The Principle of Individual Response

While the previous principles are often regarded as the cornerstones of a scientifically planned training system, another very important factor—individual differences between athletes—must also be considered. While similarities frequently outweigh differences, an individual s physiological, as well as psychological and emotional characteristics, must be considered in the course of constructing the ideal training plan.

A recent real-life example illustrates the importance of recognizing an athlete's individual differences. Two athletes, an Olympic weightlifter and a discus thrower, were tested for their maximum strength using the back squat exercise. Then, after a five minute rest, both athletes were retested to see how many repetitions they could perform with the barbell reduced to 80% of the weight they were able to lift for a single repetition. The result? The thrower got 14 reps, while the weightlifter only managed 7 reps. This result suggested that the weightlifter had a significantly larger proportion of fast-twitch muscle fiber than the discus thrower. To use the same or similar strength training methods for each athlete, one of them would fail to reach his potential, depending on which methods were selected. For example, fast-twitch muscle is more responsive to strength training consisting of heavy weights and low repetitions, so using this method would benefit the weightlifter more than the discus thrower, if increasing muscle mass was the primary objective.

If one applies the same training plan to one-hundred athletes, be assured there would be a corresponding number of different adaptational reactions (i.e., character of, and rate of progress) to that plan. Males and females differ in their recovery times between workouts, taller people have longer reaction times than shorter people, large-footed people have better balance than those with short feet, and so on. Sicknesses, injuries, lifestyle, and coaching background, as well as innate genetic differences further add to the differences among athletes.

Individuality is a dynamic concept. As an athlete progresses, his training must change to reflect his or her higher level of fitness. For example, it might take an athlete 16 weeks to reach a certain level of strength the first year he strength trains. The next year, even if he has not performed strength training for several months, it might take only eight to 10 weeks to meet or even exceed the strength levels of the previous year. In turn, an athlete may have an additional six to eight weeks to further increase strength levels or other aspects of the training plan.

In the next chapters, notice how the principles just discussed pertain to all aspects of the training process including nutrition and psychological preparation. But most important, use these principles to evaluate training programs and methods. Success will be the natural and unavoidable outcome!

Chapter 2

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