right frequency and intensity of training to maintain previous adaptations.  For example if you are working on one fitness component you don’t want all the others to go backward so be sure to build in some maintenance work.  Usually you need to maintain the intensity of the training relating to that component but you can reduce duration by up to 50% (some times more).

personal training elderly man doing push upsOr quite simply, if a client stops training completely then they’ll eventually lose all the positive adaptions they have previously gained

Ceiling – no matter how hard clients train or for how many years they train, eventually genetic limitations will come in to play and other non-modifiable factors (age, gender) will have an affect.  This is why not every client will become an international level athlete (assuming they actually want to of course!).  Nevertheless expect clients who have been training successfully for years to show a lesser degree of improvement than clients who are new to exercise.

Interference – the key here is that to repair and adapt to one type of training you need rest.  And, all training tends to create some fatigue across the systems and as such interrupts the recovery phase.  This is one reason that periodisation (the cycling of training) is used to maintain some aspects of fitness whilst others are improved – it’s simply impossible to improve everything at once because of interference.

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