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FIDORS: A Personal Trainers Principles Of Programme Design

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Friday 11th of May 2012 Hadyn Luke 11/05/2012

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FIDORS: A Personal Trainers Principles Of Programme Design

Today’s fitness blog will look at the principles to consider when designing any exercise programme.  Anyone working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer will find themselves planning cardio-vascular and resistance training exercise programmes for their clients. Although any training programme should take into account an individual’s fitness levels, goals and experience, the principles of programme design can be explained in a set of guidelines expressed by the acronym FIDORS. This stands for Frequency, Intensity, Duration, Overload, Reversibility, Specificity.

Frequency of training

With cardio-vascular training, there’s no reason why someone can’t train up to seven days a week. Within this schedule, a fitness instructor might want to vary the intensity, so that if a client has had a tough session one day, they might follow an active recovery session the next.

With resistance training, the muscle tissues will need more time to recover, repair themselves and grow back stronger. A personal trainer would normally advise a recovery period of 24-48 hours for a beginner working with relatively light weights that don’t put too much force through the muscles.

A more intensive workout using heavier weights to train the creatine phosphate energy system will cause more damage to the muscle fibres, which means the body will need closer to 48-36 hours to recover. Even more intensive training will require an even longer recovery period, which could restrict an individual’s weight training programme to between one and three days a week.

A personal trainer with a client keen to train on a more frequent basis could devise a split-training programme in which different muscle groups are trained on different days. An example might be:

  • Day 1: Chest muscles
  • Day 2: Back muscles
  • Day 3: Leg muscles
  • Day 4: Core muscles

On day 5, they would return to training the chest, as the muscles would have had sufficient time to recover.

Intensity of training

Fitness instructors would usually recommend training between 50% and 90% of maximum heart rate, depending on an individual’s fitness levels and goals, and whether they want to train their aerobic energy system or the lactate system.

If a client is following a cardio-vascular training programme 5-7 days a week, their fitness instructor may advise them to vary the intensity between different days, rather than working at 85% of their maximum heart rate at every session.

With weight training, intensity is governed by the weight lifted, the number of reps and sets, lengthen the lever, speed of movement, stability, and the length of the rest period between each set. To increase the intensity of the training session, a personal trainer can:

  • Increase the number of exercises
  • Increase the weight Increase the number of reps
  • Increase the number of sets
  • Reduce the rest period between sets
  • Slow down (increase duration) or speed up (increase force generated) the movement 
  • Increase the instability to work more core, synergists and fixators

Other options include:

  • Altering the leverage to make it harder to lift the weight or
  • Change the training system employed, which can range from basic sets to super sets, eccentric training, forced reps, plyometrics or a number of alternative training systems.
  • Duration of a training programme

Whatever cardio-vascular training programme a client is following, a personal trainer can make it more difficult by increasing the duration of the exercise. Simply put, if someone does three sets on a bench press, they can increase duration at their next session by doing four sets. The duration of any cardio-vascular programme will relate to the intensity of the exercise, how fit the individual is and what their specific goals are.  Cardio- vascular guidelines are 20-60 minutes per session in blocks of at least 10 minutes.  A resistance training programme could last anywhere between 20-60 minutes depending on the clients fitness level and goal.

Overload for training stimulus

Any exercise programme set by a fitness instructor should provide a training stimulus that improves the body’s systems.  A top athlete like Paula Radcliffe would not improve her fitness by walking on a treadmill, but an overweight client who is not used to walking for long periods of time will get a training response.

Overload is about gradual improvement: the guideline is increasing any given variable by 5%. This is true for both cardio-vascular work and resistance training. Over time, an individual will gradually build up their physiological systems and improve their performance.

Reversibility of fitness levels

If someone stops training, their fitness levels will suffer. Like a car, our bodies need regular servicing. If a personal trainer has a client who reaches a certain level in training then has a break from the gym, even for a few months, they will not be able to immediately train at the same level when they return.

Specificity of training goals

Fitness instructors often have to work out different exercise programmes for clients who want to train for strength or speed and those who want to improve their endurance.

Specific training gets specific results. If a client is planning to run a marathon, their personal trainer will not suggest sprint training as it will be employing the wrong energy system. If a client wishes to lose weight, they don’t necessarily have to be working at 85-90% of their maximum heart rate; they simply need to be working harder than usual and burning more calories than they take in.

Training for strength involves promoting developments in the creatine phosphate system by lifting heavy weights with a small number of reps, say 1-5 reps, with a rest period of around 3-5 minutes between sets.

Training for endurance is about developing the aerobic and lactic acid systems; the ability of the muscle to recruit and replenish muscle fibres over a period of time. So the client would lift lighter weights but increase the number of reps to, say, 12-20 reps, with a rest period of around 30 seconds to a minute between sets.

We hope you have enjoyed today’s fitness blog and would love to hear your comments.

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