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Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (The SAID Principle)

Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (The SAID Principle)

Simply put, you are what you train to be. In the picture above you see a graphic illustration of the principle. A marathoner has a body that results from the high aerobic demands that marathon training places on the body, while the sprinter has a body that is highly adapted to speed training and high alactic demands. Not surprisingly, the sprinter body looks much more like the weightlifting and powerlifting body, since each demands great strength to body weight ratios. Quite unlike the general stereotype of the hulking strength athlete, those who are in the lower weight ranges look remarkably like their sprinter counterparts.

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623 pound deadlift at 163 pounds


When you put together the principles I've been writing about in the past few posts, you arrive at the SAID Principle. You can do all the general preparation and fitness work you want, but at a certain point, to be good at an event, you have to do event-specific training in a smart way. Training should blend elements of speed, strength, stamina, and flexibility in such a way that event-specific qualities are enhanced.

The highest degree of specificity is to do the actual event. For a powerlifter, this means squatting, benching, and deadlifting. It does not mean bicep curls. To coach the specificity of an event, a coach has to know the biomechanics of the event and understand how to design drills and exercises that will specifically transfer to the event. Thus, seated rows, which work the back muscles and demand a lot of core stability serve as a good accessory exercise for the deadlift, where such demands are specific to success.

Each training element adapts at a different rate. Flexibility adapts from day to day. Strength improves from week to week, speed from month to month. For events where work capacity is the key, that adapts from year to year. Understanding this ability to adapt means that you understand the possible. For younger athletes, and for masters athletes who may just be picking up a new event, the basic training phase works hard on general fitness, understanding technique, and establishing good training routines and habits.

So it is that my powerlifting training, fifteen months in, still keys in on the basics of the three lifts. It keeps you humble to understand that, as much improvement as you have made, you just don't know enough to have much of an opinion about your training. That's why it's so important to have wiser people around you, keeping you basic and grounding your technique in the elemental.

In my track training, I can be on my own more (though I need coaching in the techniques of the throwing events) since I have a long history in the running parts of the sport. Still, my body is a lot older than it was, and the wise head has to temper the enthusiastic athlete who still lives within. I can do more complex training patterns, but I cannot do them with the volume or frequency I could, say, thirty years ago.

In short, planning training for the masters or beginning athlete needs to concentrate on the following:

  • The demands of the event dictate the training.
  • Training takes into account the life stresses of the athlete.
  • The time available for training is crucial.
  • Goals must be specific and reasonable.
  • The training must be founded on the athlete's ability to recover.

When you're developing a plan, either for yourself or as a coach, consider: what is the performance objective? When do you meet it? What are the components to be trained in order to meet it? What are your assets? What are your obstacles? And, given that we are all more than the event we're training for, exactly how motivated are you to do what it takes?

Once you have the full picture, once you have answered those questions, you are in a position to develop a training program specifically adapted to meeting an athletic goal.



To My Subscribers: A Lesson about Learning Curves

To My Subscribers: A Lesson about Learning Curves

Mesocycle 2 for 2018

Mesocycle 2 for 2018