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Personal Training – The FITT Principle

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 23rd of July 2013 Hadyn Luke 23/07/2013


Personal Training – The FITT Principle

Our latest blog is about the FITT principle. This is taught in our Level 3 Personal Training course and stands for:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Time
  • Type

These are guidelines for fitness professionals working with clients who are training for a particular health goal, whether it’s cardiovascular fitness or muscular endurance, to help them achieve the required adaption from the body.

In each case, the individual’s fitness levels, lifestyle and goals should be taken into account.


This reflects how many sessions are carried out each week, month and year. It will vary depending on whether a personal trainer is working with a beginner, a seasoned gym goer or a professional athlete or sports person, but the minimum number is likely to be three times a week.


This measures how hard an individual is working when they train and is an important consideration for any fitness instructor developing an exercise programme for a client.

A simple way to increase intensity is to increase the weights being lifted during resistance training or change the incline on a treadmill during cardiovascular training. Intensity is also a factor in interval training and Periodisation (see our blogs on How a personal trainer can use interval trainingand Periodisation: what it is and how to use it).

While intensity is usually monitored using a percentage of 1RM, RPE or heart rate, there are other variables that a personal trainer can introduce. These include:

Lever length: This is the perpendicular distance between the line of action of a force and the axis of rotation. For example, the line of action in a bicep curl would run vertically, while the axis of rotation would be the movement of the lever arm.

Speed: A fast activity such as the 100m sprint is more intense than a slower one such as a marathon. Equally, in weight training, a clean and jerk lift is more intense than a moderate speed bench press.

Gravity: Because of the pull of gravity, a person lifting free weights will increase the intensity of their workout each time the weight is increased.

Range of movement: Although heavier weights can increase intensity, a personal trainer should ensure that their client is not lifting such a heavy weight that they are unable to carry out the full range of movement within the exercise. Sometimes less is more – a lighter weight brought through a full range of movement can be a more intense and effective workout than a heavy weight taken through a short range of movement.


This is simply the length of time the workout takes.

When a fitness instructor is devising a routine for a fitness class or developing a gym programme for a client, they will need to take into account the amount of time available and the fitness level of those involved.

Cardiovascular training is usually measured in minutes, whereas resistance training is generally measured in reps and sets. The personal trainer should also factor in an appropriate rest time between exercises.


This measures the type of training being carried out based on an individual’s goals.

Within the various categories – strength, cardiovascular, aerobic etc – a fitness professional could potentially vary the types of exercise further, for example a client working on cardio could start by running on the treadmill and in the next session change to cycling or rowing.

This will help an individual to progress and ensure that they don’t become bored with following the same routine each time.


These vary depending on the client’s training goal, which might be strength, hypertrophy, endurance, health or cardiovascular.

For example, a personal trainer working with an individual wanting a workout that improves their overall health would follow a programme of:

  • Frequency: 5+ sessions a week
  • Intensity: Low 6-7 RPE
  • Time: 30+ minutes
  • Sets per exercise: 1

Whereas someone looking to train for strength would follow a different course, for example:

  • Frequency: 1-2 sessions a week on each muscle group
  • Intensity: High, above 85%, or one rep max
  • Time: 1-5 reps with 3-5 minutes recovery between each rep
  • Sets per exercise: 2-6


A personal trainer should also take into account the age of the client, with beginners starting out with two or three sessions a week, intermediates progressing to three or four training sessions a week and advanced clients carrying out between four and seven workouts a week.


If an individual doesn’t train regularly enough or continues with the same workout over a long period of time, they will not get the adaption they need to progress and feel the benefits. It’s easy for people to get stuck in a rut, so it’s helpful for personal trainers to explain the FITT principle, giving guidelines and advice that they can use in sessions whether or not a fitness professional is in attendance.

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